Fremantle star midfielder David Mundy has been ruled out of the NAB Cup competition, raising a question over his fitness early in the premiership season.

However, Anthony Morabito, 20, who missed the entire 2011 season following a knee reconstruction, is set to gain valuable match conditioning by resuming during the pre-season competition.

Fremantle coach Ross Lyon yesterday said Mundy would not be available to play in the Dockers pre-season campaign as he was still recovering from ankle surgery at the end of last season.

Mundy damaged his lower leg early against Essendon in round 12 last year and pulled up sore in his only match since — against North Melbourne in round 22.

In the 2010 best-and-fairest winner’s absence, the Dockers lost eight games in the second half of the season to slip out of finals contention.

“We’ll still have a pretty full list to pick from early, apart from Mundy,” Lyon said.

“And it’s good news for young Anthony Morabito, who has been flying since the Christmas break after he struggled a bit before that. He should take part in games towards the end of the NAB Cup.”

Onballer Morabito enjoyed a stellar initial season in 2010, when he played in 23 of a possible 24 games after being the fourth player selected overall in the previous year’s national draft.

But he snapped the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee at training 14 months ago and was still experiencing pain due to complications late last year. Morabito was sent to Melbourne surgeon David Young for a consultation prior to Christmas, a move that has paid off.

Two new faces on Fremantle’s list — teenager Lachie Neale and mature-age rookie recruit Lee Spurr — have impressed the Dockers since being recruited late last year and could make their senior debut this season.

Neale, a midfielder/small forward from Glenelg, was Fremantle’s fourth pick in the national draft at No 58 overall. Spurr, 24, from SANFL club Central District, is being groomed as a wingman/half-back.

The Dockers start their NAB Cup campaign in Perth on February 19 against West Coast and Essendon. In week two they host Richmond before playing Port Adelaide, probably in Victor Harbor, on March 10.

Meanwhile, Richmond will experiment with its defensive structure during the NAB Cup by playing Ben Griffiths as a key defender.

Griffiths, who was recruited as a key forward with the 19th selection in the 2009 national draft, has had a horror start in his first two years at Punt Road due to injuries.

But this year he has enjoyed his best pre-season preparation since joining the Tigers.

Griffiths required shoulder reconstructions on both sides in his initial year and was hampered again last year with injury concerns.

The only two Richmond players unlikely to take part in pre-season games are defender Kelvin Moore, who is struggling to overcome a hip injury, and David Astbury, who has a knee problem. After 22 games in two seasons, Astbury is being groomed to be the club’s third big forward alongside Jack Riewoldt and Tyrone Vickery.

Richmond’s first national draft choice last year, Brandon Ellis, is already one of the club’s best endurance runners. Ellis, 18, from the Calder Cannons, is a strong chance to line up across half-back against Carlton in round one of the premiership season.

The Tigers open their NAB Cup campaign on February 17 against Hawthorn and North Melbourne at Etihad Stadium, before playing the Dockers and Geelong in the second and third weeks of that competition.

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