Three in, none out, yet
Fremantle coach Mark Harvey said earlier this week there would probably be changes following the disappointing performance against St Kilda last weekend, and up to three players could face the selection axe when the final 22 is submitted on Friday afternoon.
Clancee Pearce, who was a late withdrawal last week, Zac Clarke and Clayton Hinkley are the three inclusions.
One of the critical match-ups in Sunday’s game will be Luke McPharlin’s battle with ace Hawthorn forward Lance Franklin.
Buddy has been in sublime touch this season, kicking 35 goals, including 14.16 from his past three games.
But McPharlin has been a colossus in Fremantle’s backline in 2011, standing tall even when his teammates around him have struggled at times.
His latest scalp was St Kilda captain Nick Riewoldt, who he kept scoreless in round 10.
Harvey said McPharlin, who started his AFL career at Hawthorn, was one of the premier defenders in the competition.
“If you have a look at him this year, he’s certainly been up there with the best of them,” Harvey said.
“He’s taking that challenge on every week and this week will be Franklin and it will be no different.
“Mentally, he’s on top of his game and he’s back in the leadership group. I’ve seen significant change in his approach to do that job for the team.”
Franklin doesn’t have a good record in his seven career matches against Freo, averaging 2.4 goals per game – the equal lowest average he has against any side in the AFL (the other team is St Kilda).
Harvey said the Hawks have been playing very well this season and were on the way up.
“If you have a look at the way they’ve traded over the last couple of years, you know where they’re heading,” he said.
“They’re trying to win a Grand Final so we are certainly aware of how good a side they are.”
The Freo coach said other sides have had problems controlling Hawthorn’s style of play this season.
“They’ve changed a little bit of how they play,” he said of Alastair Clarkson’s chip-kick style the Hawks have employed to work through zone and press defences.
“I think everyone is trying to beat down things like the press and the zones and so they’re looking at a different way to do it.
“It’s an interesting concept and we’ll see. The test of time will tell you whether it’s right.”
Fremantle goes into the match against the third-placed Hawks with an injury list almost long enough to fill an AFL side on paper.
But Harvey said he believed his side would come out stronger for having endured through this challenging period.
“We are pushing our guys in between 20-40 to play a lot more at this level,” he said.
“We are finding out a lot more and, hopefully through experience in games, when the availability is a lot better we’ll see a completely different dimension to the level that the whole group can perform.”
Sunday’s game will be the first time Fremantle and Hawthorn have met at the MCG in an AFL home and away or finals fixture.
It also marks Matthew Pavlich’s 100th game as Fremantle captain.