2015 AFL Season Preview – Fremantle

After being runners up in 2013 the Dockers under-performed last year as they bowed out of the 2014 finals series in straight sets with heartbreaking losses to both Sydney and Port Adelaide. That charisma and energy we saw in 2013 seemed to disappear last season as injuries to key players and a general lack in tackling and defensive pressure saw the Dockers slump their way out of the top four.

 

Despite their disappointing campaign in 2014 expect the Dockers to get back to winning ways in 2015 as Ross Lyon will be looking to implement the style of play that made Freo such a formidable side in 2013. Lead by the likes of Nathan Fyfe, David Mundy, Matthew Pavlich and Hayden Ballantyne the Dockers should be able to produce some phenomenal performances this year as they look to challenge Hawthorn, Sydney and Port Adelaide for a spot in the top 2 come finals time.

 

However the age of Fremantle’s list is a huge concern for the club going forward with key players Matthew Pavlich, Aaron Sandilands and Luke McPharlin entering the twilight of their careers. The Dockers need to see development out of players such as Lachie Neale, Chris Mayne and Zac Clarke this season if they are any chance of going the distance.

 

So as the 2015 AFL season draws closer can the Dockers claim their first AFL premiership or will the age of their list see them drop further down the ladder.

 

The Elite

 

Nathan Fyfe

Nathan Fyfe’s season will be a major key to Fremantle’s premiership hopes this year as his freakish ability has seen him turn into one of the best players in the competition. His ability to turn a game of football is simply memorising as he leads an extremely talented Fremantle midfield into battle each week.

 

At the age of just 23 Fyfe is ready to take his game to the absolute next level this season as he enters the prime of his career. Fyfe can be seem as an ideal for any coach as he boasts exciting traits such as an excellent contested marking ability, brilliant goal sense and the ability to win the ball in almost any situation.

 

His 2014 season was admirable to say the least as he averaged a super impressive 27 disposals a game whilst also kicking an average of 1.2 goals a game. If Fyfe can match or even improve these incredible statistics in 2015 he should be able to carry his side deep into September.

 

Despite his freakish ability Fyfe’s work rate is still a major issue, as he tends not to stay in the midfield for lengthy periods of time. The Dockers definitely need Fyfe to improve on this throughout the season because when he is fit and firing in the middle the Dockers are almost unbeatable in stoppage situations.

 

After only four years in the system Fyfe has already claimed many prestigious football awards. These include the AFLPA MVP, 2 Doig Medals (Freo B&F’s) and an All Australian Blazer. This list of achievements is incredible for only a 23 year old as he enters the prime years of his football career. Currently I am backing Fyfe to claim the Brownlow Medal (provided he doesn’t get suspended again), as he will be looking to prove himself as the best player in the competition.

 

 

David Mundy

 

Perhaps one of the AFL’s most underrated players David Mundy has been an integral part of Fremantle’s midfield for the last five years. Mundy’s ability to win the ball at stoppages will be crucial to Fremantle’s hopes this year as he will provide much needed support for the likes of Fyfe, Barlow and Hill.

 

At age 29 Mundy still has a lot of quality football left in him as he looks to further assimilate himself into the top bracket of players in the competition. His elite disposal, contested ball winning ability and stoppage work are all features of his extremely well rounded game as he always seems to find a bit extra for the big games. The last two seasons have seen Mundy really breakout into an elite player having averaged 24 disposals a match in both 2013 and 2014.

 

Despite his natural ball winning ability Mundy still lacks the genuine leg speed to be a truly damaging player. His outside game has to be a focus for this year as he looks to add a new dimension to his already impressive game.

 

Although many see Mundy falling back down to a B grade this player this season I still believe Mundy has some of his best football ahead of him. He brings much needed experience and class to the Dockers midfield hence making him extremely crucial to Fremantle’s hopes this year. Expect him to prove his doubters wrong and clock up another consistent year averaging around 25 disposals a match.

 

 

Aaron Sandilands

 

At age 32 Aaron Sandilands is still one of Fremantle’s most important players, as he gives his midfielders a huge advantage over opposition sides. At 211 centimetres Sandilands is almost unbeatable at his best as he uses his superior height and excellent game sense to set up the midfielders around him.

 

Sandilands versatility is extremely underrated as he consistently kicks goals and takes crucial contestant marks. Matching up on him is always a nightmare for opposition sides as his unbelievable height and smarts allows him to easily out manoeuvre all opposing players. His continuity is also to be commended as he as consistently held the Fremantle midfield together for over ten years.

