Burning questions for 2012: Fremantle
Can Sandilands play a full season?
Perhaps because of Aaron Sandilands’ freakish height, fans and experts alike seem to think he is injury prone, too big, and more susceptible to wear and tear than other players.
The reality – and bad news for opposition ruckmen – is that apart from an unlucky 2011, when a toe injury forced him to miss nine games, and 2007, when he missed seven weeks with a groin issue, big Sandy has only missed a handful of games. Out of a possible 198 games, the twenty-nine year old has played 169 — hardly the numbers of an injury-riddled crock.
The Dockers have been carefully managing their most influential player, restricting him to cycling and swimming for much of the off season. Reports say he is back running now with the rest of the Fremantle squad, and history suggests the man mountain from Fremantle will be back dominating centre clearances as before. A more pertinent question is whether Freo’s midfielders will be able to take full advantage of their prize asset.
Will Barlow return to his best?
When first-year sensation Michael Barlow tried unsuccessfully to stand on the leg he had just snapped in July 2010, thoughts turned immediately to Tiger Nathan Brown’s broken leg hanging at an odd angle five years earlier and how the Richmond star was never the same after his horrific injury.
It seems Barlow’s clean break of the tibia and fibula will prove easier to fully recover from than the splintered mess that was Brown’s lower leg. Returning for the Dockers a year later, Barlow played nine games in 2011, and averaged only marginally fewer disposals, tackles and goals than in his amazing first season. Another pre-season of strengthening and conditioning should see Barlow fully recovered. The club, with advice from the best medical staff and physios have re-signed him until 2014 – a sure sign they feel he can be the on-field influence needed for Fremantle to return to the top eight.
Will Lyon’s press work at Patersons Playground?
The ground formerly known as Subiaco is 15 metres longer than Etihad Stadium, where the Saints have had so much recent success, and about the same width, so ground size is unlikely to be a factor. Lyon’s most difficult task will be to instil the required discipline into his new charges. The former St Kilda coach turned a team comprising a handful of elite players and a group of good ordinary footballers into flag contenders. There’s no reason he can’t do the same out west, albeit with a more even spread of ability and fewer out-and-out stars.
Calls that Lyon’s press had been broken down were a bit premature last year. Despite their poor start to the year, his Saints still conceded the fourth lowest amount of points in 2011. If he can get Fremantle to be as mean, the Dockers’ relative lack of forward firepower won’t be such an issue in 2012.
Will the players warm to their new coach?
The new Dockers coach is fanatically disciplined and committed to his role and the team cause. Any player who does not share his philosophy will simply struggle to get a game. And Lyon’s rigid playing structure relies on having a totally focused, switched-on, hard-working group of players. Fremantle teams of the past have too often not turned up to play in must-win games, especially those in Melbourne. You get the feeling that if Lyon can win the Dockers over to his hard ways, he might just be the man to remedy this. And it’s much easier to warm to a coach who gets you playing winning football.