Fremantle’s Caleb Serong has been voted by the players as 2020’s best first-year player, presented by MSC Signs. 332-game star David Mundy writes for aflplayers.com.au on mentoring Serong throughout the season, his eye-catching cleanness around the contest, development from playing in run-with roles, and his humble, inquisitive nature.
Caleb’s a really humble young kid.
He asks a lot of questions and gives it everything he’s got.
When Caleb came into our club after being drafted last year, he already had a full skillset and a really strong body.
And the moment he got his hands on the footy in training and in games, he looked really comfortable.
He came into our system in a really good place to make the most of it, and he trained with really good intensity right from the day he walked into our club.
An absolute strength of his is how clean he is around the ball.
He’s already making decisions as he’s collecting the ball, which comes with confidence in his ability to be clean.
He works really hard on it, and from day one he’s asked a lot of questions to try to perfect that side of his game.
Throughout the year, we’ve had to train in smaller groups with COVID restrictions, and I think it’s something Caleb’s really benefited from.
He’s been in my group most of the year and we’ve been spending a lot of time together in and around training, which has allowed for a lot of football chat and general life chat.
He’s been quite vibrant and vocal, so it’s great to have someone come in and really have a lot of faith in themselves.
We talk a lot about stoppage craft.
Body positioning, when to engage and when to not get tangled up with the opposition.
Or even visualising when he gets the ball or how the ruckman are competing, he’s got a really good handle on it.
Caleb got his first crack in the team as a run-with midfielder, and I think that gave him a really good base to come in and keep things really simple.
His first few games this year he had a narrow focus, and from there we’ve given him a licence to really express himself and win the ball off the back of those roles.
It put him in a really good place to come and flourish in our system, and he’s done a great job on both sides of the ball — offensively and defensively.
It’s been a great year for the football club in general.
We’ve seen Caleb and our other young midfielders really step up as the year has progressed.
We’re having higher contribution across the field and it certainly helps to stay more consistent each week, not having to rely on one or two guys in different areas of the field to really dominate.
Caleb is still learning a lot about what AFL life is like, but as he gets more experienced, he’ll continue to grow in confidence.
He’s got the tools to really succeed.