Hayden Young in action during the match between Fremantle and Brisbane at Optus Stadium in round one, 2024. Picture: Getty Images

A BIGGER and stronger Fremantle midfield is set to challenge opposition teams with and without the ball this season, with onballer Hayden Young praising the group's chemistry in a first-up win against Grand Finalist Brisbane on Sunday.

The Dockers have added Young and welcomed back Nat Fyfe to their midfield mix this season, giving them an immediate centre square upsize to an average height of 186.3cm for their top four centre bounce midfielders (up from 182cm last season).

The impact was clear against the Lions as the Dockers controlled clearances (41-34) and centre clearances (13-7) while also forcing their opponents into pressured positions with relentless tackling heat that prevented clean stoppage wins.


"We talk about how we might not always win it cleanly, but we want to make it scrappy and dirty, and if they're going to win it, we don't want it to be a good-looking exit, we want it to be a dirty exit," Young told AFL.com.au.

"I felt like we were able to do that. We pressured them really well and we were able to get some good looks off the back of that.

"It feels like we're building some synergy in there and we worked well together and got the job done. It was a good challenge against a good opponent, now we've just got to back it up again next week."


While Young led the way with his pressure, laying a game-high 10 tackles, the ability of Fyfe to get his hands free and take on tackles allowed his teammates to receive the ball in dangerous positions.

It was a significant shift from the Dockers' last practice game against Port Adelaide, which was a "wake-up call" on the eve of the season.

"We didn't trust ourselves with the ball against Port Adelaide. We got rid of it straight away or we didn't try to take on the tackler, which meant that we were just feeding into their pressure," Young said.

"Tonight we trusted ourselves, we held on to the ball, we tested tackles, and we were really strong. It meant that we were able to get it to the outside and expose them with our speed."

Club champion Caleb Serong benefited from the bigger bodies around him, going to a new level and setting a club record with 46 disposals.


While he won more than his share of contested possessions (21), the All-Australian was also able to rack up a game-high 16 handball receives and punish the Lions on the outside.  

"It's just what you come to expect now. He's so consistent in the way he approaches his game," Young said.

"His attack on the ball, his cleanliness, his ability to test the tackle and find a teammate is first class, and it was on show. He stood up late in the game when we needed him and had a few big moments.

"So he was terrific and led from the front and it's a pleasure to play alongside him."

Fremantle has reintroduced its weekly trademark award this season and half-forward Sam Switkowski is bound to be celebrated when the players meet following his full stretch dive to smother Joe Daniher in the second quarter.

It was an act highlighted by Justin Longmuir post-match, and Young said the coach had used it to motivate the players before they ran out for the second half. 

"That's the stuff that we want to celebrate and JL showed a clip of that full body dive at half-time and said this is what's going to help us win the game, with trademark efforts," Young said.  

"There's players that will be celebrated for kicking goals and getting touches, but it's the players that do that sort of stuff that within the four walls we celebrate the most.

"We'll have our trademark review on Tuesday and we'll be highlighting those players that did those sort of acts and provided great pressure or put their bodies on the line.

"If we can keep having trademark acts and behaviours it can help us go a long way."