The highly anticipated return of Fremantle captain Nat Fyfe to the AFL is one of the most researched stories in Western Australian football this season.
Much of the discussion was about where he would play on the field and whether he would fit in a team that fired on all cylinders without disturbing his balance.
“He’s a great player, he’s had a lot of seasons behind him,” former West Coast premiership coach Mick Malthouse said on ABC Perth’s Sports Talk program on Saturday morning.
“Fremantle has had problems in the rain against bigger bodies.
“That’s where you have him in the middle, but beyond that you should probably play him forward, you could even play him half back.
“There is a lot of juggling.”
Those questions were answered just hours later when the double Brownlow medalist faced Hawthorn in his first AFL game in nearly a year after shoulder surgery and a back injury derailed his pre-season.
For the past five years, Fyfe has mainly played in midfield, with 16 percent of his playing time being spent as a forward.
He was named in the forward sack on the Dockers team sheet, but started the game in the middle against Hawks pistol Tom Mitchell and made an impact on the opening bounce.
His first attacking stint came with eight minutes left in the first quarter, and he put the finishing touches to Lachie Schultz’s first goal.
It was a solid return for Fyfe, as he racked up 22 removals, six clearances, and kicked a goal.
His comments after the game highlighted how the team had evolved while he was injured.
“It’s not the same as when I finished playing last time,” Fyfe told Fox Footy.
“I said to Caleb (Serong) and Andy (Brayshaw) ‘treat me like a first-time gamer, tell me where to go, get ready.’
“And they did. They told me where to position myself when stationary and that was a nice feeling.”
His regular goals left much to be desired, but his size, strength and marking skills still made him a threat in attack.
Fyfe’s return had suggested Brayshaw, Serong or Will Brodie might be pushed out of midfield, but Brayshaw and Serong, in particular, seemed unaffected by his presence.
Brayshaw finished with 37 disposals and a goal, while Serong racked up 33 goals, including a career with 20 contested possessions.
Brodie was solid with 22 disposals, while veteran David Mundy spent some time on the wing, finishing with 23 touches.
Fremantle will say goodbye next weekend and indicated during the week that Fyfe would not be returning to Peel Thunder, despite having only played two games on his return from injury.
How much of an impact he has on the Dockers’ premiership aspirations will become clearer as he builds his fitness and the side adapts to his presence.