We often long for the greats of past eras.
Players like Barry Cable and Graham “Polly” Farmer brought joy to so many during their playing career and still invoke happy memories for those who saw them first hand.
Make no mistake, we are watching greatness again in Fremantle captain Nat Fyfe, and we probably will not truly appreciate how good he is until his career is finished.
While 2019 has been a terrible year for Fremantle, having moved on both its coach and CEO, it has been exceptional for Fyfe.
AFL House tweet: Picture of shirtless Nat Fyfe wearing Brownlow Medal and talking on phone
A second Brownlow Medal and being named All-Australian skipper is testament to that.
He is one of only 15 players in history to win the medal twice and is one of only two players alongside Haydn Bunton Senior to have more Brownlow votes polled across his career than games played.
At 28, Fyfe is still in his prime, and barring injury — he has just had his fourth shoulder reconstruction, his 17th surgery in total — he will no doubt be vying for a third medal in years to come.
With that in mind, for such a natural footballer, it is perhaps his courage and tenacity that is even more impressive.
Overcoming injury to confront bigger challenge
Fyfe’s ability to overcome such serious and debilitating injuries shows his immense character.
Specifically, there was the broken leg that he played on in the club’s 2015 preliminary final against Hawthorn, the year he won his first Brownlow.
Fyfe has returned to the peak of his powers and is still chasing a bigger goal. (AAP: Julian Smith)
He re-injured the same leg early the following year, but somehow, he has come out of it a better and more complete player.
“You hear constantly the feedback and innuendo about ‘he is not quite playing at his best, he could never be as good as he once was’, or that season in 2015 was a flash in the pan or an enigma,” he told ABC Radio Perth.
“Those sorts of things grind you and then motivate you.
“I have got newspaper articles cut out and sort of used to keep myself motivated on the track.”
But by Fyfe’s own admission, there are still pieces of his career puzzle that need to be solved, namely team success.
“I’d hate to be sitting at the end of my career with two or maybe three Brownlows and no premiership,” he said after his win.
“I would trade this in, in a heartbeat, just for the opportunity to be able to play in another grand final.”
That is complicated given the Dockers’ current situation.
Leading Freo to a flag would cement legacy
Without a coach or CEO, there are plenty of questions that need to be addressed at the Dockers over the coming months.
The one constant for the club at the moment is the consistently great performance of its captain.
But while nobody can dispute his output on the field, Fyfe acknowledged after winning his second Brownlow that his leadership remained a work in progress, and admitted it was the toughest thing he had ever tackled.
Two Brownlows leave Fyfe in rare company among some of the AFL’s all-time greats. (AAP: Julian Smith)
“For me the biggest impact I can have at our footy club is being a leader,” he said.
“I am still working on that craft. It is a difficult challenge, but it is rewarding as well.”
Leadership is needed more than ever at the Dockers, with Ross Lyon no longer at the helm as coach.
Fyfe is fully aware of that. His phone screensaver includes a simple phrase —”Fremantle’s first premiership captain” — as a reminder of his ultimate goal.
If he can help guide the club to its first premiership over the closing stages of his career, that would cement his legacy.
Fyfe says he is still working on his leadership skills in his pursuit of a premiership. (AAP: Gary Day)