Kids hold the key to Fremantle's fortunes

Fremantle's kids are turning into men, and coach Ross Lyon hopes that will translate into more wins in 2018.

A fully-fit Nat Fyfe will be key to Fremantle's prospects this year.

A fully-fit Nat Fyfe will be key to Fremantle's prospects this year.

The Dockers crashed and burned early in the 2016 season, but they have unearthed a glut of diamonds in the rough since launching a full-scale rebuild in the wake of that disaster.

Connor Blakely, Darcy Tucker, Griffin Logue, Sean Darcy, Brennan Cox, and Ed Langdon are among the next wave of youngsters that are already starting to take Fremantle forward.

Eight wins in 2017 - following on from just four a year earlier - was a solid return.

Finals are probably beyond their reach this year, but Fremantle won't die wondering.

With the likes of Nat Fyfe, Stephen Hill, Bradley Hill and Lachie Neale running through the midfield, Fremantle boast a potent engine room that has the potential to supply their forward line with silver-spoon service.

And even if 35-year-old ruckman Aaron Sandilands breaks down like he did last season, they've got a solid back-up option in Sean Darcy.

Whether the pair can play in the same team together will be a selection quandary for Lyon to figure out.

Fremantle did well on the recruiting front last year, with Bradley Hill and Joel Hamling fitting in seamlessly.

Fellow recruits Shane Kersten and Cam McCarthy showed flashes of potential up forward, but the jury remains out on their long-term impact.

Lyon has added another two ready-made players to his list this season - former Gold Coast forward Brandon Matera and ex-GWS defender Nathan Wilson.

Matera's inclusion adds to a mosquito-fleet forward line that already features Hayden Ballantyne and Michael Walters.

Fremantle still lack quality in the spearhead department.

But if the likes of McCarthy, Kersten, Brennan Cox and the resting ruckman can bring the ball to ground, Fremantle's fleet-footed forwards have the potential to cause some damage.

Defender Alex Pearce has been at Fremantle for more than four years now, but the 22-year-old is like a new recruit after missing the past 21 months with a broken leg.

Finally injury free, Pearce is set to join Hamling as the pillars in defence.

If Fremantle are to buck the odds by making the finals, they'll require a successful return from troubled midfielder Harley Bennell.

Bennell overcame calf injuries and off-field issues to play two games for the Dockers at the tail-end of last season.

But a fresh calf complaint and another off-field misdemeanour over summer have cast fresh doubts on his future.

Currently banished to WAFL club Peel Thunder, Bennell will have to win back the trust of Fremantle's playing and coaching group if he is to feature in 2018.

The 25-year-old is in the final year of his three-year contract, so he's got plenty to play for.

Although Fremantle showed plenty of improvement last season, the vast gap between their best and their worst was a worry.

Fremantle won six of their seven matches between rounds three to nine.

But they suffered consecutive 104-point losses in rounds 21 and 22.

Lyon said the growing experience of the club's younger players should leave the team in a better position this year.

"We would like it to be a natural progression, to benefit us. It should help," Lyon said.

"We've seen Connor Blakely's maturity coming through, starting to understand and take ownership of the team.

"He can play midfield and back now.

"Darcy Tucker's had a super summer, he's really come on."

While the kids loom as crucial to Fremantle's finals hopes, skipper Fyfe also holds the key.

Fyfe is at peak fitness after overcoming the after-effects of the broken leg he suffered in 2015, and he looks set to replicate the form that saw him win the Brownlow medal that year.


Coach: Ross Lyon

Captain: Nat Fyfe

Last five years: 2-6-3-16-14

Premierships: Nil.

Key five: Nat Fyfe, David Mundy, Bradley Hill, Aaron Sandilands, Michael Walters.

One to watch: Alex Pearce. The defender burst onto the scene in 2015 and looked to have all the goods to become a star. But a broken leg ruined his 2016 campaign, before another fracture wiped out 2017 completely. Now fully fit, Pearce will be asked to hold down a key post in defence.

Ins: Bailey Banfield (Claremont WAFL), Andrew Brayshaw (Sandringham U18), Adam Cerra (Eastern U18), Mitch Crowden (Sturt, SANFL), Hugh Dixon (Kingborough, Tas), Stefan Giro (Norwood SANFL), Scott Jones (East Perth, WAFL), Brandon Matera (Gold Coast), Lloyd Meek (North Ballarat, VFL), Tom North (Eastern U18), Sam Switkowski (Box Hill, VFL), Nathan Wilson (GWS).

Outs: Harley Balic (Melbourne), Zac Clarke (delisted), Sam Collings (delisted), Hayden Crozier (Western Bulldogs), Zac Dawson (retired), Josh Deluca (delisted), Jonathon Griffin (delisted), Garrick Ibbotson (retired), Nick Suban (delisted), Matthew Uebergang (delisted), Lachie Weller (Gold Coast), Shane Yarran (delisted).

Best line-up:

B: Michael Johnson, Joel Hamling, Luke Ryan

HB: Connor Blakely, Alex Pearce, Nathan Wilson

C: Stephen Hill, Michael Walters, Bradley Hill

HF: David Mundy, Matt Taberner, Hayden Ballantyne

F: Harley Bennell, Cam McCarthy, Brandon Matera

R: Aaron Sandilands, Nat Fyfe, Lachie Neale

I: Sean Darcy, Darcy Tucker, Andrew Brayshaw, Brennan Cox

Predicted finish: 14th

Betting (William Hill)

To win the flag: $51

To make the top eight: $4

Back To Top