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Dockers snare forwards, but at a price

Fremantle finally have an AFL forward line to be proud of, but questions remain on the ability of their midfield to give the spearheads enough supply.

Dockers snare forwards, but at a price

Fremantle finally have an AFL forward line to be proud of, but questions remain on the ability of their midfield to give the spearheads enough supply.

RORY LOBB of the Giants poses during a Greater Western Sydney Giants AFL training session at WestConnex Centre in Sydney, Australia.
RORY LOBB of the Giants poses during a Greater Western Sydney Giants AFL training session at WestConnex Centre in Sydney, Australia. Picture:Photo by Matt King/Getty Images

Have Fremantle robbed Peter to pay Paul in their bid to land a big fish up forward?

After years of chasing the AFL's best spearheads, Fremantle finally hooked a star in the AFL off-season in the form of Jesse Hogan.


The addition of GWS big man Rory Lobb has further bolstered Fremantle's key position stocks in attack.

But the prized signings came at a cost, with the Dockers forced to give up star midfielder Lachie Neale to Brisbane.

Fremantle's forward line now oozes talented big men - so much so that former GWS forward Cam McCarthy might struggle to get a game this season.

But Fremantle's midfield - an area that has been a strength during coach Ross Lyon's seven-year reign - is now looking thin.

Connor Blakely's knee injury couldn't have come at a worse time, with the 23-year-old set to miss the first third of the season, while Stephen Hill's ongoing quad injury also has Lyon feeling anxious.

It means there will be more reliance on Nat Fyfe than ever before, with the skipper set to carry a huge workload as Fremantle attempt to end their three-year AFL finals drought.

Young guns Adam Cerra and Angus Brayshaw will also be handed more responsibility, while veterans David Mundy and Michael Walters might have to spend more time in the midfield.

The addition of Hogan doesn't come risk-free.

Hogan arrived at Fremantle nursing a serious navicular foot injury but has recovered so well that Lyon is considering the former Demon for some midfield stints this season.

Fremantle won the minor premiership in 2015, but haven't come close to making the finals ever since.

Another failed season would see the pressure mount on Lyon, who is contracted until 2020 but needs to start producing positive results.

"There hasn't been a lot of competition for the spine, those key positions. But now absolutely the whips are cracking in there," Lyon said.

"A player who's had a strong summer and quality pre-season may not play round one, whereas that hasn't been the case in the past.

"We've had 31 players come to the club in the past three years, which is significant. When I first came to the Dockers, about the same number had come in the previous three years."

Last year's sexual harassment drama surrounding Lyon was a huge unwanted distraction for the club.

Brad Hill also hit the headlines for the wrong reasons when he gave police a fake name after breaching a move-on notice.

But 2018 wasn't all doom and gloom despite the Dockers' 8-14 record.

Alex Pearce's outstanding return in defence after almost two years out with a twice-broken leg was a huge positive, while top-five draftees Cerra and Brayshaw showed plenty of promise.

Fyfe also rediscovered his best form before being cut down by injury.

Furthermore, Fremantle have promised to unleash a more direct style this season in a bid to make good use of their plethora of spearheads.

Hogan, Lobb and Matt Taberner are all capable of taking big clunks, while Walters, Mundy and Hayden Ballantyne are dangerous at ground level.

A defence featuring Pearce, Joel Hamling, Griffin Logue, Nathan Wilson and Luke Ryan appears strong, while new recruits Reece Conca and Travis Colyer are handy additions to the overall squad.

Aaron Sandilands' ongoing calf problems means Sean Darcy is likely to lead the ruck for most of the year.

Dockers fans shouldn't hold their breath regarding Harley Bennell. The former Suns star suffered two calf scares in as many weeks during pre-season and is unlikely to make it back to AFL level for a big block of games.

FREMANTLE

Coach: Ross Lyon

Captain: Nat Fyfe

Last five years: 6-3-16-14-14

Premierships: Nil

Key five: Nat Fyfe, Jesse Hogan, Alex Pearce, Brad Hill, Michael Walters

One to watch: Griffin Logue. The 20-year-old defender showed plenty of promise in his debut season of 2017, but missed all of last year with a congenital foot problem. The 193cm dasher has enjoyed a strong summer and looms as a crucial rebounding weapon in defence.

Ins: Brett Bewley (Williamstown), Jason Carter (Claremont), Reece Conca (Richmond), Travis Colyer (Essendon), Jesse Hogan (Melbourne), Rory Lobb (GWS), Lachie Schultz (Williamstown), Sam Sturt (Dandenong), Luke Valente (Norwood), Tobe Watson (Swan Districts).

Outs: Michael Apeness (delisted), Brady Grey (delisted), Michael Johnson (retired), Lachie Neale (Brisbane), Danyle Pearce (retired) Tommy Sheridan (GWS), Lee Spurr (retired), Luke Strnadica (delisted), Cameron Sutcliffe (delisted).

Best line-up:

B: Nathan Wilson, Joel Hamling, Luke Ryan

HB: Connor Blakely, Alex Pearce, Griffin Logue

C: Brad Hill, Stephen Hill, Ed Langdon

HF: David Mundy, Jesse Hogan, Michael Walters

F: Matt Taberner, Rory Lobb, Hayden Ballantyne

R: Sean Darcy, Nat Fyfe, Andrew Brayshaw

I: Reece Conca, Travis Colyer, Adam Cerra, Brennan Cox

Predicted finish: 14th

AAP


AAP




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