Four in Fremantle’s debut mix for Round 1 2011
Up to four players could play their first games for Fremantle when the Dockers take on Brisbane at the Gabba in Round 1.
Former Collingwood forward Jack Anthony and ex-Adelaide ruckman Jon Griffin could pull on the purple for the first time, while mature-age recruits Peter Faulks and Tendai Mzungu will also hope to use NAB Cup form to push for AFL debuts in Round 1.
Despite the summer inclusions, the Dockers’ team to start 2011 is likely to closely resemble the outfit that bowed out of the finals with a 69-point hiding from Geelong in the second semi-final after a season of stunning improvement.
From that team, Des Headland has retired and Anthony Morabito (knee) and Roger Hayden (foot) have suffered serious injuries, with Morabito ruled out for the season and Hayden unlikely to play before the midway point.
Michael Walters, Dylan Roberton and Alex Silvagni could be under pressure to hold their spots from that finals team.
While Anthony, Griffin, Faulks and Mzungu are likely to offer an injection of new blood early in the piece, first-round debuts are unlikely for the trio of young Victorians taken by the Dockers in the national draft.
Jayden Pitt, Viv Michie and Josh Mellington are all raw and will need to first prove themselves in the WAFL.
Pitt, a 189cm utility taken with Freo’s first pick at No.20, weighed only 72kg at the start of pre-season training, but it would not surprise if coach Mark Harvey handed him his debut at some stage in the first half of the season.
The Dockers’ biggest loss from last season is defender Chris Tarrant, who was traded back to Collingwood after the 30-year-old requested a move back home to Melbourne.
Although one of Freo’s most important players since switching to defence in 2009, Tarrant only played 13 of 24 games last season, so the Dockers have already experienced life without him.
His loss means the club would love injury-free seasons from veterans Antoni Grover and Luke McPharlin, which recent history suggests is unlikely.
But in Faulks there is some back-up, and the mature-age VFL recruit will likely compete with former Casey Scorpions teammate Silvagni for a spot in Fremantle’s full-strength team.
The versatile Anthony shapes as added insurance if the Dockers backline is cut down with injury, but Fremantle’s Plan A for the former Magpie is to play him as a leading full-forward.
The Dockers’ midfield will be the centre of most interest. While the comeback of first-year revelation Michael Barlow from his sickening broken leg will hog most of the headlines, the fortunes of Rhys Palmer could be just as important.
After missing most of 2009 with a knee reconstruction and struggling for form before being dropped in 2010, it is easily forgotten Palmer was Freo’s premier midfielder in his stunning debut season in 2008.
Harvey has never been able to resist the temptation of throwing champion centre-half forward Matthew Pavlich into the midfield for sizeable periods and this is unlikely to change in 2011.
Harvey is keen to settle versatile pair Michael Johnson and Kepler Bradley in key positions next season rather than having them supporting Aaron Sandilands in the ruck.