New midfielder Matt de Boer says the on-ballers are to blame for Fremantle’s inability to capitalise on Aaron Sandilands’ ruck dominance after the Dockers were again comprehensively beaten at the stoppages last weekend.

Fremantle ruckmen have won 155 more hit-outs than their opponents this season but the Dockers trail in the clearance count 360-405.

Against Adelaide at Patersons Stadium last Saturday, the Dockers won the hit-outs by 18 yet lost the clearances by 21.

Fremantle face Richmond at the MCG on Saturday. The Tigers are on the positive side of the clearance ledger this year, with Trent Cotchin, Shane Tuck and Nathan Foley winning plenty of stoppages.

The Dockers haven’t been able to capitalise on having the tallest ruckman in the league because opposition players regularly intercept Sandilands’ hit-outs.

De Boer said Sandilands wasn’t to blame.

“He’s there doing all he can, so the onus is on us to make sure we talk to him because he knows where the tap is going,” de Boer said.

“And second off, (we need to have) clean hands and be able to get it forward.”

De Boer moved into the midfield against Adelaide last week as coach Ross Lyon looked for ways to win more of the ball at the stoppages.

De Boer had previously been playing as a defensive forward but had proved he could play in the midfield as a junior when his contested ball winning made him a potent force.

He won two clearances against the Crows and said he would be speaking with David Mundy and Michael Barlow to gain some tips on how he could improve his midfield work this weekend.

Sandilands said the Dockers had been confronted by several quality midfields in recent games and Richmond would provide another big challenge.

While de Boer felt the midfielders needed to win more of the ball at stoppages, Sandilands said he was also responsible for hitting it to them correctly.

“I think it’s a bit of both,” Sandilands said. “There’s so much involved in our centre bounce structure. You’ve got to have people in the right spots and you’ve got to hit it to the right spot.

“You’re always frustrated when you’re trying your best and the figures aren’t quite getting there.”

Sandilands said Tiger Ivan Maric was one of the league’s form ruckmen and his ability to win the ball around the ground had been a clear strength.

Maric has averaged almost 20 possessions a match in the last five weeks and has been one of the players behind Richmond’s surge up the ladder.

The Dockers have lost their last three games, while Richmond are full of confidence after beating Hawthorn and St Kilda in the last two weeks.

Fremantle have their mid-season bye next week and then confront Essendon and Collingwood, so face a big challenge to stay in touch with the eight.

The Dockers also face the challenge of playing at the MCG for the first time since round 14 last year.

De Boer said it was important to shut down Richmond’s key playmakers. Brett Deledio, Cotchin and Dustin Martin have been in great form and their delivery to Jack Riewoldt helped him kick eight goals against St Kilda.

But de Boer said the Dockers knew they were good enough to fight back from recent losses and confidence remained high throughout the squad.

“We’re pretty up and about,” de Boer said. “We’re a very resilient side and we’re always tinkering with a few things. We’re a young group as well.

“We know that we can go any-where and beat anyone if we put a four-quarter effort in, so that’s what we’re working on.”

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