The Freo Line-up – LACH AND LOADED
Josh Mellington is out with a long-term hamstring injury, and Kepler Bradley was omitted.
Dylan Roberton, Jack Anthony and Bradley are the emergencies.
Neale was having an excellent NAB Cup campaign and appeared set for a round 1 debut before an ankle injury sustained in Victor Harbour against Port Adelaide slowed him.
Freo assistant and senior development coach Simon Lloyd said it was an exciting time for the 18-year-old and his family.
“It’s a very special moment to play your first game of AFL football,” he said.
Lloyd said Neale would play a high-forward role with stints in the midfield, similar to what he did in the pre-season.
“He’s got a good ability to get to the contest and win his own ground-ball, and he makes good decisions,” he said.
“It’s going to be great to see him on the field for the first time.”
Lloyd was confident that Neale would rise to occasion of playing Friday night football against an experienced team like St Kilda.
“There’s an element of consistency about his game, so I think he knows what he needs to do to play good football,” he said.
“They are simple ingredients for him and I’m sure he’ll also get a lot of support from his teammates, too, being his first game.”
Lyon said any thought of Freo having an advantage because of his intimate knowledge of the Saints was purely conjecture.
“I certainly know what they are capable of,” he said of the team he coached into three AFL Grand Finals.
“But our job is to play our style of football and make them react to us.”
Lyon said St Kilda would pose some interesting coaching box situations for him and his staff on Friday night.
“Do you double-team Nick Reiwoldt? Do you tag Lenny Hayes, Nick Dal Santo, Brendon Goddard?,” he said.
“Who do you match up on Milne, how do you control Sam Fisher?
“All those types of things are running through but at the end of the day we’ve got to get our hands on the footy.
“We’ve got to pressure the opposition and we’ve got to use it well and that will give us the best chance.”
Fremantle has not beaten St Kilda in the past eight clashes between the sides since a victory in round 9, 2007 at Subiaco Oval.