Young Fremantle Docker Lachie Neale says the biggest eye-opener halfway through his first AFL season has been the importance of a defensive mindset.

Neale was drafted by Fremantle with the 58th pick in last year’s National Draft after representing South Australia in the national under 18s carnival.

“It’s a lot different to what I was used to back in Adelaide,” he said of the AFL.

“Playing under 18s footy was all about getting a kick.

“But I’ve really had to work on the defensive side of my game in the AFL and I’ve still got a lot of improvement to go in that area.”

The 18-year-old said the main lesson he had learnt about defence was that it was a team effort.

“Everyone knows you can run around on your own and get a kick, but when the ball is turned over, it doesn’t matter if you’re playing forward pocket or back pocket, you’ve got to defend,” he said.

“It’s an 18-man job when you’re on the field.”

Nine games into his career, Neale rated work-rate and contests as the areas to provide the stiffest challenges to him.

“Being a first year player, I don’t have the body of some of the more experienced players like a Sam Mitchell or Brad Sewell at Hawthorn,” he said.

“The running capacity that you’ve got to have to be able to run out a game has been a big challenge, too.”

“I’m working on those by sticking to my strength program to try and get stronger.”

Some of Neale’s opponents this season have also helped teach him some important lessons about the game.

“I’ve been playing mostly up forward, so the defenders that I’ve had have been running off me,” he said.

“I played on Dom Cassisi (Port) and Chris Newman (Richmond). They’re really elite players and they knew when to run off me and when to stay on me. That was an eye opener.”

Neale has had short stints in the midfield, too, this season, including against Adelaide in round 10 when he got to face a couple of the AFL’s form midfielders.

“When we played the Crows, I played in the midfield more on guys like Patrick Dangerfield and Rory Sloane,” he said.

“I found their bodywork and offensive run was really good and I took away a lot from playing against them.”

The youngster has set his goals for the rest of the season, both from a team and individual perspective.

“Team wins,” he said.

“We’re now 6-6, so to make the eight would be our aim from here.

“For myself, it’s playing consistent footy and doing everything I can to stay in the team.”

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