Ballantyne s goal to lift defensive pressure
Dockers Zac Dawson, left, Hayden Ballantyne and Michael Johnson hang out with Xavier Westcott, 5, yesterday. Pic: Ben Crabtree/WA News

Hayden Ballantyne says he is happy to forgo kicking bags of goals for Fremantle this season so long as his defensive pressure doesn't fall away.

The 26-year-old was criticised for missed opportunities in last year's 15-point grand final loss to Hawthorn.

The small forward butchered two straightforward chances to convert when the Dockers were pressing hard and finished goalless for only the fourth time in the season. His biggest goal tally in a season is 34.

Fellow goalsneak Michael Walters became one of the team's most reliable players when it came to converting critical shots in 2013, with 46 majors, including six in an impressive finals series.

The availability of former Melbourne forward Colin Sylvia will increase the internal competition among Fremantle's forward stocks.

Ballantyne said he would hold his place by concentrating on his tackling pressure rather than goal tallies.

"That's not what I'm rated on, kicking goals," he said.

"It's more so pressure and stuff like that. That's what we rate ourselves on at Freo, our forward pressure. Goals come at the end of that.

"Me, Chris Mayne and Michael Walters, we have a little bet on each game who gets the most tackles and there's a coffee on that every week. Hopefully I'll get a few coffees this year."

Ballantyne, who comes out of contract at the end of this year, is entering his sixth season at the Dockers and hopes to complete a full pre-season for the first time.

The Peel product visited Pinjarra yesterday to help with an Auskick school clinic.

Those pushing for a place in Fremantle's side this season will play for Peel Thunder - the WAFL club Ballantyne was drafted from - under the new AFL alignment system that also links East Perth to the Eagles.

Ballantyne welcomed the new model and said he hoped it would mean Peel played finals for the first time.

"We get to use all the structures that we want at Peel Thunder and that'll improve Peel as a club as well," he said.

"That's my home club and I want to see them have some success as well."

The West Australian

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