Following the off-season departures of several key stars, Fremantle Dockers coach Justin Longmuir has made the unusual concession that more could have been done to retain them. The Dockers emerged as one of the surprise packets of the 2022 AFL season, finishing 5th on the ladder before a tough elimination final defeat at the hands of Collingwood.
Having exceeded expectations last season, pressure will be on the Dockers to either maintain or improve upon their 15-6 record. However they lost a raft of key players over the break, notably key forward Rory Lobb, who signed with the Western Bulldogs, and young gun Griffin Logue, who sought a move to North Melbourne.
Other key players in Blake Acres, Darcy Tucker and Lloyd Meek also walked out the door, however the Dockers did get a boost after securing ruckman Luke Jackson and midfielder Jaeger O'Meara. Despite this, Longmuir admitted this week that he could have done more to give the departing group of players more reassurance about their place in Fremantle's future.
In an interview with AFL Media, Longmuir said part of his own learning experience as a coach had been getting better at making sure his players had a strong grasp of their roles. Not wanting to make 'promises I couldn't keep', Longmuir said Logue and Meek, in particular, were players he felt he could have worked more closely with.
“Griff last year probably wanted to be a backman, and we played him forward a lot and he missed out on the team early in the year,” he said. “Maybe he‘s one I could have sold a bit more of a bigger picture to, and Meeky was probably the other one.
“Meeky probably saw us getting Luke Jackson, saw he was behind Sean Darcy and probably didn‘t really see an opportunity for him at the footy club. Maybe I could have sold that to him a bit better and had those conversations a bit more regularly with him.”
While disappointed to lose Logue and Meek, the departure of Lobb did not come as a shock to the Dockers, despite him being contracted for the 2023 season. “We held Rory to a contract last year and he never firmly committed to us as a club, so I don‘t think (selling a bigger picture) really applies to him,” Longmuir said.
Dockers recruit Luke Jackson out after pre-season head knock
New recruit Jackson will miss the Dockers' pre-season clash against Port Adelaide due to delayed concussion symptoms after copping a knock to the head during an earlier practice match against Adelaide. The 21-year-old impressed up forward and in the ruck during that hit-out, and coach Justin Longmuir is confident Jackson will be fit to return for the round one clash with St Kilda on March 19.
"Luke Jackson got a knock in a contest and had a bit of delayed headaches from that, so we'll rule him out this week," Longmuir said on Monday. "It's a no-risk policy around head knocks so we'll not play him this week but he should be right come round one."
Both Michael Frederick (quad) and Walters (Achilles) will also miss this week's match against Port. Walters is no certainty to face the Saints in round one.
"He's tracking really well, and we're still fingers crossed he'll be right for round one. But we're not going to rush him," Longmuir said. "We need to make sure that once he comes back, he's ready to play out the whole season."
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