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Footyology countdown: Is it “Freo heave low” for Dockers?

Emerging Fremantle ruckman Sean Darcy is the obvious successor to Aaron Sandilands, but the Dockers’ rebuild has a long way to go. Photo: AFL MEDIA

Footyology countdown: Is it “Freo heave low” for Dockers?

Rohan Connolly    

2017 record: 8 wins, 14 losses (14th)
List age ranking (oldest to youngest): 11th
List experience ranking (most to fewest games): 9th
Footyology draw ranking (easiest to hardest): 8th

Nathan Wilson (GWS), Brandon Matera (Gold Coast), Andrew Brayshaw (Sandringham Dragons), Adam Cerra (Eastern Ranges), Hugh Dixon (Tigers FC – TSL), Mitch Crowden (Sturt), Tom North (Eastern Ranges), Lloyd Meek (GWV Rebels), Sam Switkowski (Box Hill Hawks), Scott Jones (East Perth), Bailey Banfield (Claremont), Stefan Giro (Norwood)

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

B: Lee Spurr, Michael Johnson, Griffin Logue
HB: Nathan Wilson, Joel Hamling, Connor Blakely
C: Bradley Hill, David Mundy, Stephen Hill
HF: Michael Walters, Brennan Cox, Harley Bennell
F: Shane Kersten, Cam McCarthy, Hayden Ballantyne
Foll: Aaron Sandilands, Nat Fyfe, Lachie Neale
Inter: Brandon Matera, Darcy Tucker, Cam Sutcliffe, Alex Pearce
Emerg: Sean Darcy, Ethan Hughes, Andrew Brayshaw

AFL football changes so quickly these days that what wasn’t all that long ago can seem centuries. In many ways, it’s hard to believe it’s less than two-and-a-half years ago Fremantle was heading into a preliminary final having finished on top of the ladder with more wins than any rival.

The Dockers have won only 12 of 44 games since then, finished 16th and 14th on the ladder, and their best 22 listed here is more than 50 per cent a different line-up to that which lost that 2015 grand final spot play-off to Hawthorn.

At that moment, Fremantle had the third-oldest list in the AFL and third-most games experienced. Heading into 2018, those rankings are 11th and ninth. Yet there’s still some turning over to be done by coach Ross Lyon. And there’s still much dependence on the older hands in the line-up.

Despite the rebuilding, the Dockers still have six players on the list older than 30, the most of any club. And several are still pivotal to their fortunes, most obviously ruckman Aaron Sandilands, who, along with Brownlow medallist Nat Fyfe, are the pair most responsible for their clearance work.

Young ruck Sean Darcy is an emerging talent, draftees Andrew Brayshaw and Adam Cerra can help Fyfe, but it’s the stars who are still going to be doing the bulk of the work.

And Fremantle has plenty of issues to correct, most glaringly a lack of skill and a relatively impotent forward set up.

The Dockers have had major problems both in taking the ball from defence to attack, and in scoring from the turnovers they force. Two recruits can help that, former Giant Nathan Wilson a proven defensive rebounder, and Brandon Matera’s talents as a small forward still largely untapped.

But Lyon needs to get a lot, lot more from his key forwards this season, Cam McCarthy, Shane Kersten and Matt Taberner underwhelming both as marking and goalkicking forces thus far.

Only Carlton scored fewer points than the Dockers last season, and only Brisbane had a worse percentage, four of their eight wins by less than a goal and three of their defeats by 100 points or more, uncharted territory for a coach like Lyon who prides himself on his team’s defensive strengths.

It’s not that there isn’t emerging talent. Darcy is an obvious successor to Sandilands, Brennan Cox shows plenty as a future key forward, Blakely showed plenty used in defence towards the end of 2017 and Griffin Logue, Darcy Tucker and Ethan Hughes have all had their moments.

It’s how quickly any of them can become key parts of the Freo machine which is the issue, and the fact Blakely was the only one of the younger brigade to finish in the top 10 of the best and fairest last season indicates most still have a fair way to go.

17th. It’s been a tough couple of years for Fremantle and it might get tougher still for at least another season as the Dockers’ rebuild continues.

THE LADDER SO FAR (click on team to read)

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