Lyon excited by youth
Fremantle coach Ross Lyon says his first-year players have “commanded opportunities” this season as Cameron Sutcliffe prepares to make his debut against the Western Bulldogs at Patersons Stadium on Sunday.
Sutcliffe, who was recruited with pick No.71 in the 2011 NAB AFL Draft, will be the fourth first-year player to debut this season for Fremantle, joining Hayden Crozier, Lachie Neale and Lee Spurr.
Lyon, who confirmed on Friday that Sutcliffe would play along with inclusions Kepler Bradley and Antoni Grover, said it had been a productive draft crop for the club.
“They’ve commanded opportunities and they’re really hard workers,” the coach said.
“We’d like to think we can combine that back with (Stephen) Hill, (Nat) Fyfe and (Anthony) Morabito, and Jayden Pitt is a long-term project. We certainly think the future is bright.
“There’s some change and some real exciting young talent to come into the team, which we’re pleased about.”
Fremantle’s first pick at last year’s draft, Tom Sheridan (No.16 overall), would have played against Richmond in round 11 but was hit by a bout of gastro, while Crozier (No.20) has been ruled out indefinitely with glandular fever.
Lyon said getting games into the club’s young midfielders and building their bodies to compete at AFL level was a focus.
“This list four years ago was the oldest list in the competition and max salary cap and on the bottom of the ladder,” the coach said.
“Now I think we’re the 10th youngest list and we’ll look to add again.
“We know through the Geelong model that it’s not achieved just in three, three-and-a-half years. You’ve got to keep building the bodies.
“We’ve got to bang the games in, build the bodies and develop a hardcore mentality. We’re on that path, but it’s exciting to see Cam Sutcliffe come in and be another one of them.”
Lyon confirmed that Grover would play his first game this season, replacing Alex Silvagni, while Bradley comes into the team as a “like-for-like” replacement for Zac Clarke.
“He’s held himself together really well and he was a part of the team when we were playing quite good footy up to round seven when we were 5-2,” Lyon said of Bradley.
“We’ve certainly fallen away in some areas, which we were keen to get back.
“Zac as a young player has done some terrific things, but he’s also been inconsistent. We want him to go back and work on some things.”
Key midfielder Stephen Hill (ankle) has been named on an extended interchange bench and faced a final fitness test on Friday, but Lyon was confident he would be fit to return.
Skilful small forward Michael Walters was “in the mix”, also named on the extended bench after meeting the fitness benchmarks set by the club.
“He’s certainly made some deliberate choices to become an AFL player,” Lyon said. “He’s grown enormously and I think responsibility comes with that.
“If he gets picked, it would be a fantastic story for him and, secondly, the football club and then AFL football.
“A young, indigenous footballer with some application issues that’s straightened himself out and is doing the work and hopefully builds an AFL career.
“But there’s plenty to go in that story yet.”