Fremantle could face a critical decision on West Perth’s Jack Darling with their first pick in Thursday night’s national draft.

Darling is one of three local prospects in the Dockers’ sights for the pick, 20th overall, alongside Perth midfielder Reece Conca and East Fremantle defender Jamie Cripps.

Barring any surprise “sliders” among players from other States, the local trio are among those the Dockers hope are available.

Conca has been one of the climbers in draft speculation. He could sneak into the top 10 and is unlikely to get past Port Adelaide at pick 16.

Darling, a top-three fancy at the start of the season, has been the big draft drifter on the back of a moderate season and off-field issues.

Darling and Conca are among five players who Melbourne are looking at for their first pick at No.12. But North Melbourne (pick 17), Carlton (18) and Hawthorn (19) are doing late check-ups on Darling as the chances of him being available to them grow.

The Dockers will not comment on draft selections but football operations manager Chris Bond confirmed that key-position players and midfield depth were priorities.

Darling, 191cm, agile and a fierce tackler, has potential in both areas.

Commenting yesterday after key forward and pre-season draft hopeful John Anthony completed his first training session at the club, Bond said key-position players formed part, but not all, of the club’s draft planning.

“We have been able to look at and fill a little bit of our list management model needs during the trade period,” he said. “Obviously losing Chris Tarrant put a little bit of a hole in that but to be able to get Peter Faulks in, Tendai Mzungu, Jon Griffin, these sort of players, they do fit a need for us.

“Pick 20 … there could be a lot happen beforehand.

“Key position is an area … we need to concentrate on but we have also seen that the depth in your midfield is really important.”

Two midfielders trying different types of comebacks showed promising signs at the first session.

Rhys Palmer, trying to win back a spot in the club’s best 22, won a 3km time trial in 10 minutes 35 seconds, beating newcomer Mzungu and Nat Fyfe to the line. Michael Barlow did a session on an exercise bike and then walked laps showing no hint of a limp on his way back from a broken leg.

“People have spoken about Rhys’ 2010 as being disappointing,” Bond said.

“We are actually pleased with how he came back from a knee operation. It is a significant injury for a young player.

“He is not only tough and competitive, he has a big engine. We think he’s progressing really well and can keep improving this year.

“Mick (Barlow) has been moving around on the leg fine. We have said all along we won’t rush him. He is the type of person and personality where he would like to get out there and start kicking the ball and get up and get involved in training, but we will monitor that very closely.

“We see Mick as a long-term player for our club. He won’t be rushed but in saying that we are really happy with his progress.”

Griffin and Faulks had their first sessions with their new club.

Veteran defender Roger Hayden is set to be eased into training after working with the club’s rehabilitation group wearing a foot brace as he recovers from injuries sustained last season.

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