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Saturday, January 26, 2019

Fit and firing Freo wingman Bradley Hill eager to leave rivals in his wake

Bradley Hill is ready to break hearts and minds.
While tales abound about players tearing up the track during the summer months, when Hill’s name is mentioned you have to take notice.
The dashing midfielder has been one of the AFL’s elite runners from the moment he was drafted. Damaging at Hawthorn on the wide expanses of the MCG, he used the extra length of Domain Stadium to relentlessly surge up and down the field after arriving at Fremantle in 2017.
Hill won more than 500 disposals during his first year in purple and was rewarded with the Doig Medal.
But while the 25-year-old’s fitness levels are something even most rivals can only dream about, three months on the sidelines recovering from a serious knee injury last year robbed him of the opportunity to train.
Swimming and cross-training were no comparison for a man who loves to run. Fast forward a year and he’s ready to break hearts and minds again.
“It’s the fittest I’ve felt,” Hill revealed in an exclusive interview with The Weekend West.
“I’m getting through training and feel like I’m pulling up well after training. I’m feeling good while I’m out there every day.
“I might not run the furthest distance at the club in a game but I do a lot of sprinting. That’s where I’m the highest. At training, my focus is doing a lot of repeat sprint efforts in drills. When I’m not sprinting, I’m just cruising.
“In games I’m trying to sprint, have a breather and get back into it. It’s repeat efforts where I can get away from my opponents at top speed. I want to get back to 2017.
“I was quite consistent. I want to get back to playing footy like that.
“I want to do as much as I can to help the team. I want to work up and down the ground both ways as hard as I can.”
Hill is the AFL’s best speed merchant.
The league has been publishing GPS data for the last two years and nobody comes close to matching his figures,
Repeatedly running at over 24km/h for more than one second is considered elite. Hill is the only player in the competition to have done that 40 times in one game. But he hasn’t just done it once. He has done it six times.
Repeating that same type of sprint effort within 60 seconds is also a rare feat which has been achieved only 10 times in the same match 14 times in two years.
Half of those were by Hill.
The AFL has introduced new rules for the upcoming season in a bid to decrease congestion and give players the chance to run and use their skills.
The Freo speedster isn’t sure how it will look for spectators, but he’s a fan of the concept.
“They’re trying to open the game up a bit more and get it a bit more flowy,” he said. “If it does get a bit more flowy, that’s the way I like to play. Hopefully it helps me out a little bit.”
But while running helps Hill to have an impact, GPS figures don’t decide which team wins.
The scoreboard hasn’t been kind to Fremantle in the last three years and Hill is desperate to reverse that trend in 2019.
He played in 74 wins from 95 games at Hawthorn, won three premierships and the Hawks never missed the finals during his time at the club.
The West Perth product is hungry for success and received a strong reminder about why he loves playing football while attending West Coast’s qualifying final win over Collingwood last season.
He hopes the arrival of highly rated recruits Jesse Hogan, Rory Lobb, Reece Conca and Travis Colyer, combined with the continued development of the club’s youngsters, will lift the Dockers back into the top eight.
“Finals is what you play footy for,” Hill said.
“Once you get there, it’s like the season is a bit of a pre-season.
“Once you get to the finals is when the real season starts. To get back there would be an awesome feeling, especially with this group.
“In my first five seasons I played finals every year. Then coming here, we weren’t playing finals. I knew coming over here that we were a lot younger and it was going to take time to get there. But there was a four-year plan to build the club.
“It’s been a little bit frustrating but we’re definitely growing and it’s exciting at the same time helping the young boys to come through. Hopefully we have a better season, play some consistent footy and challenge all the teams.”