Freo plots September ‘damage’
Fremantle still has September firmly on its mind and believes it can make an impact in the finals series despite losing its past two games.
Freo travelled to Melbourne on Thursday ahead of Friday night’s clash against St Kilda, and assistant coach Barry Mitchell said the club needed to win at least three of the remaining five games to ensure a finals berth.
Mitchell said he was confident the team could not only do that but also shake up the top eight when the finals started on September 9.
“We’ve still got a couple of players who are around the corner to coming back, [Aaron] Sandilands and [David] Mundy, and they’ll make an enormous difference to our side,” Mitchell said at Melbourne’s Junction Oval on Thursday night.
“We think once we get there, we can cause a bit of damage.”
Fremantle is two premiership points behind the seventh-placed Saints, and there is just another two separating it from the ninth-placed Bombers.
Despite the Bombers, North Melbourne and Melbourne challenging for that eighth spot, Mitchell said the club didn’t feel as though it was simply “hanging on”.
“The whole aim of the season is to get into the finals and compete from there, so whether we’re hanging on or not, that’s up to perception or your interpretations,” he said.
“We don’t feel that’s how we are. We feel we’re a good side. We won a final last year and we’ll look to do the same this year.”
Last week’s 51-point loss to Hawthorn, which was played in driving rain at Patersons Stadium, prompted a couple of changes to the line up with Ryan Crowley and Jack Anthony omitted, and Rhys Palmer (ankle) and Matt DeBoer (knee) out injured.
Luke McPharlin returns from a one-week suspension while Clayton Hinkley and Nick Suban are in along with big man Kepler Bradley, who last played seniors in round 14 against the Brisbane Lions.
Mitchell said the club hoped Bradley could help expose the Saints’ depleted defence and had earned his recall.
“On the back of the performance last week, we felt we had to make some changes, so we did,” he said.
“Kepler is a big man and we hope we can exploit that area a bit with [James] Gwilt and [Zac] Dawson out. So hopefully we can get the ball in quick enough to him and he can put some pressure on them.
“He kicked a number of goals early in the season and was going quite well, and he probably dried up for about three weeks.
“His form was OK but I think throughout the year you have to play a number of players anyway, as we see with all teams. You need 30 players playing.
“It’s not the end of the world for him to go back to the WAFL for a couple of games. I think he’s played well for West Perth and his performances earlier in the year probably warranted him getting another go.”
Mitchell said maintaining a better standard of ball use was important this week after a sloppy display against the Hawks.
He said the players were feeling good despite the trying conditions of last week and the fact they travelled on a six-day break.
“It was very wet and the rain was probably as hard as I’ve seen a game being played in,” he said.
“They’ve pulled up well… We haven’t done a lot of training this week, it’s been another six-day break so they’ve been well looked after and we should be fresh for the game.”