THERE was a time when Fremantle forward Michael Walters would ride the highs and lows of his own form and put pressure on himself to please people outside the club.

Kicking the match-winning scores, like he did in successive weeks in 2019, would lead to the emotional highs, while a six-possession performance like last Sunday's against Port Adelaide would bring an inevitable dip.

There has been a clear shift in Walters' mindset in the past two seasons, however, and the only pressure the 31-year-old is interested in is the type that helps the Dockers and keeps him in the team.  

"I'm enjoying my footy, I'm back to really loving it, and I'm not going out on the field trying to please external people. I guess that's where my footy has turned," Walters told

"In previous years, I was always having doubts on myself if I wasn't kicking the goals and my emotions used to ebb and flow from doing that.

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"But my role now is to put the pressure on and goals will stem from that. Knowing my role and being comfortable in my role has made it so much easier to not worry."

Walters has kicked 10.10 this season, but his pressure acts (17.3 a game) and tackles (2.6) both rank above average in the AFL for forwards and are what he and the Dockers are judging his performances on.

An All-Australian midfielder/forward in 2019 who averaged 21.7 disposals and booted 40 goals, the new benchmarking has required a selfless approach from Walters that he said has "come with age".

It has also required reassurance from coach Justin Longmuir and forwards mentor Jaymie Graham, who have both noted the impact Walters is having on younger forward line teammates this season.

Michael Walters celebrates a goal during round 13, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

"I have a good relationship with Justin and JG and they made it quite clear what they need me to do and the role I need to play," Walters said.  

"Having that reassurance that if I keep putting on that pressure, forcing turnovers whenever I can, and just helping out the younger boys by being a role model, that's all I need to do.

"That's keeping me on the right path and that's keeping me in the team."

Walters is contracted for next season but aware that his time in the game is limited.

Michael Walters celebrates with fans after a win during round 16, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

The Dockers' push towards a breakthrough finals appearance after a long, six-season rebuild has clearly energised the veteran, who is on track to play his 200th game in round 23.  

While that will be a big occasion for the club favourite, he hopes there are bigger days ahead for Fremantle.

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"As a mature player in the competition, I don't have too much longer in my career and I want to focus on playing my role but also helping out the younger generation," Walters said.

"I want this team to succeed even when I am retired and away from the footy club. I want this team to go forward and win premierships."