From the moment Caleb Serong walked into Fremantle’s headquarters following last year’s draft he started asking questions.
The No. 8 pick was all ears when it came to learning off captain Nat Fyfe, former captain David Mundy and newly-appointed Dockers midfield coach Josh Carr.
“Right from the first moment he was at me about different roles he could play, the method (to play those roles) and ways to improve,” Carr told aflplayers.com.au following Serong’s Round 8 Rising Star nomination.
Often draftees can be reserved as they adjust to a new environment, but Serong took it all in his stride seeking every opportunity he could to improve himself and his game.
The Gippsland Power product arrived at the club with a handy resume from his final year in the under-18s system – an All-Australian jumper, NAB League Team of the Year selection, co-captain of Vic Country and Vic Country MVP under his belt – but, Serong knew he had work to do and set his sights on earning senior selection.
During pre-season, he battled a number of little injury niggles and wasn’t quite where he needed to be, Carr said, but the COVID-19 season shutdown period became a second training phase and one that Serong was able to use to get his body right.
“(The shutdown period) was about making sure he learnt and understood the best way to best look after his body and making sure he could get the most out of himself,” Carr said.
“He really went away and transitioned himself from being a junior footballer to an AFL player.”
That transition earned Serong a senior call-up in Round 4 against Gold Coast and he’s impressed the Dockers coaching staff enough to hold his spot since.
In his first four games, Serong was playing approximately 55-60 per cent game time, with Fremantle managing his work load.
But on Monday night against the Cats Serong played 80 per cent of the game – his most this season.
The 19-year-old was also given his biggest challenge – a run-with role on Brownlow Medalist and superstar Geelong midfielder Patrick Dangerfield.
Carr believes the challenge for Serong and opportunity for more game time gave him the confidence he needed to continue improving.
“That was his first opportunity to (spend more time on the ground) and as the game went on he got more confident within his ability to win his one-on-one battles against ‘Danger’ and get in there and win the ball.”
Although the Dockers lost, Serong won the battle against his more seasoned opponent collecting 22 disposals, laying seven tackles and gathering three clearances in miserable conditions, enough to earn him one coaches vote (the only Fremantle player to do so) for his efforts.
He’s only five games into his AFL career, but already Carr has seen drastic improvement in Serong’s game.
Carr said Serong is best described as coachable and it’s no surprise the recruiters had their eyes on the former Vic Country captain, wanting to draft players who were going to be able to grow with the team.
“We want players that are looking to improve and that’s what he’s like,” Carr said.
“Each day he comes in he’s always trying to get better and because of that each week that he’s played AFL football, he has improved.”
AFL RISING STAR NOMINEES IN 2020
Round 1 — Sam Sturt (Fremantle)
Round 8 — Caleb Serong (Fremantle)