FREMANTLE youngster Bailey Banfield exceeded his own expectations in his debut season, and the determined tagger is confident of taking another step given he will be better prepared for the AFL's mental challenges heading into 2019.
Banfield had fire in his belly to prove recruiters wrong last season after being overlooked in two national drafts, and the mature Claremont product was a surprise packet in 20 games.
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Handed some tough run-with roles by coach Ross Lyon, including a job on Essendon star Zach Merrett in just his second game, the 20-year-old showed the grit and determination to make the grade.
But the mental grind of stepping into a full-time elite environment eventually wore Banfield down, more so than the physical toll, and he believes understanding what it takes to get through a season will hold him in good stead next year.
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"I was expecting to be physically challenged, but wasn't necessarily expecting that mental challenge," Banfield said.
"The first part of meeting any challenge is being prepared for it and expecting it, so hopefully I'll be much better at that this year.
"Physically, my body held up not too bad. I was pretty happy with the way I was able to recover and get up for the game.
"It was more the mental side where I felt the fatigue. It is a long season and I started to feel the grind towards the end of the season.
"Being a young kid and going into a full-time job for the first time in your life is a challenge to transition into that.
"It is that challenge of fronting up every day and getting used to that."
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After a refresher back in his home town Broome, Banfield was itching to return to training with the Dockers' first-to-fourth year players last week.
He has grown a couple of centimetres and added about five kilograms of muscle since he was taken in last year's rookie draft, and wants to build his endurance this summer to run out games better.
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A midfield spot has opened up since Lachie Neale's departure to Brisbane, and Banfield hopes to put his hand up to help fill the role, while understanding his main job could still be as a tagger.
"What playing that lockdown role gives me is that versatility where Ross can play me forward, can play me through midfield as a normal midfielder or he can play me in there as a more lockdown role," he said.
"Having that versatility helps me get selected every week.
"If I can keep developing all these different roles it adds more strings to my bow and hopefully keeps me in the team.
"I'll go wherever Ross puts me. Hopefully, I'll be in the team and if I can get a run through the midfield that'd be awesome."