A renewed faith in his body has Fremantle defender Alex Pearce poised to impact his maiden finals campaign as he prepares to equal a career-high against Greater Western Sydney.
Should he feature in Canberra against the Giants, Pearce will have played 21 games this year, equaling the bar he set in 2018 as the most appearances he’s made in a season.
The 27-year-old should then pass it during Fremantle’s finals campaign, a significant milestone for Pearce considering his previous battles with injury.
But while Pearce has still had to battle soreness at stages this season, the key defender believes a return to mid-week training has allowed him to reach his best at the sharp end of the season, including in Fremantle’s 24-point western derby win.
“At times it’s been a struggle. I’ve been quite sore and it’s been tough to get up. But the past couple of weeks, I’ve recovered well,” Pearce said.
“It’s tough to perform when you can’t string together games and training. I’ve probably trained as much as I have done in the past couple of weeks which gives me the confidence I can perform when it comes to game day instead of waiting to turn it on.
“I feel like I’m in a good spot but I certainly don’t take anything for granted these days.”
Pearce’s leadership has also benefited from his on-field continuity.
A member of the Dockers’ leadership group since 2018, Pearce has captained Fremantle 15 times in the absence of Nat Fyfe.
Pearce said he struggled early to perform at his maximum on-field but has since struck the right balance ahead of Fyfe’s return.
“It’s been a great honor to lead the boys out. It demands a bit more in the lead-up and dealing with a bit more pressure,” he said.
“I’ve been able to get better week on week and not let it take too much of my energy so I can still focus on my own game.
“A big part of my own game, whether I’m captain or not, is how I lead and organize in defense. That has remained consistent.
“It’s been fun but it’ll be great to welcome Nat back next week.”
In conditions not suited to talls, Pearce still managed to make his way onto the derby highlights reel with a diving smother to deny Eagle Jake Waterman.
While admitting he’s “copped a bit of crap” for his spirited celebrations, Pearce said the moment was symbolic of Fremantle’s defensive efforts this year, conceding the fewest points of any side in the league.
“Defenders don’t get to celebrate too much,” Pearce joked.
“I had some adrenaline going and got a big piece of it. My emotions took over for five seconds…I was up and about and the boys got around me.
“When I do something half decent you have to get around it. It was a bit of fun.”