FREMANTLE coach Mark Harvey remains tight-lipped on the prospect of finals football, despite the reality that his side can rubber-stamp its first September appearance since 2006 with a win over West Coast on Sunday.

Fremantle, which has won eight of the last nine western derbies including the last six, sits three games clear inside the top eight with 11 wins and would require an improbable fall to miss the finals this year.

But after a three-game form slump that has included losses to Richmond (19 points) and the Western Bulldogs (82), Harvey said the prospect of finals football would not be used to stir his players this week.  

“What we are trying to do is get as many wins as we can to build up to whatever is perceived that might happen later on,” Harvey said from Subiaco Oval on Thursday. “That’s all we’re looking at.

“The players we’ve got out at the moment we’re working as hard as we can from a sports science point of view to try to get them back as quick as we can.

“We realise that every game we play is no easy game and this weekend will be no different.”

An 11-point win over Melbourne, in which Fremantle blew a 44-point lead, rounds out the side’s last three weeks in a month that has seen Michael Barlow go down with a broken leg and captain Matthew Pavlich nursed through an ankle complaint.

Harvey said this week was about bouncing back from a humbling loss to the Bulldogs and avoiding an extended form slump.  

“All you’ve got to make sure [of] is that your team can rebound on the back of what happened last week and make sure we can keep progressing and not find ourselves in some sort of slump,” he said.

“There’s a lot of different things that galvanise football clubs. Something different may have galvanised the Bulldogs last week.

“You’d like to think that no matter what hurdle you hit, that you get back on as quick as you can.”

After a low-key month of football since returning from his six-week club suspension, Michael Johnson shapes as a key player in the 32nd western derby.

Back-up ruckman Kepler Bradley is rated an 80 per cent chance to return from a knee injury by Harvey, potentially allowing Johnson to rediscover his best form as a foil for Pavlich in attack. 

“He’s probably come back at a time where we needed him to come back because we were lacking personnel in certain areas and we’ve had to move him around a hell of a lot,” Harvey said of the versatile Johnson.
 
“One thing that your team needs to be successful is stability in roles and structures.
 
“That probably hasn’t happened to him over the last couple of weeks; we’ve played him in three or four positions. I think he’s been okay and he’s filled some needs. 
 
“Early in the year if you have a look at output and the way we were going, he was working really well with Pavlich in the forward line.”

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