Headland in line for call-up
Fremantle midfield coach Barry Mitchell says there is no risk in recalling Des Headland for Saturday’s elimination final against Hawthorn, although Ryan Crowley still appears the player most likely to replace injured goalsneak Hayden Ballantyne.
Headland, who has played in nine finals and is the only premiership player on Fremantle’s list, has played four WAFL games since returning from a knee injury but hasn’t played at AFL level since round four.
Mitchell said the 29-year-old, who was a livewire forward for Fremantle early in the season, had the ability to hurt Hawthorn on the scoreboard from limited opportunities.
“He’s been back for probably four weeks and played quite well on the weekend, so we don’t think it’s a huge risk,” Mitchell said from Fremantle Oval on Wednesday.
“We think the risk is probably diminishing [but] it’s something we have to take into account that he hasn’t played for a while.
“He can really hurt you on the scoreboard. He doesn’t need many opportunities to hurt you and sometimes two or three goals can be the difference in those games.”
Mitchell said Ballantyne, who will miss the finals with a fractured left foot, would be a big loss Fremantle, but Crowley had his hand held high after a seven-goal, 30-possession game for Subiaco.
Midfielder Rhys Palmer is also out of the side at the moment, but Mitchell said the 2008 NAB AFL Rising Star could earn a reprieve this week despite hitting a form slump.
“He’s hit a little bit of a hurdle, but we’re positive that he’ll come through it and he’s going to be a very good player for us,” Mitchell said.
“I think he’s contributed strongly a couple of times throughout the year, so he could definitely come in.
“With all our younger players there’s some areas they need to work on. We’ve spoken to Rhys about those, he understands those, so he knows where it’s at.”
Hawthorn will travel to Subiaco Oval with noted match-winners Lance Franklin and Cyril Rioli in form, but Mitchell said Fremantle would not take a defensive mindset into the cut-throat final.
“We’ve got a few that Hawthorn have to worry about as well,” he said. “You can look at it two ways; how do you curb him (Rioli) and how do they curb Stephen Hill or David Mundy?
“You go in with that mindset that we’d like to restrict him, but they’ve also got to have a look at a few of ours.”
Fremantle will enter the clash with a host of young players experiencing their first AFL final, including key midfielders Stephen Hill, Anthony Morabito, Nat Fyfe and Nick Suban.
However, Mitchell said he had drawn confidence from the side’s Friday night win over Carlton in round 22, particularly the performances of the side’s young players in a finals-like game.
“It’s important to have experience, but the other side of it is we’ve had experience put into our younger players now; they’ve played 20 games, and big games,” he said.
“They should be ready for the challenge and we’re confident that they’ll be able to stand up to them.
“Hawthorn are obviously going to go hard at the start, and so are we. That’s the first challenge, meeting that first five minutes, and then the game will settle down a bit.”