How Freo’s big ‘Tab’ picked up his career

Matt+Taberner+AFL+Rd+23+Fremantle+v+Port+NkUoIYwhSaWlFREMANTLE tall forward Matt Taberner says narrowing his focus to competing and lifting his work rate has prompted his upswing in form in the second half of 2017.

Taberner’s career appeared at the crossroads mid-season when the out-of-contract 199cm big man was dropped back to Peel after five AFL games.

But the 24-year-old Victorian forced his way back into Freo’s attack following a string of dominant WAFL performances.

In the final three AFL rounds he reminded everyone of his talent and aerial prowess – averaging 14 disposals, nearly eight marks and a goal – and the athletic Docker has carried that form into the WAFL finals series.

Now he is gearing up for a key role in Peel’s push for back-to-back premierships, and has put contract talks with Fremantle on hold until after the Grand Final.

“I haven’t spoken with management yet. I think we’re just waiting for the end of the finals series and we’ll see what happens,” Taberner told AFL.com.au.

“There’s no real progress at the moment, but I’ve obviously been at Fremantle for a while now and I’m pretty settled.

“We’ve got a good group of boys and I’m close with everyone, so it’s a good place to be.”

The Dockers are crying out for a reliable marking target in the post-Matthew Pavlich era.

Recruits Cam McCarthy and Shane Kersten are seemingly better suited to lead-up roles, while Taberner has shown glimpses of his capability inside 50 and up the ground.

But while the former rookie has booted 53 goals in 52 games, he hasn’t been able to nail down a regular spot over five seasons.

His best game this year was his first in round seven, when he pulled down seven contested marks and bagged four majors against Essendon.

But his form tailed off over the next month and he was sent back for another WAFL stint.

Consistency has been an issue but Taberner believes his best football is still ahead of him.

“I think I’ve got plenty of improvement in me. I’ll just keep working on my game,” he said.

“I’m just going into games with simple focuses and really based on competing and work rate.

“I definitely like getting up the ground and using (my) run and then you can always work back.”

Taberner was outstanding for Peel on Sunday as the Thunder snapped Subiaco’s 19-game winning streak.

He snagged four goals and commanded the air, showing a pair of vice-like hands as he took 16 marks.

“He’s got a capacity to run and work a side over. Then he needs reasonable delivery to take the marks that he takes,” Thunder coach Cam Shepherd said.

“It’s a credit to him that he’s worked through this (season) and come out the other end.

“He’s playing really good footy at the moment.”

Taberner didn’t qualify for Peel’s maiden flag last year but is keen to taste premiership success in his first senior Grand Final.

He hailed a tight bond between the Dockers – who fielded the maximum 15 AFL-listed players for Peel against Subiaco – and the Thunder’s local players for the WAFL club’s on-field improvement in recent seasons.

“It’s not just Peel Thunder and Fremantle players, it’s all one,” Taberner said.

“It’s a different team from last year – there’s a lot of changes from last year’s premiership – but there’s a lot of young guys that are really enthusiastic and it makes the old guys push even harder.”