Lyon supports reported Ballantyne

Ross Lyon says Hayden Ballantyne is an automatic selection for Fremantle, whenever he is fit.
Ross Lyon says Hayden Ballantyne is an automatic selection for Fremantle, whenever he is fit.

Fremantle coach Ross Lyon can’t be happy.

His livewire small Hayden Ballantyne was reported during the Dockers' 76-point win over Greater Western Sydney on Sunday.

Firstly, it was the fourth time in three games this season that Ballantyne’s actions have been scrutinised.

Secondly, his latest indiscretion, where he was cited for striking Giant Tomas Bugg, occurred off the ball. Way off the ball.

While Lyon may have been fuming behind closed doors, he was - as usual - very measured after the win and careful with his words when asked about the chance of losing Ballantyne again due to suspension.

The Dockers' top goal scorer was reported twice in the round five game against Sydney and copped a one-week ban for kneeing the Swans' Rhyce Shaw.

“It is not ideal,” Lyon said.

“There was a good memo came out and was a timely reminder from [AFL operations manager] Mark Evans. We are not allowed to comment post or pre [tribunal]. I didn’t see it anyway. It is what it is.”

Evans' memo would not have excluded Lyon from commenting on the prospects of having Ballantyne sidelined for careless actions.

Imagine if next week’s game were an elimination final, deep in September.

Despite earlier in the season saying that Ballantyne had let himself and his teammates down by being reported, on Sunday Lyon threw his support behind the 26-year-old.

He appeared to even share his charge’s frustrations over the extra attention he often receives from opposition players.

“He has been really good for us and I can only comment on his year,” Lyon said.

“To be truthful, I see that there has been a report. He is playing very good footy, we will let that run its course.

“I value Hayden and every time he is available I will pick Hayden. So that is where we are with Hayden.

“What you are seeing we are seeing. He has been a really good player.

“He is a really good small forward. He cops a lot of attention, but that is [the] lot for an AFL player.”

As far as small forwards go, statistically Ballantyne is the best going around.

His 38 goals put him three ahead of Adelaide’s Eddie Betts and eighth in the race for the Coleman Medal (Port’s Jay Schultz has 50).

Sunday’s game was the third time this season he has kicked five goals or more. He also booted five against Brisbane in round 14 after contributing six against Richmond the round before.

In fact, 22 of his goals have come in the past five weeks, putting him arguably in the best form of his 101-game career.

The Dockers moved to second spot on the AFL ladder after their eighth consecutive win on Sunday.

However, Lyon isn’t preparing for a first-up home final just yet.

He acknowledged the tightness in the competition among the top sides and said that no one could lower their guard in the remaining rounds.

Fremantle faces St Kilda before having a week off, then Carlton. But its final month has the potential to determine the standings of the final four.

The Dockers travel to Geelong in round 20 and then host Hawthorn in round 21. They then travel to Brisbane in round 22, before finishing the home and away fixtures with a clash against Port Adelaide at Paterson Stadium.

“We'd rather be there [in the top two] than not,” Lyon said.

“You can only do what you can do because it's a really tough, arduous competition.

“Port Adelaide has lost a few now and there's just quality coming at you all the time. At this level, if you are off five per cent you will get beaten.

“Our ability to sustain effort over long periods has been pleasing, but we've got some significant challenges that lay ahead.

“But if you are any good you have to accept them and beat them, but it's one week at a time really.”

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  • This story Lyon supports reported Ballantyne first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.