AFL legend Leigh Matthews has singled out Fremantle as the bottom-eight bolter set to storm into finals contention in 2012.

He also dispelled any thoughts it would take the Dockers time to warm to the coaching style of new boss Ross Lyon, claiming the change would add fresh impetus inside the club.

He felt Fremantle had been cruelled by a long injury list last season and should not be underrated.

“They had a lot of injuries last year and dropped from being top third to outside the eight,” Matthews said.

“On that basis, and assuming they can get those players fit again, for the team most likely to get out of the bottom eight and back into that top third, Fremantle are the most likely to play finals and potentially even get into the top four.

“If you ask me to pick where they’re going to finish, I’d say probably sixth or seventh.”

Matthews, a four-times premiership coach and one of the greatest players of all time, said Lyon would bring new optimism to the club, which has never made a grand final. The former St Kilda coach would deliver clear and concise messages to the Dockers players.

“I’ve got a lot of time for Ross Lyon and, if nothing else, a new voice always seems to give a club a bit of a honeymoon period,” Matthews said.

“It’s half that it’s Ross Lyon, but it’s also half that it’s new. When there’s a new coach, there’s a new slate, and often in coaching your first year is your easiest year because everything is new and fresh. With a new coach, there’s a new voice in charge and that’s normally a plus in itself.

“Observing coaches externally, what we observe is their team, and what we’ve observed of St Kilda under Ross Lyon – and the coach gets the credit for that – is that they were a very disciplined team who played a style and everyone knew what they were supposed to do.

“I can’t say that I haven’t seen that in Fremantle in the past, but we’ve seen it in spades at St Kilda.

“There are heaps of examples over the years where a club will get a fillip in the first year under a new coach.”

But Matthews questioned whether Lyon’s respected coaching work at stoppages would mean ruckman Aaron Sandilands would become an even more dangerous commodity this season. “I don’t know if I’d go with that,” he said.

“The problem with Sandilands is that because he wins at every stoppage, everybody knows which ruckman is going to get the hit-out.

“Therefore, the opposition, if they’ve got any brains, all they’re doing is looking at Sandilands’ hand and almost ignoring their own ruckman. So while it’s a strength, the opposition have also got a reasonable chance of reading the ball off his hand.”Source Link

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