Fremantle’s impressive 2010 season has put them slightly behind the eight ball in preparation for 2011 but coach Mark Harvey is confident his team’s fitness is on the right track with Rhys Palmer showing the way for all the midfielders to date.

Fremantle narrowly missed out on a top-four finish last season before going on to beat Hawthorn to earn a semi-final berth against Geelong. As a result of that pre-season training has been slightly delayed from last year.

The Dockers’ improved fitness was a driving force behind their rise in 2010, and Harvey is still confident those levels can be got to again by his group despite the tighter time frame.

“We’re probably all behind because advancing two weeks into finals means you are effectively two weeks behind in pre-season from teams that didn’t make it,” Harvey said.

“Some of our senior players get back next week, so effectively it will only be four or five weeks prior to Christmas that we have to make sure we get somewhere near where we were last year when we started earlier.”

Palmer had an outstanding 2008 season winning the NAB Rising Star award as he broke into the AFL with a bang, but a knee reconstruction robbed him of a meaningful 2009 season and he struggled at times on return in 2010.

However, he is currently blitzing pre-season training and Harvey expects him to get back to where he was prior to the knee reconstruction.

“He would be the frontrunner in pre-season at this particular stage and it’s a testament to where he was two years ago. If he goes back and looks at the form guide, he will see that he played his best football after having his best pre-season. It’s a year now since his knee reconstruction, all the cobwebs are gone and he’s got an opportunity to reassert himself in the midfield,” Harvey said.

“Particularly for midfielders the pre-season is more important than ever. The demands on them are going up and up, they are going to be asked to stay on the ground for longer periods of time because of the limits on rotations and the pre-season is super important otherwise you have to play them in other positions until they do get fit enough.”

Harvey is pleased to welcome draftees Jayden Pitt, Viv Michie and Josh Mellington to the club joining the already arrived Jonathon Griffin, Tendai Mzungu and Peter Faulks. Some will get a chance to push for selection early in 2011, most likely as long as their kicking skills are up to scratch.

“They are showing some really good signs early, but it’s when we put them under a little more duress and put them in situations that are more game related that we’ll find out more about them,” Harvey said.

“We were really happy to get those guys at those picks. We had them going a bit earlier than we got them at, hence we grabbed those players. They are all different and have different tricks, but all have good kicking attributes.”

“Because the game is getting congested and skills under pressure are becoming more apparent you can run as far and as fast as you like, but if you can’t control the ball then you’ll be running for the wrong reasons.”

One arrival with AFL experience is former Adelaide Crow Griffin and the 24-year-old who played 41 games there will have to show he has more strings to his bow than just playing as a back-up ruckman to Aaron Sandilands.

“In time you are going to find that with the demand of the game and rotations, that ruckmen are going to have to play more forward otherwise we’d have to complement our team with a guy like Michael Johnson who is not really a recognised ruckman,” Harvey said.

“Jonathon Griffin has played quite a bit of AFL in the ruck and we’d like to think he complements Aaron, and that we could have a key forward as a ruckman in our forward-line.”

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