Sandilands an “outside chance”
Fremantle captain Matthew Pavlich says the club will maintain a no-risk policy during Aaron Sandilands’ recovery from a toe injury, with the star ruckman only an “outside chance” to play in Sunday’s Western Derby.
Sandilands has missed six of Fremantle’s past seven games and is rated a 50-50 chance to return for the high stakes derby by coach Mark Harvey after suffering a reoccurrence of his turf toe condition three weeks ago.
Pavlich said with seven games to play before a potential finals campaign, now was not the time to take risks with the three-time All Australian.
“He’s an outside chance, but like any of our top echelon of players we’re not going to risk him, especially this time of the year,” Pavlich said from Fremantle Oval on Wednesday.
“He was in the gym with me this morning just doing some stuff, which included testing it out a little bit.
“But it’s not until he gets out there and does a full training session that we’ll be able to make a call on it. We might leave it to the last minute.”
Sandilands did not take part in a light training session on Wednesday morning, but Pavlich said the club was hopeful he’d be able to test his toe during Thursday’s main session.
Recruit Jon Griffin has played every game Sandilands has missed this year, averaging 30 hit-outs, while young ruckman Zac Clarke has played the last six games in a variety of midfield roles.
Pavlich said both would be important players on Sunday if Sandilands was unavailable to take on star West Coast ruck pair Dean Cox and Nic Naitanui.
“It’s important to have fit players against those two ruckmen,” he said. “They’ve been terrific all year for West Coast and regardless of whether it’s Aaron or ‘Griff’ or Zac, we need two rock-hard, fit players to go up against those two.
“Griff’s game last week was terrific and he’s been doing very well for us. We’re happy to have all three of them [in the team] if possible.”
Naitanui and Cox were influential in West Coast’s round-eight Derby win, giving the Eagles a 41-35 edge in clearances, with West Coast also winning the inside 5o count 51-30 in the 33-point win.
Pavlich said Fremantle would look at different ways to counter West Coast at stoppages, but said playing the Sydney Swans on the SCG was good preparation for the derby.
“Having a game at that intensity, at least it’s at the forefront of the players’ minds, that mindset to ensure that every contest we go to we’ve got to be switched on and ready to attack with the vigour and endeavour we need to,” he said.
“It does prepare us well, but it’s a different set of bodies and a different set of rules at Subiaco.
“We will try to of course counter what happened last time. The second quarter, from memory, they really did lock us in our back half and we found it hard to move it out.
“We’ll look back at some past games and see what we’ve done effectively.”
Fremantle has the chance to draw level on points with West Coast if it can win its 10th game for the year on Sunday, opening up the opportunity to push into the top four by season’s end.
Pavlich wouldn’t be drawn on the club’s chances of earning a double chance in September and said West Coast deserved to be favourites on Sunday.
“They’ve got pretty much everyone except for [Sam] Butler to choose from and they’ve been in terrific form all year,” he said. “I’m not a bookie and I’m certainly not allowed to bet, but I know who will be favourite.”