Fremantle defender Luke McPharlin is confident his side can assemble a competitive back six in 2011, despite losing star stopper Chris Tarrant to Collingwood.

Tarrant, who had notched consecutive top-10 finishes in Fremantle’s best-and-fairest award since reviving his career as a full-back, returned to the Magpies during last October’s trade period in exchange for NAB AFL Draft selections 43 and 55.

While it was a bitter pill for Fremantle to swallow, McPharlin said the club had recruited well and still had the personnel to combat the AFL’s best power forwards.

“It’s a significant loss for us to lose a key back like Tarrant, but we’ve got some young guys coming through – Peter Faulks and (Tendai) Mzungu, who’s been pretty impressive – and obviously Antoni Grover’s still around,” McPharlin said from Fremantle Oval on Thursday.

“I think we’ll be able to put a competitive defence together.

“We’ll have to coordinate who the best match-up is and hopefully provide a good contest and be a competitive unit.”

Grover, who turns 31 next month, played 14 games last season after a knee injury held him back at the start of the year.

McPharlin said the veteran, who signed a one-year contract for the 2011 season, had slimmed down this pre-season to improve his rebounding ability and was training well.

The 29-year-old also held high hopes for key defender Faulks, 22, who was recruited from Williamstown, and mature-age utility Mzungu, who has pressed strong claims for a half-back role in 2011.

“Given where our team is at, in terms of player personnel and I guess the average age of the group, you’d certainly expect the guys to be given an opportunity probably earlier than they would expect,” McPharlin said.

“Certainly those two have been impressive, but there’s been others as well.”

Jack Anthony, who was recruited from Collingwood, has been training in attack but shapes as a back-up option in defence for Fremantle, while Alex Silvagni will be given opportunities to build on his impressive debut 2010 season.

McPharlin said he didn’t expect his own role as a key defender to change without Tarrant by his side, but another strong pre-season should give him the ability to rebound more from defence.

“I’ve been able to get quite a bit of volume in this pre-season, and have the last three years,” he said.

“For some reason I seem to be getting better with age; I don’t know why it’s worked out that way.

“Hopefully I can carry that fitness forward into the year and run off the backline a bit more and things like that and just be a presence on the field.”

McPharlin and midfielder Stephen Hill helped the Constable Care Child Safety Foundation launch its 2011 Life Skills Program at Fremantle Oval on Thursday.

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