The West

Docker Neale driven by defence
Fremantle midfielder Lachie Neale at training on Wednesday. Picture: Ian Munro / The West Australian.

Fremantle midfielder Lachie Neale hopes gains made in his tackling and defensive skills will be enough to guarantee him a spot in the club's season opener against Collingwood.

The 20-year-old is desperate to build on a strong finish to last season in which he averaged almost 27 disposals a game from rounds 18 to 22 and played as the substitute in the grand final loss to Hawthorn.

The purple patch in just his second year of AFL came after a frank mid-season discussion with coach Ross Lyon in which Neale was told to sharpen up the defensive side of his game to earn a senior recall.

The 2011 No.58 draft pick said he was now feeling fitter than ever and wanted to impress in next month's NAB Challenge matches given the intense competition for spots.

"I was lucky enough to break in at the right time last year," he said.

"Even then it was just about playing consistent footy and that's going to be the main focus now as well.

"I've always been able to get my hands on the footy, but it was about working hard without it and also improving my tackling."

Fremantle's midfield height was viewed as a driving force behind the club's charge to last year's grand final, with prime ball winners David Mundy and Michael Barlow 192cm and 189cm tall respectively.

However Neale, who stands at 176cm, said he was capable of adding something different to the on-ball mix in 2014 despite his size.

"I think it's important with teams these days to have a balanced midfield," Neale said.

Neale, who has 23 games under his belt, is part of Fremantle's long-term future, having signed a two-year contract extension in December tying him to the club until 2016.

Meanwhile, Dockers forward Chris Mayne, who is battling groin soreness, was restricted to running laps at yesterday's training session at Fremantle Oval, with his program having been backed off by club officials.

Stephen Hill was on light duties as he recovers from quad tightness.

He ran laps with off-season signing Colin Sylvia, who is another yet to rejoin the main playing group as he continues to build his conditioning to meet Lyon's high standards.

The West Australian

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