Fremantle’s premiership window will shut at the end of next year because of a lack of quality key-position players behind the Dockers’ ageing stars, according to former Western Bulldogs and Richmond coach Terry Wallace.

Wallace also warned Dockers coach Mark Harvey to end Matthew Pavlich’s midfield stints and leave the captain as a permanent forward or risk his burn-out.

With Chris Tarrant having returned to Collingwood, Wallace believed Fremantle had few key defensive options outside Luke McPharlin and Antoni Grover, who will turn 30 and 31 this year.

Wallace said Alex Silvagni (191cm) and VFL recruit Peter Faulks (192cm) were not big enough to tackle the AFL’s most imposing forwards.

Wallace’s comments come on the back of claims by Adelaide great Chris McDermott that Fremantle’s suspect ruck stocks under Aaron Sandilands could derail their premiership hopes.

McDermott was speaking after Fremantle’s 74-point NAB Challenge loss to the Crows last Saturday. It is believed Fremantle officials are eyeing the 2012 season as their strongest chance to challenge for a flag.

“If you say Collingwood are the benchmark, they’ve got good young midfielders and they’ve got good young backs and good young forwards,” Wallace said.

“Fremantle have got the good young midfielders, I’m not sure they’ve got the replacements coming through for their key positions down back or up forward.

“It’s a concern if they’re going to try and set a standard to win a premiership in the next five years.

“When they’re ready to have an attack on a flag, they’re going to have no key-position players and that’s the difficulty.

“It’s very difficult to get all the parts of the jigsaw puzzle together.

“2012 looks their best opportunity because they’ll still have their senior key-position players in place. But they’ve got plenty of work to do to replace their talls going forward.”

Wallace, who tipped Fremantle to finish between seventh and 11th this year, believed the Dockers needed to win at least three of their first five games to set up their season as several of their stars returned from injury or gained match fitness.

He said he saw a void in key forward options for the Dockers as Pavlich entered the latter phase of his career.

The skipper should be used more closer to goal, similar to Brisbane’s Jonathan Brown and Western Bulldogs spearhead Barry Hall to prolong his influence on the team.

“The damage is done by the work coming through him rather than him having to go into the middle of the ground, win the ball for them and do the whole lot,” Wallace said.

“I think they’re going to run him into the ground if they continue to go down that path.”

Defender Paul Duffield said he was in no doubt Fremantle could cover the loss of Tarrant, despite their mauling by Adelaide’s forward line.

He backed Silvagni to keep improving and said a fitter Grover would also be crucial.

Duffield last week agreed to a contract extension with Fremantle until the end of 2014.

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