During the Christmas/New Year break, AFL.com.au looks at each club and how they’re tracking for the 2011 pre-season.

FB:       Paul Duffield            Zac Dawson          Alex Silvagni
HB:      Greg Broughton       Luke McPharlin     Nick Suban
C:         Anthony Morabito   Michael Barlow     Stephen Hill
HF:      Matt de Boer            Matthew Pavlich    Chris Mayne
FF:       Hayden Ballantyne  Kepler Bradley       Zac Clarke
FOLL: Aaron Sandilands    David Mundy         Nat Fyfe
I/C:      Tendai Mzungu        Ryan Crowley        Nick Lower
SUB:    Garrick Ibbotson

Medical room
Anthony Morabito remains in the rehabilitation group as he returns from a knee reconstruction, with Nat Fyfe, Nick Lower and Garrick Ibbotson also on restricted training following shoulder reconstructions. All are completing running programs and expect to be fit for round one. David Mundy, Michael Barlow, Viv Michie, Michael Johnson, Jay van Berlo and Michael Walters are others with modified programs.

Most valuable player 
Despite the ruck depth and options now provided by Jon Griffin and Zac Clarke, Aaron Sandilands remains the team’s most irreplaceable player. With Sandilands fit, Fremantle can implement attacking stoppage plays, confident its star big man will get the ball to David Mundy, Michael Barlow and Co. Without him, as the team was for nine games (and six losses) last year, Fremantle loses a unique and valuable advantage.

Summer superstar
Zac Clarke is seen by new coach Ross Lyon as “a young tall forward with elite athleticism” and that is exactly how he has trained this pre-season. Running in the lead pack early in the summer, the 21-year-old has also impressed with his strong marking ability and accurate kick when playing forward in drills.

Dream Team special 
Michael Barlow played nine games last season in his return from a broken leg, and he should present value for money in 2012. The prolific midfielder will play a key role in Fremantle’s engine room and, as a result, appears capable of returning to the heights of his debut 2010 season.

Pivotal match

Fremantle went 0-6 in Melbourne last season, losing to Richmond, Hawthorn, Melbourne, St Kilda, North Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs. It makes the team’s round-four match against the Saints crucial as coach Ross Lyon seeks to reverse that trend. There will also be a big Friday night build-up for Fremantle to counter as Lyon faces his old club for the first time.

Draftee watch 
Of the five new players to arrive via the 2011 NAB AFL Draft, Lachie Neale (No.58 overall) appears the most likely to play senior football in his debut season. The midfielder stands just 177cm, but he is strongly built and boasts an accurate kick that has impressed his coaches through the pre-season. Played senior football with SANFL club Glenelg in 2011, which helps his cause.

Fremantle will have a good year if…
… its first-choice midfielders – including Sandilands – can stay fit and get on top in contested ball and clearances. Without its best players in the middle, Fremantle was routinely beaten in these indicators last season. The squad lacks proven midfield depth and can’t afford to be without Mundy, Barlow and Fyfe in 2012.

The big issues 
– Can Fremantle win enough games to justify the dramatic change of coaches at the end of last season? The appointment of Lyon has been roundly accepted as a positive for the club, but quick results are now needed to affirm that view.
– What game style will Lyon implement? Under Mark Harvey, it was tough to identify a consistent game style at Fremantle, but that is a charge unlikely to be levelled at Lyon.
– How will young midfielders Morabito, Barlow and Hill bounce back from difficult individual seasons? Together, if they get things right, the dynamic trio could give Fremantle’s midfield a much-needed boost in 2012.

What they say:

‘The good thing for us is we’ve got a fair few numbers out there … we’re pretty confident that we’ll have the majority of our group up and going for post-Christmas. [Mundy] will be pretty close. He’s running and running pretty well, so he’s pretty happy with how he’s feeling and it’ll be good to have him back out there.” – assistant coach Todd Curley

NAB Cup schedule
Round one (Sunday, February 19): v West Coast and Essendon, Pattersons Stadium
Round two (Sunday, March 4): v Richmond, Pattersons Stadium
Round three (Saturday, March 10): v Port Adelaide, Victor Harbor (TBC)

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