FREMANTLE midfielder Connor Blakely has returned to pre-season early with the Dockers' young guns as he pushes to reclaim a spot in the team's best 22 in 2021.
Blakely, who was regularly overlooked at selection in 2020, failed to find a new home during the AFL Trade Period after being floated with clubs.
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Contracted until the end of 2022, he was told others were ahead of him in the pecking order but made the decision to return to Fremantle and fight for his place in the team.
Other Dockers to return early for the club's first official training session on Monday were defenders Nathan Wilson and Ethan Hughes.
Midfielder Darcy Tucker also returned early but worked separately with fitness staff after suffering a significant hamstring injury in July that ended his 2020.
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Fremantle's second-to-fourth-year players returned on Monday, with club champion Luke Ryan and defender Griffin Logue back on the track as part of that group.
Defender Taylin Duman ran laps with his right wrist in a brace, with forward Sam Sturt working alone on the sidelines.
There was no sign of delisted forward Hugh Dixon, who had hoped to train with Fremantle with the aim of earning a new deal during the Supplementary Selection Period.
The Dockers confirmed they had not submitted a request for the tall prospect to train with them.
Rookies Brett Bewley and Lachie Schultz are due back on Tuesday or Wednesday, while delisted midfielder Bailey Banfield will need to wait until after the NAB AFL Draft when he will be re-listed to join his teammates.
Defenders Joel Hamling and Alex Pearce did not train after ankle injuries ruined their 2020 campaigns, but both hope to start with the five-year-plus players in January.
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Luke Valente and Michael Frederick remain in South Australia, while Stefan Giro is completing quarantine after returning from the state.
Midfielder Caleb Serong said it was encouraging to see fellow 2020 debutants Hayden Young and Liam Henry on the track on Monday, with both in good shape after interrupted years.
Serong said he had set himself to improve his running power and get leaner after a superb debut season that was rewarded with the NAB AFL Rising Star award.
"I think for me the fitness side of things as an inside mid is the biggest thing I can continually improve, especially with the quarters most likely going up next year and being out there for a bit longer," he said.
"It was six or seven weeks ago when our off-season program started. All the boys got together and started training and trying to get in those habits then, not just waiting to rock up on day one of pre-season expecting it to happen."
Serong stayed in WA during the off-season and linked up with midfield pair Andrew Brayshaw and Adam Cerra for a lot of his training.
It was a learning experience for the 19-year-old in his first off-season as an AFL player.
"We're all good mates, so it was pretty easy to link up and do a lot of our training together, but it also helps that they're really fit, professional young guys," Serong said.
"I was really able to push myself running and doing skills with those guys and all of the sessions were to a really high quality … I really learned a lot."
There was a new look to the Dockers' coaching team on Monday with Western Bulldogs premiership midfielder Matthew Boyd on the track and former Next Generation Academy coach Tendai Mzungu in his new role as a development coach.
Meanwhile at West Coast, captain Luke Shuey returned to training on Monday morning with the Eagles' first-to-fourth-year players after a frustrating 2020 interrupted by hamstring injuries.
Recruits Alex Witherden and Zac Langdon joined their new teammates for the club's first official session of the pre-season at Mineral Resources Park.
Alex Witherden and Zac Langdon have landed in blue and gold! pic.twitter.com/TpBgJbefgy— West Coast Eagles (@WestCoastEagles) December 7, 2020