Pre-season guide: Fremantle
FB: Alex Silvagni, Antoni Grover, Roger Hayden
HB: Paul Duffield, Luke McPharlin, Greg Broughton
C: Nat Fyfe, David Mundy, Stephen Hill
HF: Ryan Crowley, Matthew Pavlich, Matt de Boer
FF: Hayden Ballantyne, Jack Anthony, Chris Mayne
FOLL: Aaron Sandilands, Michael Barlow, Rhys Palmer
I/C: Michael Johnson, Garrick Ibbotson, Adam McPhee
SUB: Nick Suban
Michael Barlow (broken leg) – TBC
Ben Bucovaz (hamstring) – 1 week
Matt de Boer (hamstring) – 1 week
Roger Hayden (foot) – 8-12 weeks
Joel Houghton (broken arm) – 3 weeks
Garrick Ibbotson (ankle) – 3 weeks
Anthony Morabito (knee) – season
Tendai Mzungu (knee) – 8-10 weeks
Tim Ruffles (knee) – TBC
Byron Schammer (hip) – 6 weeks
Most valuable player
Aaron Sandilands, the best ruckman in the game, simply cannot be replaced and Fremantle is a significantly weaker side without him. Sandilands missed three games late last year – all losses – and his presence both at ruck contests and when forward remains a unique hurdle for opposition clubs.
Rhys Palmer was the early standout in Fremantle’s pre-season as he set about regaining the hard-running edge that made him the best young player in the game back in 2008. With his engine rebuilt, the midfielder will look to improve significantly in his second year back from a knee reconstruction.
Dream Team special
Mature-age recruit Tendai Mzungu has been a prolific ball-winner throughout Fremantle’s pre-season matches and will push for selection across half-back early in the year. The 25-year-old has shone on the track, can play in the midfield and is valued at just $97,600.
Pivotal match View the full Dockers fixture here
Fremantle has been struck with injuries this pre-season and could struggle for early wins as key players return to peak fitness. The Western Bulldogs travel to Patersons Stadium in round five in a clash that could determine whether Fremantle enters its first bye week with a winning record or on the back foot.
Nick Lower, who played 20 games as a half-back with Port Adelaide between 2006 and 2009, has developed into a strong-bodied midfielder in the SANFL and earned his second AFL chance as a rookie. The 23-year-old has found the footy regularly this pre-season and could be elevated and selected early in the season.
The Dockers will have a good year if …
… Matthew Pavlich spends significantly more time forward than he does in the midfield. The skipper can dominate games from the middle, but if others can lock down those roles he can be even more damaging forward. Seventy or more goals, with effective cameos in the centre square, would be a great result for Fremantle.
The big issues
Can Fremantle overcome injuries to up to five of its best 22 – including Michael Barlow – and still win early games? The side made its run to the finals last year on the back of a barnstorming start, but that may prove too hard to replicate.
How can Fremantle get the most out of ruckman Aaron Sandilands without risking burnout or injury at the business end of the season? More support from one of Kepler Bradley, Michael Johnson, Zac Clarke or Jon Griffin might be required.
How will the club replace full-back Chris Tarrant, both in the short and long-term? Antoni Grover seems the logical choice now, but he is 30 and key position stocks are thin at Fremantle. A couple of young talls need to be unearthed soon.