MATT Taberner has never kicked more than 18 goals in a season.

The reasons are varied: inconsistency early in his AFL career, often going in and out of Fremantle's side, at-times wayward goalkicking, playing with some prolific small forwards and, of course, his wretched injury run.

When Taberner runs out for the Dockers on Monday night against Hawthorn, he will make his 10th appearance of the season. 

It will be something of a milestone for him, because he hasn't managed that many in any year since 2016. Taberner isn't just crossing the line, either.

The 27-year-old, originally a rookie selection, is one of three players who's kicked a goal in every game they've played this season, alongside Sydney's Tom Papley and Greater Western Sydney's Jeremy Finlayson.

00:29 Mins
Published on

Freo frenzy after Walters wizardry

Michael Walters shows some great fight and desire to feed the ball to Matt Taberner, who finishes superbly to a huge applause

Published on

Just eight footballers have slotted more majors than Taberner's 16 (and all have played at least one more match), and a repeat of his four-goal heroics barely a week ago, at Collingwood's expense, will give him a career-high tally.

He's already tracking at personal-best levels in average goals and marks inside 50 despite this year's shorter games.

"I was confident that as long as I could stay on the park I could produce pretty good football," Taberner told AFL.com.au.

"I'm getting to a lot of good contests and getting some good opportunities.

"I haven't capitalised at times in front of goal, which has been a bit of a problem in the past, but it's something I'm still working on."

MATT TABERNER BY THE NUMBERS

Statistics

Averages

AFL rank

Goals

1.8

Equal-8th

Marks

6.1

Equal-7th

Contested marks

2.3

2nd

Marks on lead

1.4

Equal-8th

Marks inside 50

2.4

5th

Offensive one-on-one contests

6.9

1st

Inside-50 targets

6.6

8th

  • Among players with six games or more

 Taberner doesn't train how he used to, and not just because of the unusual circumstances of this COVID-19-impacted campaign, including him spending the shutdown period back home in Bright.

A stress fracture in his left foot prematurely ended his past two seasons, and the pre-season before that was interrupted by surgery to repair a meniscus tear in his right knee.

LATEST NEWS All your COVID-19 updates here

After struggling for senior opportunities for much of 2017 – despite blistering WAFL form – Taberner finished that AFL season with 11 contested marks across the final three rounds.

That formline hasn't left him, so the focus now is on playing more often.

Taberner completes one main weekly session in-season and usually spends the other one inside, often on a stationary bike, while he's also made footwear changes.

"After consecutive stress fractures, there had to be a change," he said.

"So I'm working with a podiatrist and have a few inserts and a carbon plate, which pretty much just stiffens up your football boot – and that seems to be working.

"A lot of it is load management and strengthening those intrinsic foot muscles, and it gives my bones good protection.

"It's hard at times, because I might be on limited duties during the week, when you want to be out there training with your teammates … but the priority is to stay out on the park."

Taberner said his predominant role of competing in the air, like all key forwards, hadn't necessarily evolved under first-year coach Justin Longmuir, but there were subtle differences.

Fremantle's ideal forward set-up includes big men Taberner, Rory Lobb and Jesse Hogan, with Sean Darcy rucking, and that's happened just once this season, in round five.

THE FULL INJURY LIST Who is racing the clock?

However, Longmuir places great emphasis on spacing in attack and always being aware of where your teammates are, whether you're a tall, medium or small forward.

Taberner is still working hard up the field and back and the structure is working nicely for him, given he's comfortably the Dockers' favourite forward-50 target.

"It's obviously a lot harder to take those marks inside 50 – you're working in a more confined space – so I've worked a bit on my leading patterns," he said.

"I'm still taking a fair few marks up the ground, but I like trying to get deeper into space, and the small forwards in our team have allowed me to stay in those dangerous spaces at times.

"They've been really good at pressuring and getting those re-entries, so I think that's helped as well."

THE LADDER Where is your team sitting?

Taberner's developed a routine of starting each day at the beach, with Griffin Logue, Hayden Young and sometimes Hogan joining him, and he's generally just enjoying playing regularly.

Longmuir's made a point of encouraging his players to embrace the twists and turns of this season – and it hasn't taken much convincing in Taberner's case.

"I was really keen, as with everyone, to get back playing some footy, especially after a couple of injury-ravaged years," he said.

"I really enjoyed our time away in the Gold Coast hub and saw it as a good opportunity for our group to get to know each other, because we've got a lot of new guys who've come into our system.

"I really am just trying to make the most of it."