FRESH off a two-year contract extension, you could excuse Bayley Fritsch for feeling pretty good about himself right now.
The talented left footer, who was a steal for the Dees with pick No.31 in the 2017 National Draft, has come a long way in his 61 games of senior footy, but after a rollercoaster 2020 campaign, he certainly isn’t satisfied.
“I thought it was a good year for learning about what it takes to be the player I want to be,” Fritsch told Melbourne Media.
“At times it didn’t come out this year and obviously my goal kicking let me down a little bit, but I think going into 2021 I’ve got a really good understanding about what my game looks like and how I can take it to the next level.
“Hopefully I can have a really good off-season and come back firing for 2021.”
While there are plenty of improvements to come for the 23-year-old, there’s no doubting he was Melbourne’s best forward this season.
The Demons looked for Fritsch inside 50 on 95 occasions – more than anyone else in the side – and he had a team-high 76 disposals within the arc.
He also led the Dees for marks inside 50 (37) and booted a team-high 22 goals, but as he mentioned, there was one major issue.
Kicking 24 behinds in his 16 games, Fritsch’s inaccuracy slowly began to haunt him, and it was a problem he was yet to encounter in his career.
“It’s a bit of a hard one – I’ve been working really hard,” he said.
“In the past I’ve probably been a natural sort of kick – I haven’t really had a routine or anything, but as I started to kick points I probably over thought it a little bit.
“I think I’ve got a clear path of what it looks like next year and I can tell you I’ll be kicking a lot of goals in the off-season, so hopefully this time next year we’re not having the same chat.”
If the former Casey Demon can regain his confidence in front of the sticks, he will become a headache for opposition defenders, especially given the tricks he picked up in the latter stages of 2020.
While still managing to hit the scoreboard on nine occasions across the final two rounds, Fritsch played negating roles on GWS’ Nick Haynes and Essendon’s Jordan Ridley.
The task was steep, with Haynes ranked No.1 in the competition for intercept marks, and Ridley, who claimed his side’s Best and Fairest Award, sitting at No.4, but Fritsch was up for the challenge.
He was able to minimise both of their impacts on the game, which not only helped his side get the four points, but it assisted his own performance on the attack.
“It gave me a really good starting point and then I worked off them,” he said.
“It sort of worked in my favour because at times they thought that I was going to stay on them when we had the ball, but then I got off them 20 metres in the clear, so it was nice.”
It’s fair to say Fritsch’s efforts in these games weren’t recognised externally, but as long as he’s satisfying his coach, the rest doesn’t really worry him.
“I really enjoyed playing that role for the team and I’m happy to do that in the future if Goody (Simon Goodwin) wants me to,” he said.
“It might be a tagging role, it might be a lockdown role down back, and in the coaches’ eyes they might be the best player on the ground.
“Most people on the outside look for the goals and look for the stats, but we value the team roles really highly.”
And with that team-first attitude, Fritsch wants to help Melbourne become a force next season.
“I’m three years down now so I really want to try to become the leader of the forward line – that’s where I’m going to be playing the majority of my footy,” he said.
“I’m looking forward to coming back next year and really driving all the forwards to hopefully be one of the better forward groups in the comp and ultimately get some team success.”
Success is the aim, and after finishing ninth this season, there’s a hunger in the belly heading into 2021.