RETURNING Fremantle defender Luke McPharlin says a stable backline is critical to his side’s chances in the run to the finals as a battle for fourth spot with the Western Bulldogs looms.

McPharlin and Greg Broughton made impressive comebacks against Melbourne on Sunday and the back six should be at full strength against the Dogs this week with the injured Chris Tarrant and Antoni Grover also expected to resume. 

In the last six games of the season Fremantle faces five finals challengers and McPharlin said having a full complement of defenders available would be a boost as the side jockeys for a top-four spot.   

“It’s critical; we haven’t had our full defence up and going as yet,” McPharlin said after Sunday’s 11-point win over the Demons at Subiaco Oval.

“We’re waiting for Chris Tarrant and maybe Antoni Grover as well, but it’s great for Greg Broughton and myself to come back today.

“I thought Greg was terrific as well and hopefully over the coming weeks we can get back to our strong defence that we started the year with.”

While McPharlin and Broughton returned to the side seamlessly on Sunday, Fremantle very nearly faltered, letting a 44-point second-quarter lead slip as the Demons kicked six consecutive goals after half time to draw within one point.

McPharlin said the players weren’t switched on immediately after the main break and the side’s 11th win of the season was bittersweet.    

“We let them get back into the game far too easily and that’s not something we should ever allow,” he said. 

“It’s not the brand of football we want, the third quarter, and we’ve had times this year and quarters this year where we have gone away from the way we play. It was disappointing.

“We sang the song but it probably wasn’t with the sort of gusto as it would have been if we’d played the four quarters of football that we wanted to.”

McPharlin, who injured his knee against Collingwood in round eight, has a reputation for returning from injury well and he was one of Fremantle’s     best on Sunday with 18 disposals, five marks and four rebound 50s.

The 28-year-old was forced to wait out a minimum eight-week stint on Fremantle’s long-term injury list but said he knew he would return to the senior side immediately.

“My knee started to feel pretty good about two weeks ago, so I started to do quite a lot of aggressive match simulation and things like that, just to make sure I was absolutely prepared,” he said.

“Given my history of soft tissue injuries I wanted to make sure it was absolutely right. I didn’t want to just come back in and maybe tear a hamstring and be straight back out again.”

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