YOUNG gun Connor Blakely says he isn't feeling pressure to fill the midfield void left at Fremantle since star onballer Lachie Neale's departure to Brisbane.
Neale led Freo for disposals (667), contested possessions (331), clearances (157), tackles (93) and inside 50s (78) last season, and claimed his second Doig Medal shortly before his defection to the Lions.
Blakely looms as the obvious candidate to shift from half-back and step into Neale's shoes, after bouncing back from a knee injury which ended his campaign in round 13.
But the strong-bodied 22-year-old expects the load will be shared amongst the Dockers' rotating onballers.
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"I think we've got quite a nice few number of guys that can spin through the role of half-back and midfield," Blakely said.
"We've got guys like Stephen Hill, Adam Cerra is coming along really nicely as well, and Andy Brayshaw and Bailey Banfield.
"It’s just about sharing the load through those areas."
Blakely has shown he can be a prolific ball-winner in his 46-game career, and has picked up 26 disposals or more in 12 of his past 22 matches.
Coach Ross Lyon has indicated the Bunbury product will spend time running through midfield and defence, and Blakely believes he is fit enough to play any role.
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"My personal aim was just to do the program during the off-season with the knee injury that I had and I got through that really nicely and came back to training in pretty good nick as well," he said.
"I've just been getting through each training session working on my fitness and a few different things with the midfield coach, Anthony Rock.
"I've had no issues with the knee.
"It was interesting. It was my first long-term injury during the year, so you do have a few mental demons that you need to fight off and it's a good time for a bit of reflection.
"Everyone is going to come across these sort of obstacles in their career, and it's just about how you deal with them and how you respond.
"I was pretty happy with the way I've responded and I'm pretty eager to get through a whole year injury-free.
"I've had a couple of injuries the last couple of years – I had my (dislocated) shoulder two years ago and my knee injury last year."
After three seasons mired in the bottom five rungs of the ladder, expectations on Fremantle have risen following a productive NAB AFL Trade Period and Blakely was confident the worst pain of the rebuild was over.
"I think we're certainly over the hardest part of that rebuild," he said.
"Back in 2016 no one saw the way we plummeted down the ladder (coming) and from that moment we've started that rebuild and I think this year more than ever we're in a better position to actually play finals."
There are high hopes big-name recruits Jesse Hogan and Rory Lobb can transform a forward line needing firepower, and Lobb had a strong aerial presence during match simulation at Cockburn on Wednesday.
Hogan completed the warm-up and some uncontested marking work before heading indoors to continue his rehabilitation from his navicular stress fracture.
"I'm not too sure what the go is in terms of his expectations and the club's expectations of when he's going to play, but I think he's building really nicely and he'll start training with the main squad in a few weeks' time," Blakely said.
"Hopefully he'll play a couple of pre-season games and be ready for round one, but I can't give you a solid answer on that."
Michael Walters (knee) and Stephen Hill (quad) were again absent from training, but appeared on the oval when the two-hour session ended.
Hill was limited to a brisk walk and appears in serious doubt for the season-opener against North Melbourne on March 24.
Aaron Sandilands, David Mundy, Alex Pearce, Shane Kersten, Harley Bennell and draftee Sam Sturt were on modified duties and predominantly ran laps.
The Dockers had a sharp focus on moving the ball into their forward line during match simulation, and Lobb, Matt Taberner and Cam McCarthy featured in the same attack in a possible pointer to Lyon's 2019 plans.
Brennan Cox, who kicked 18 goals in 16 games last season, played on Taberner in a sign he could be swung back to defence.
Mature draftee Brett Bewley found plenty of the ball through midfield, and although he committed a pair of turnovers the Williamstown left-footer appears to have a licence to back himself to hit targets.
Lyon only made a brief appearance at the end of training, speaking to Hill and draftee Luke Valente before walking indoors with a slight limp after a recent knee operation.