Fremantle coach Ross Lyon has identified increased consistency and durability as the qualities young midfield gun Nat Fyfe needs to take his place among the game's elite.
As Fyfe prepares to have his first 2013 match practice against Adelaide at AAMI Stadium today, Lyon said it was not how well he played but how often he played well and how his body stood up which would determine his status as a player.
The 21-year-old has emerged as one of the AFL's most rapidly rising stars in 50 games. He polled 14 Brownlow Medal votes in 11 games in 2012 and has been installed as an early third favourite this year behind Gold Coast's Gary Ablett and Richmond's Trent Cotchin.
"It is not about playing a 10 (out of 10), it is about stacking consistently," Lyon said. "The elite players of the game don't drop off. A bad one is five (out of 10). He has just got to keep stacking sevens, eights consistently, maybe a five now and then.
"He needs to improve his durability. He has had three years where he has had shoulder and groin issues so he is building a body that has got to stand up to the rigours of AFL football and then he is going to have to stack consistent performances over a long period of time to elevate himself to where people think he can get to."
Lyon said that at 190cm Fyfe could be used anywhere, along with several other Docker midfielders.
"With his height we can use him forward," Lyon said.
"Going back a bit I remember Gavin Brown, a superstar Collingwood centreman, but he was used at centre half-forward and he was only six foot.
"We have got some really tall midfielders with Nathan, Barlow and Mundy.
"They are all really dangerous forwards so we will also use them through the front half."
In an exclusive interview, Lyon also said:
·His team would still compete strongly if anything happened to veteran trio Matthew Pavlich, Aaron Sandilands and Luke McPharlin, saying his team would not "curl up into a little ball and run away if they are not there".
·Danyle Pearce was the best kick at the club and his pace and ball use would deepen the Dockers' midfield and make it tough for opposition teams to decide who to tag.
·Fremantle's methods were "quite disparate" from those at other clubs when he arrived. He stressed that did not make them right or wrong but said they were different and he believed they had been improved.
·He was impressed with teenage defender Tanner Smith, saying he was going to be "a beast" and was "training the house down already".
·His three years as an assistant coach at Sydney were the biggest influence on his coaching career because of the club's belief in its own methods rather than worrying and trying to copy what other AFL clubs were doing.