Freo name team for Saturday’s final
Fremantle has made three changes for Saturday’s elimination final against Hawthorn at Subiaco Oval.
Alex Silvagni also returns to add strength to a Fremantle backline facing the tough task of curbing Hawthorn’s explosive key forward combination of Lance Franklin and Jarryd Roughead.
The other inclusion is first-year player Jesse Crichton, who was a late withdrawal for Hayden Ballantyne in last week’s game against Carlton.
Ballantyne is out after he suffered a season-ending foot injury in that game, while Paul Hasleby and Jay van Berlo have been omitted.
Hasleby’s omission means that last week’s game against the Blues was his final match in front of his home crowd at Subiaco Oval.
Both Crowley and Silvagni have been missing since round 16 and both players made their return through the WAFL last weekend.
Fremantle coach Mark Harvey said he wasn’t worried about either player not being ready to play finals football off the back of one WAFL hit-out.
“We’ve already brought some players back this season who had been out for long periods of time, like Broughton, Grover and McPharlin, and they had only played one game before returning,” he said.
“We just find now that it may be an advantage if they’re fresher. They’re bouncing and they’re full of energy and they can cope with the situation.
“It’s all about balance and making sure we have the right team to beat Hawthorn, and we think we’ve got that.”
Harvey said Crowley could play a number of different roles for the team.
“The opposition probably won’t know how to plan for him, whether he’s forward, in the midfield or even down back.”
Harvey said Silvagni had been a key part of Fremantle’s defensive structure this season until he was injured and would offer another big body in Freo’s back half.
“We learnt two weeks ago against Hawthorn that we need to have bigger bodies and Alex played really well for Claremont on the weekend,” he said.
“We have the utmost belief that he can hold his own on Saturday.”
Crichton debuted in challenging circumstances in round 17 against the Western Bulldogs at Etihad Stadium, and after missing out last week, will be put to the test again in the pressure-cooker atmosphere of a final.
But that shouldn’t come as a surprise because Harvey has often opted to test young players out in big matches.
“It’s when you really find out about younger players, when you put them in big games,” Harvey said.
“Jesse’s got a good temperament. We like the way he hunts the ball at the right time and he is good in traffic.
“He won’t be over-awed by a final.”
Fremantle lost to the Hawks by 116 points two weeks ago after resting seven key players for the trip to Launceston.
But Harvey said if the side was to have any scars from that match, it would have been evident last weekend against Carlton – a match Freo won by a goal.
He pointed to a number of different factors that will come into play for Saturday’s match, including the influence of the Fremantle crowd.
“Our players are really confident, particularly when we’ve got the edge of our supporters and playing at our home ground, which has been our backyard,” he said.
“It’s been like a steel curtain for us.
“Little things like crowd influence can help us along the way.”
Harvey said his side has been buoyed by the support it has received around Perth this week.
“It’s great to see the Go Freo signs all over Perth,” he said.
“It really gives the whole side a big boost to know how much support they have behind them.”
The Hawks were languishing near the bottom of the ladder earlier this season with only one win after the first seven rounds.
But Harvey said the 2008 premiers, after having lost only three games since that point, would pose an enormous challenge to his young side on Saturday.
“What Hawthorn has done, particularly in the second half of the season makes them probably the best performed team in the second half of the season,” he said.
“That goes right across the board so we certainly know what we’re up against.”
The Hawks will also have inspirational midfielder Luke Hodge back after he missed last weekend’s win over ladder-leaders Collingwood.
Saturday’s cut-throat contest is a sell-out and will see the winner take on the loser of the Geelong-St Kilda match at the MCG next Friday night for a spot in a preliminary final.
Backs: Dylan Roberton 24 Antoni Grover 14 Ryan Crowley 15
Half Backs: Roger Hayden 43 Luke McPharlin 18 Greg Broughton 6
Centre: Garrick Ibbotson 5 David Mundy 16 Stephen Hill 32
Half Forwards: Chris Mayne 23 Matthew Pavlich 29 Michael Walters 38
Forwards: Jesse Crichton 44 Michael Johnson 37 Matthew de Boer 40
Followers: Aaron Sandilands 31 Nick Suban 8 Paul Duffield 41
Interchange:Nat Fyfe 13 Alex Silvagni 36 Anthony Morabito 2
Adam McPhee 9
Emergencies: Des Headland 11 Kepler Bradley 26 Rhys Palmer 10
IN: Ryan Crowley
OUT: Hayden Ballantyne (foot)
Jay van Berlo