Fremantle's Matt de Boer has warned that competition for spots in the Dockers' deepening midfield is hotting up, with pressure to perform increasing on even the club's leading engine room lights as a group of young runners come through.
Even with young gun Anthony Morabito sidelined because of his third knee reconstruction and best and fairest Ryan Crowley in the rehab group after hip surgery, the Dockers boast a large number of players who can go through the middle, a list lengthened by the debuts last season of Lachie Neale and Tom Sheridan, and the return from injury of Viv Michie.
Michie, who had suffered foot stress fractures in each of the past two seasons, had been particularly impressive, de Boer said.
"He told me he was starting to feel like a footballer again just running around out there. I couldn't be more happy for him. He is out there dominating ," he said.
"I am rapt for him and hopefully he can just keep churning it out. He has got good skills and good core stability so he will be round the midfield as well."'
De Boer expects players like Michie to add to midfield depth.
"I think it is important and I think it will," he said. "Some guys are knocking on the door and that competition for spots is really healthy. It forces the David Mundys, Micky Barlows and Fyfes to make sure that they are right at the top of their game as well because the young boys are coming for them."
De Boer, now a fixture in Fremantle's leadership group at 22 after 76 games, said the club's coaching staff was ramping up training at the moment.
That had consequences for Neale in the heat yesterday after a 90-minute ball session finished with hard running. Neale The South Australian youngster was assisted from the field by trainers with signs of heat exhaustion, but de Boer said he had suffered no serious effects.
"Every session these days is pretty solid but we are enjoying it. Lachie was training really well. We are all about growth at the moment and the boys are just out there churning the kilometres out and it is good that Lachie is pushing his body to its limits," he said.
"I saw him at the end and he was fine he was having a slushy and drinking to rehydrate. He will be fine.
"They eased us into it a little but and now they are really starting to crank up the transition footy sessions . It is getting up there but I think we have room to move as well."
De Boer, who mastered the club's defensive forward role last season kicking 15.10 and laying an average of five and a half tackles per game, said it was too early to say what role he would assume this season.
"I am just working hard with (midfield coaches) Brett Kirk and Mark Stone but (forward coach) Peter Sumich as well. I am making sure I am across all type of roles and then wherever Ross wants to put me I will be there," he said.
He believed he too was capable of playing midfield if needed.
"I played there in under 18s so I feel like I can play there but at the end of the day I am happy to help the team out," he said."It is hard to kick Fyfey, Mundy, those sort of guys out of the midfield but I will be knocking on the door."