FREMANTLE young gun Adam Cerra is poised to move into a more prominent inside midfield role in 2021 after an impressive pre-season that has seen him add strength and build his fitness base.
Cerra was a regular on the wing in 2020 and has also featured across half-back and half-forward in his three AFL seasons since being drafted with pick No.5 in the 2017 NAB AFL Draft.
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But the 21-year-old has aspired to spend more time as an inside midfielder, where he shone as a junior, and Dockers midfield coach Josh Carr said that was where he would likely start in 2021.
"I see him being one of our inside midfielders," Carr, who is entering his second season as midfield coach, told AFL.com.au.
"He has flexibility and [it depends] on the health of your list and if there's holes to be filled and who can fill them.
"But at this stage his role will be minutes inside as a midfielder and being one of our starting mids every week.
"We rate him really highly as an inside midfielder."
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Cerra enjoyed a fine 2020 playing mostly on the wing and finishing third in the Doig Medal, averaging a career-high 17.4 disposals.
He was able to rotate through the centre square and averaged a career-high 2.1 clearances and 7.2 contested possessions, while his ball-use inside 50 was outstanding.
Carr said the Victorian had adjusted every time he was moved into a new position and his versatility was now a strength as the Dockers' young midfield takes shape.
"He played a lot more midfield time (in 2020), but he was also that player who got pushed out to a wing and sometimes half-back in a couple of games," Carr said.
"He just adapted; he's got a really good attitude. We never hear him complain about the positions he plays, but he took some big steps with his game inside the contest.
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"I think people underestimate his competitiveness inside the contest with his tackling and his ball-winning ability.
"He took some big steps inside and I think he's going to continue to grow in that area."
Cerra is central to a young midfield group that the Dockers hope will take another big step forward in 2021, alongside Andrew Brayshaw, who finished fourth in the Doig Medal, and NAB AFL Rising Star Caleb Serong.
But Carr, who was a tough onballer in 207 games with Fremantle and Port Adelaide, said there were others also pushing for prominence in the middle of the ground this pre-season.
"Luke Valente has had trouble with his body over his first couple of years, (but) he's had a full pre-season and is putting pressure on the rest of the group," Carr said.
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"Connor Blakely wants to prove where he sits within the group and is pushing really hard.
"Then you’ve got 'Fyfey' (Nathan Fyfe) and David Mundy, the two older guys that want to continue to get better and want the team to improve, so there's drive from those guys."
Carr also highlighted the leadership provided by former Collingwood and Brisbane wingman James Aish, who brings "calmness" to the midfield group, and said he expected ruckman Sean Darcy to improve again and be demanding of his ground-level teammates.
If the young midfielders can hold their own in 2021, Fremantle will have the luxury of allowing Fyfe to move forward for longer periods, where the dual Brownlow medallist wants to play more in the latter stages of his brilliant career.
"I think it can be a real strength of his and for our team … to have that ability and trust that we don't need Nathan starting in the centre bounce every game and every centre bounce," Carr said.
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"We want to have that flexibility so there's trust that as a group we can get it done inside and then have that up our sleeve to push him forward and kick goals for us.
"That's something we continue to work on as a team and making sure we get that balance right."