WHEN Fremantle small forward Lachie Schultz considers what has made his career-best season possible, there are two changes he made leading into 2022 that stand out.
The first, which is the most obvious when watching the energetic 24-year-old, is the commitment he made to lose 8kg through a focus on diet and a heavy cross-training and boxing program.
The second is harder to see but just as significant, with Schultz reaping the benefits of a focus on his mental preparation and concentration within games through work with a performance psychologist.
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Combined, they have given Schultz the confidence to build on a top-10 best-and-fairest season and become an even more important cog in one of the game's best pressure forward lines.
"At the end of last year, we had feedback about areas we weren't doing enough in, and we broke it down into three parts – the mental side of the game, the skills side and the physical side," Schultz told AFL.com.au.
"The mental side was one that I've been trying to delve into the last couple of years and I wanted to take that further this year.
"Last year I came in and out of games too much and I was inconsistent, so I wanted to find a bit more consistency.
"Then physically, I dropped 8kg over the pre-season so I'm playing a lot lighter this year and lot slimmer, but I've been doing a lot more in the gym and put on a lot of strength."
Schultz worked with the Dockers' new dietician Hannah Baker on changing his diet and planning his meals, while hamstring issues during the pre-season allowed him to change his training program to get to a playing weight of roughly 80kg.
His work with performance psychologist Neil McLean then included starting a relaxation program and focusing on his strengths, rather than getting bogged down after a bad game.
"I've tried a lot of meditation and stuff and I took a liking to one that involves listening to different noise frequencies to help you relax, switch off, and mentally recover," Schultz said.
"I found that really helped me, and then working with Neil to really to help me believe in myself and help me move on between games.
"If I had a bad game, I would hold onto it for too long and it would feed from one week into another and snowball from there. That's helped me reset at the start of each week."
In better physical and mental shape this season, Schultz says he has put more time and energy into his match preparation and looking at upcoming opponents and team defences.
He has kicked a career-best 23 goals and lifted his average disposals (13.5), marks (4.2), tackles (3.2) and inside 50s (2.1) higher again after an impressive 2022, missing only one game this year because of health and safety protocols.
The former Williamstown forward, who was recruited by the Dockers as a 20-year-old, paid tribute to the tall forwards alongside him, including Rory Lobb, Matt Taberner and Griffin Logue, who have consistently brought Freo's smalls into the game this season.
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He also welcomed the opportunity to push up the ground at stages and utilise his running capacity, winning a career-best three clearances against St Kilda last week.
The standout moment of Schultz's season was undoubtedly his round three performance against West Coast, however, winning 23 disposals and kicking two goals to win the Glendinning-Allan Medal as best afield.
"It was a bit of reward and also a relief to know that what I was doing was working," Schultz said of that performance.
"Coaches and teammates always recognise the hard work everyone does, so to get some external recognition as well was really nice, and it was a good building block for my confidence.
"Neil, the sports psych, would have been pretty happy too given all the work we'd been doing."