Fremantle coach Ross Lyon has challenged the club's best young players to "step up" and share the load with captain Matthew Pavlich.
In an exclusive interview with _The West Australian _ in Esperance on the club's community visit there this week, Lyon laid down the gauntlet to young guns Nat Fyfe, Stephen Hill and Hayden Ballantyne to play increased midfield roles to allow Pavlich to play in attack.
Lyon also warned there would be no "magic wand" waved to make Fremantle a premiership team and that a significant amount of work lay ahead.
Part of that work involved investigations by himself and the club's sports science manager, Jason Weber, into Fremantle's recent poor injury record in a bid to get improved player availability.
Statistically, the Dockers had to achieve an 11-goal swing offensively and defensively to get on even terms with the standard set by reigning premiers Geelong last year, Lyon said.
Significant gains were also needed in the critical area of contested possession where Fremantle had ranked 14th in the past two seasons when recent history showed a team had to be top two in contested possession to win the flag.
But Lyon praised the club's philosophy in deciding to rebuild the list three years ago after paying the full salary cap in 2008 and still missing the eight.
Pavlich has been used midfield since the start of that rebuild, in part to protect the club's younger stars.
Lyon indicated it was time for others to take greater responsi- bility now.
"We can put Matthew in the midfield but we want to see Stephen Hill play on the inside after a super summer, Fyfey also," he said.
"We are a 16-year-old club and I think Matthew has been here 10 plus years. He is a six-times best and fairest. There have been some rough times, a prelim and a couple of other finals.
"His contribution to the Fremantle Football Club when people look back, for an infant organisation, has been significant. In my view, he is still going to be a massive contributor but it is about time we all stepped up.
"He is still as driven and as hungry but we all have to step up and take that responsibility, share the load. That is how I see it.
"If he is out of the midfield, Nat Fyfe, Stephen Hill, Hayden Ballantyne, those types get to step up."
Fyfe and Hill had work to do to bridge the gap between themselves and other clubs' stars such as Coll- ingwood midfielders Scott Pendlebury and Dale Thomas.
Ballantyne had the potential to become a top-level AFL player, Lyon said, and he was keen to continue the experiment of playing him in the midfield.