AFL News: Why Nat Fyfe’s captaincy at Fremantle Dockers is over

Nat Fyfe was feeling a lot of strain as Fremantle captain and tells WILL SCHOFIELD he’s been “through hell and back” with part of his game, one that could now bring the Dockers a first AFL premiere.

When he first started as captain, he wanted to give up the role as Freo’s first Premiership skipper, which has not happened. But that doesn’t mean he has unfinished business. Indeed, stepping down from the captaincy to focus on his new permanent forward role likely puts Dockers in a stronger position to do exactly what Fyfe was aiming for six years ago.

“We can spend our lives thinking about what other people think of us,” says Fyfe the evening after retiring.

“I can only hope that they saw me as someone who did everything I knew how and was within my power to be the best captain I could with what I knew at the time.

“As a leader, I made a lot of mistakes. And those mistakes gave me great platforms to grow and learn empathy and compassion and learn that every style is different.

“That was the biggest thing in the six years that I wasn’t the same captain when I started. I just hope that the players I’ve served for and worked with saw me as someone who, regardless of the results we’ve had or the mistakes I’ve made, I mean I did my best and gave everything I could.

It’s a fascinating role to be captain of the AFL. They carry a real burden for their teams. It affects you as a player. Some positive; some can’t handle it.

“Most of the anticipation or mental distress is felt at a subconscious level,” says Fyfe.

“When you’re talking about meetings and speeches and media calls and things like that, there’s a time commitment involved. But the real weight comes from the expectation you carry as the symbolic leader of the club, and how deeply you carry the organization’s successes and failures. That’s probably something that feels a bit liberating as I no longer feel like I’m solely responsible for making the club win or lose.

“I felt like all of last year when I wasn’t playing and now I can sit here and think, OK, I can really take all that liberated energy and focus on figuring out how to get back up front playing, working with other strikers and having fun my last few years as a player and hopefully being a part of that first Premiership team.

The secret is that Fyfe will play as a permanent forward in 2023. It’s a scary prospect for opposing defences.

Fyfe, a two-time Brownlow medalist, owns one of the most competitive grades in the game and will be a focus of the Fremantle attack. He has the potential to wreak havoc, but his shot on goal earned criticism. Fyfe has only played 12.25 in the last two seasons.

“I really had to go to hell and back with my mental game on goal scoring because it became quite a strain to go in front of the goals. I created this problem myself and had to find a way to solve it,” he says.

“You go from having complete confidence and everything that subconsciously comes to light, clearly and suddenly, to a bunch of demons for various reasons. The shot on goal developed almost out of nowhere.

“I shot seven points in general play in early 2021. Then I scored a few goals and a few more points from set pieces and all of a sudden I had this scoring problem that I kind of made myself and then it just got worse and worse.

“So there are a couple of ways you can go. You can just stop shooting and accept that you will always be a bad scorer, or you can do the work and get by and keep failing until you figure it out. And that’s where I am at the moment. I feel like I’m in a great space to get some good results from this.

“I’m starting to feel some synchronicity with hitting the ball and situations, and I feel really confident in front of goal. It won’t be a finished product if I fold round one, that’s for sure. But I’m confident that if I keep pushing intent, the results will come.

Fremantle’s Premiership chances depend on Fyfe the striker, perhaps more than ever than Fyfe the midfielder.

But one thing is certain: stepping down as captain was a decision made by Nat Fyfe and he is happy with it. Giving his team the best opportunity to win a Premier League is a selfless decision.

Will Schofield

Will Schofieldcontributor

Will Schofield spent 14 years as an Australian rules footballer playing as a key defender for the West Coast Eagles in the AFL – fighting his way to 200 games, a Premiership in 2018 and a Life Member of the Eagles. Hear it on Fox Footy, Perth Radio 6PR and his podcast Backchat. As a fantasy footy fanatic, he turns to SuperCoach for the first time this season. AFL News: Why Nat Fyfe’s captaincy at Fremantle Dockers is over

Ryan Sederquist

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