Fremantle midfielder Anthony Morabito has used his time on the sidelines to study the ‘contested football’ and says it is an area of the game he will pride himself on when he makes his anticipated return from a serious knee injury.

Morabito, who underwent a knee reconstruction in December 2010 and suffered a series of setbacks in his rehabilitation, is pushing to return for Fremantle after the club’s round 12 bye.

The 20-year-old has played three consecutive games in the WAFL, building his game time each week and gaining confidence after more than 18 months out of the game.

And significantly, he is showcasing a newfound strength at stoppages that could be a blessing for Fremantle in the second half of the season.

“When I was playing AFL in my first year I was never really a stoppage sort of player, I was always that outside winger where you can get out and run,” Morabito told this week.

“But with the year off I was able to have a bit more of a look at David Mundy and these sorts of guys in terms of their stoppage work and I was able to pick up little things that help a player like that.

“In the past I haven’t really made a conscious effort with it, but now I’m aware that I have a stronger body than a few people.

“If I can [win my own ball] and then spread and get it on the outside, I’ll be very confident in my football.

“From now on that’s something that I’m going to pride myself on.”

Morabito played every game in his debut 2010 season and excelled on the outside, averaging 13 touches and ranking No.1 at the club for average metres gained per disposal.

He averaged two clearances a game and one-third of his possessions were contested, but those numbers should rise when the big-bodied midfielder, who has trimmed down to 93kg, returns.

“With the inclusion of (stoppages coach) Mark Stone, I’ve been doing a bit of work with him,” Morabito said.

“I’ve been able to implement the stuff that I learnt in my year off, specifically the body work, which has been a big one for me.

“I don’t think it’s something that came naturally to me early on in my career, but I think if I continually work on it it can be a strength of mine.”

Morabito played his first game in more than 18 months with Peel Thunder reserves in round three, but he suffered a grade one hamstring tear in the WAFL one week later, continuing a frustrating run of setbacks for the No.4 draft pick.

He resumed his comeback in round nine and said his GPS results suggested he was finally “set up to play AFL”.

“I’ve been pretty happy with my progress,” he said. “I thought it was going to be a bit of a longer road than what it was (after the hamstring), but I’ve played three games now – two lots of 60 minutes and then 70 minutes.

“Between the first game and the third game I’ve been able to pick up a hell of a lot.

“With the AFL bye coming up it’s given me possibly another two weeks at WAFL level to get two full games out. If all goes to plan that would set me up.”

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