Sandi’s back, Mellington to debut
Youngster Josh Mellington has been selected to play his first AFL game, while the other ins include some big names, headed by the return of ruck champ Aaron Sandilands.
Leading goal kicker Kepler Bradley is also back after he was a late withdrawal last week.
The defence has been weakened by the loss of Antoni Grover with an adductor injury, but Alex Silvagni’s return helps offset that.
Rhys Palmer and Dylan Roberton have earned reprieves following good WAFL form.
The players to make way were Jay van Berlo, Jesse Crichton, Ben Bucovaz, Clayton Hinkley and Jon Griffin, who have all been omitted.
Roger Hayden has been named as an emergency after he resumed in the WAFL recently following a foot injury.
Mellington was drafted from Victoria, where he played for the Murray Bushrangers.
Senior coach Mark Harvey said the 18-year-old had done what was asked of him in the WAFL.
“Josh has done well at WAFL level as a forward and showed us that he is ready to play at the higher level,” Harvey said.
Harvey said he and the rest of the team expected Mellington to be a contributor on Saturday.
“You can’t have any passengers in this game,” he said.
“What we want from Josh is that he works hard for himself and his teammates and makes the most of the chances that present themselves to him.”
Mellington said he was told he would be playing when called up to Freo’s match committee room on Wednesday.
“It was pretty daunting walking into a room full of coaches,” he said.
“But I was pretty thrilled when Harvs told me I’d be playing on Saturday.”
Mellington said the realisation that he would be playing his first AFL game still hadn’t sunk in yet.
“All the boys are telling me to prepare for it like it’s just another game, but I think a bit closer to the game it’ll definitely sink in and the nerves will hit me pretty early,” he said.
His selection comes on the back of a strong season to date playing for West Perth.
“I’ve been playing up forward for West Perth in the WAFL so I’d expect to play a similar role for Freo on Saturday,” he said.
“It’s helped me, as a forward, that West Perth has been winning and the ball has been up forward a fair bit.
“I just have to apply plenty of pressure wherever I play.”
Mellington said that settling in at Fremantle after making the move from Victoria wasn’t easy at first.
“It’s hard to get a gauge on where you’re at when you’re a new guy at a club,” he said.
“It just takes a little bit of time to find your feet and settle in.
“Adapting to the bigger grounds here and the different brand of footy that’s played here in WA has been the most difficult thing.”
He has no doubts as to what his teammates will expect from him come Saturday night.
“I have to display a ruthless attack on the ball and give my all for the entire game,” he said.
“I think that’s what’s expected of every player that pulls on a jumper, whether you’re a 200-game player or a debutant like me.”
B: Greg Broughton, Luke McPharlin, Paul Duffield
HB: Dylan Roberton, Michael Johnson, Garrick Ibbotson
C: Nathan Fyfe, Michael Barlow, Clancee Pearce
HF: Ryan Crowley, Matthew Pavlich, Tendai Mzungu
F: Kepler Bradley, Christopher Mayne, Stephen Hill
Foll: Aaron Sandilands, Nick Lower, Matthew de Boer
I/C: Rhys Palmer, Zac Clarke, Alex Silvagni, Josh Mellington
Emg: Roger Hayden, Clayton Hinkley, Jonathon Griffin
In: Aaron Sandilands, Rhys Palmer, Kepler Bradley, Dylan Roberton, Alex Silvagni, Josh Mellington
Out: Antoni Grover (Quad), Clayton Hinkley, Ben Bucovaz, Jay van Berlo, Jesse Crichton, Jonathon Griffin