Ballantyne reveals secret of his top form

Hayden Ballantyne says working harder on his recovery between matches has been the secret behind a purple patch of form he has described as the best of his career.

The 26-year-old has matured into one of Fremantle's most consistent performers this year, his relentless pressure and work rate translating to 21 goals in his past six matches.

The irresistible form began with his brave decision to play against Geelong in round nine with a newly-inserted metal plate in his jaw and has coincided with the team's six-game winning streak.

Ballantyne will make his 100th AFL appearance against Melbourne at Darwin's TIO Stadium on Saturday night and credited coach Ross Lyon for the strict recovery ethos that has helped take his game to the next level.

"He points out the things you need to work on and is at you and at you and at you until you improve it," Ballantyne said.

"It's just little things like recovery, all the smaller things that I probably wasn't at the elite level with, like Pav (Matthew Pavlich) and Luke McPharlin are, blokes like that.

"It's just picking my game up. I think that's really helped because Ross holds everyone so accountable with everything. I'm trying to recover the best I can and get my body feeling as good as I can before each game.

"That's the hardest thing for me, to try and recover and try and get some energy back."

Before this season, Ballantyne had only twice followed up a major haul of four or more goals with at least two majors the next week, a sign of his output dropping off after big games.

The trend has been different in 2014, with Ballantyne backing up an equal career-high six goals against Richmond last month with returns of five and three majors in subsequent matches.

His tally of 30 goals is already just four short of his previous best for an entire season - the 34 he booted last year.

Ballantyne's contribution has been critical with Fremantle's 2013 leading goal kicker Michael Walters missing through injury for all but three matches.

Asked whether he was in career-best form, Ballantyne said: "I think so and again it's the consistency, doing what I'm asked to do every week and then the goals come after that.

"There's all the pressure acts for the team and then obviously the goals come from the turnovers.

"I think with the whole team, we've been building a bit of momentum lately."

Ballantyne praised fellow forwards Chris Mayne and Colin Sylvia, whose jobs are also to provide defensive pressure, and said the latter would continue to improve as he built confidence.

Sylvia booted his first goal as a Docker in last Saturday's western derby win, but the former Demon was substituted out of the match at three-quarter time and is no certainty to take on his former club.

"Our trademark is our forward pressure and some of the hits and tackles he's laid, you can hear them and feel them for the blokes he's hit and it's pretty painful," Ballantyne said.

"He's a solid unit and he's another one that's building some form."

"I'm trying to recover the best I can and get my body feeling as good as I can before each game."" *Hayden Ballantyne *


The West Australian

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