Jonathon Griffin has some big shoes to fill after being selected to make his Fremantle debut as Aaron Sandilands ruck replacement for Saturday’s clash with St Kilda at Patersons Stadium.

That’s the only change to the Freo team that downed Port Adelaide at AAMI Stadium last Saturday.
Sandilands is expected to miss a month with a toe injury he sustained in that match.

Jack Anthony and Jay van Berlo are emergencies, along with Freo’s other ruck option Zac Clarke.

Fremantle has a 0-5 record without Sandilands since 2008, but senior coach Mark Harvey said he believed the side was now more prepared than ever to play without the three-time All-Australian in the line-up.

“I think the team is,” he said.

“Individually, Aaron’s probably got better over the last couple of years but I think the team’s more equipped.”

Harvey said his midfield would need to adjust its mindset at the stoppages without Sandilands, who has averaged 38-hitouts per game in 2011.

“It changes our midfield’s observation of where the ball is going to be hit or where they think it is going to be hit.

“They need to concentrate a little bit more on the opposition ruckman and watch the ball-up or the throw-in a little bit closer than they normally would rather than just expect it’s going to be put in a certain position.”

Griffin, who played 41 games for Adelaide from 2007 to 2010, has been performing consistently well at WAFL level for East Fremantle and finally gets his chance to prove he has what it takes to lead an AFL ruck division.

The 25-year-old said he was extremely happy to finally play for the team he has supported “since day dot”.

“I barracked for Freo since I was a young kid and my family have been members since the club began,” he said.

The 201cm ruckman said playing in the WAFL has given him a good platform from which to launch his Fremantle Dockers’ career.

“It’s a good stepping stone and it has given me a confidence boost to play some good footy in the AFL,” he said.

And having the AFL’s best ruckman on his side has also been a huge positive for him.
“I’ve benefitted a lot from watching how Aaron does his work,” Griffin said.

“He’s like a mentor to me and big Zac Clarke.”

Griffin is also confident he can gel with a midfield group so used to being fed the ball on a plate by Sandilands.

“We’ve done a lot of match simulation in training, so I can’t wait to get out there and get amongst it with the boys,” he said.

“I saw in the paper that our record without Spider isn’t that good, so I’ll be looking to do what I have to do to make sure we’ve got the big W after the game.”

Fremantle has not beaten the Saints since round 9 2007 but will look to outpace the 2009 and 2010 Premiership runners-ups on the wide expanses of Paterson Stadium on Saturday.

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