Fremantle captain Nat Fyfe says his return from a long-term injury lay-off this season was “super humbling” and he is now of greater value to the Dockers as a leader than as a player.
Fyfe, 31 next month, is preparing to make another return from a hamstring injury against Greater Western Sydney in Canberra next Saturday.
It is likely to be his only preparation for his first finals series in seven years, though the Dockers will have the option of requesting permission for the underdone dual Brownlow medallist to play for Peel on the pre-finals bye weekend. The Thunder will take on West Coast’s reserves in Mandurah on August 27.
The scheduling of Fremantle’s week one final, which could fall as early as the following Thursday, will also come into consideration.
The western derby’s greatest rivalry that wasn’t will be missing yet again on Saturday night, with Fyfe and nemesis Elliot Yeo both sidelined. It will be the ninth derby of the past 12 where at least one of the pair, who shared some past stoushes as direct opponents, has been absent and the sixth derby Fyfe has missed from the past eight.
Fyfe had four operations – including a double shoulder reconstruction, a finger operation and spinal surgery – between his final appearance last season in round 19 and his return in round 13 this year.
“I couldn’t train during that period. So my touch and football craft was really back to when I started playing footy professionally,” he said.
“So I was really nervous. I didn’t know what my body was going to allow me to do. I started back in Peel and I was super nervous to go down there and play. And still five weeks into playing at AFL level, I wasn’t quite feeling as confident as I was previously when I played AFL footy.
“It was super humbling, but I also learnt a few little things through that process and I’m sure that will help me for the return this season and for next season.”
Speaking as part of a member Q&A, Fyfe said he had to make a huge adjustment to his mindset given he could no longer prepare as he used to.
“Now I can’t train that much,” he said.
“So it’s finding confidence in other avenues of your prep and working with our other players to make sure they’re getting the most out of themselves. Because my role in this club now as a leader is far more important than as a player.”
Fyfe also paid tribute to retiring teammate David Mundy, with the derby to be Mundy’s farewell game before he finishes at the end of the season. Fyfe has played 189 of his 208 matches alongside Mundy.
“I look back to early Dave when I first came in and just saw this smooth moving, unassuming superstar that used to drive this old ute which was probably worth about $800,” he said.
“He’d drive it in and he’d be one of the best midfielders in the AFL. And I found that juxtaposition just fascinating. This guy that was just super humble and quiet about the way he did it, but then stepped out on the field and just wore a cape basically.
“I love that 2013-15 Dave Mundy with long hair just thrashing around in the midfield. The ’13 finals series, Dave was just a force through that period.
“I learnt so much of my craft off Dave. He’s helped make me the player I am.”