FREMANTLE defender Hayden Young arrived in the AFL with a reputation as an elite kick, but it is a new "weapon" the young Docker has been honing that has helped him match the game's best half-backs in his past six weeks. 

Since round 13, Young has taken his aerial presence to a new level and complemented his polished ball use with an elite intercept game that is becoming important for the Dockers. 

It has given him a point of difference when compared to the leading half-backs, such as St Kilda's Jack Sinclair, Carlton pair Sam Docherty and Adam Saad, Bulldog Bailey Dale and Collingwood's Nick Daicos. 

Melbourne free agent Angus Brayshaw is the rebounding half-back who compares when it comes to also having an impact in the air over the past seven rounds.

Angus Brayshaw runs with the ball in the R20 clash between Melbourne and Gold Coast on August 5, 2018. Picture: AFL Photos

It is a block of form for Young, rather than a season-long body of work, but it has come at the right time for the Dockers as they try to secure a top-four finish in the final month of the season.  

In his past six matches, Young has averaged 7.0 intercept possessions, 8.8 marks and 2.3 intercept marks, with his best-afield performance against Richmond last Friday night the exclamation point on his recent block of form. 

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Of the mentioned leading half-backs, who will do battle for selection in the Therabody AFL All-Australian team, only Brayshaw has taken more intercept marks over that period (3.8 per game), with the Demon and Young equal for overall marks.  

"Clearly it's a strength of his and the team, and it's a real weapon," coach Justin Longmuir said. 

Hayden Young kicks the ball during Fremantle's clash against Richmond in round 19, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

"It's something that's been noticeable. I think everyone realised he was an elite kick when he came into the competition. But his aerial presence was also really strong.  

"I think we've seen both of those strengths come to the fore."

While his marking has become an asset, Young's kicking has remained among the safest in the competition among players in his role. 

In his past six weeks, the Victorian has kicked at 81.8 per cent efficiency, with only Daicos (82.8) edging him among the standout half-backs. 

Nick Daicos in action in round 16 in Collingwood's match against Gold Coast at Metricon Stadium on July 2, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

Longmuir said Young had worked hard to control his kicking so he wasn't always trying to take the high-risk, high-reward options.

"Quite often people judge kicking by how much you can pull off, and the harder the kick you pull off," the coach said. 

"With Youngy, his coaching has been more around hitting the basic kick more often and he's found a real balance between just being a reliable kick versus setting the game up for us. 

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"I think the last few weeks he's found a real balance in that and I don't think he's made a mistake with ball in hand too often. 

"He was pretty reliable last week and it wasn't necessarily pulling off kicks that resulted in scores every time. It was just being reliable with ball in hand and I think his whole game came together." 

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Young soars to skies with spectacular grab

Hayden Young takes one of the marks of the season with this terrific grab

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After 13 games in his first two seasons due to injury, Young has played all but two games this year, missing in rounds six and seven due to a stint in health and safety protocols. 

With a bigger tank after his third pre-season, Longmuir said the 21-year-old had been able to improve his positioning and allow his aerial and kicking strengths to be showcased more. 

When lined up alongside those half-backs who will compete for individual honours at the end of the season, he is proving to be a player worthy of comparison. 

"His challenge now is to put those performances together and stack them on top of each other for weeks and weeks, and years and years," Longmuir said. 

"That's what the good players do. We've got full confidence that he will keep producing those performances."