 

Despite his tremendous ability injury is always a concern for the ageing ruckman as he rarely completes a season injury free. Turf toe is a prime example of this as he has been consistently plagued by this frustrating injury. Injuries could definitely take their toll on the big man this year as retirement nears.

 

Despite his age and injury concerns expect Sandilands to again be a key player in Fremantle’s 2015 campaign as they look to secure another top four spot.

 

 

The Unsung Hero

 

Stephen Hill

 

One of if not the most underrated player in the competition Stephen Hill is renowned for his silky skills, electric pace and ability to turn a game off his own boot. Hill is definitely up there with the best outside players in the game at the moment as he always manages to find a way to break the lines. Easily one of Fremantle’s most important players Hill brings another dimension to the Docker’s game plan by using his freakish skills to link defence with attack.

 

Hill does not get the credit he deserves from the big boys in the east, as he tends to slip under the radar during the off-season. Despite this Hill always seems to attract attention from opposition sides as he is constantly tagged on a weekly basis. This is due to his ability to break the lines, carry the ball through the middle of the ground and effectively hit up targets in the forward fifty. If left un tagged Hill always manages to make opposition sides pay as he tends to bring his team mates into the game.

 

2014 was a relatively good season for Hill as he further consolidated himself as one of the games best outside players. He managed to average a respectable 22.2 disposals a game last year as he constantly threatened opposition sides with his pace and skill. He was also ranked second in the competition for inside fifties, this statistic shows just how good a player Hill is and when let loose can win a game off his own boot.

 

Despite his excellent skills Hill still needs to learn how to effectively break a tag. If he manages to do this Hill will be able to establish himself as one of the competitions elite players. He also needs to improve his contested game as he looks to further expand his role in the team.

 

The Bolter

 

Lachie Neale

 

One of the competitions brightest young stars, Lachie Neale is ready to seriously break out into the top echelon of players in the competition. 2014 saw the young South Australian break into Fremantle’s best 22 and make a name for himself among Fremantle supporters. Now it is time to show the footballing world exactly how talented he is as he looks to become one of the competitions premier midfielders.

 

Last year Neale showed his excellent ball winning ability as he managed to average an impressive 23.5 disposals a game. This included two 30+ disposal games in Fremantle’s final campaign against Sydney and Port Adelaide respectively. This shows that he is very much able to rise to big occasions making him pivotal to Fremantle’s season this year. He is also a tackling machine that averages around 3 per game, this makes him an excellent option for AFL fantasy this year as he continues to gain vital top level experience.

 

So after three years in the system the time is now for Lachie Neale to break out into a premier midfielder in the competition. If he can expand his outside game expect him to feature more and more in the Fremantle’s midfield as a new generation begins down at Fremantle.

 

Where They Might Struggle

 

Defence is the only uncertainty plaguing the Dockers going into this season with the likes of Luke McPharlin, Michael Johnson and Paul Duffield entering the twilight of their careers. In what used to be a major strength for Fremantle the immediate future of their defence does not look great as the next generation begin to take the helm. If the Dockers are going to compete in premiership race this season they are going to need to see significant improvement from players such as Alex Sivalgni, Garrick Ibbotson, Zac Dawson and Lee Spurr as they look to plug a large hole in their current list.

 

 

Best 22

 

FB: L.Spurr Z.Dawson P.Duffield

 

HB: G.Ibbotson L.McPharlin M.Johnson

 

C: S.Hill R.Crowley* L.Neale

 

HF: H.Ballantyne C.Mayne M.Barlow

 

FF: Z.Clarke M.Pavlich M.Walters

 

R: A.Sandilands N.Fyfe D.Mundy

 

Int: C.Sutcliffe D.Pearce

 

Sub: M.De Boer

 

 

The Draw

 

Having finished at the higher end of the ladder last season the Dockers have been handed a relatively difficult draw in 2015. The men in purple will face West Coast, Port Adelaide, Richmond, North Melbourne and Melbourne twice in what is set to be a do or die season. The first month in particular is extremely difficult for Freo as they face three top eight sides from last year in Port Adelaide (home), Geelong (away) and Sydney (home) whilst also doing battle with arch rivals West Coast in round three. The Dockers will travel to Victoria on six occasions this season along with two trips to Adelaide and one off treks to the Gold Coast and Launceston. Expect the Dockers to relish the challenge of a difficult draw this season as they look to push for a top four spot come finals time.

 

Pencil it in

 

Round 1 vs Port Adelaide, Domain Stadium, Sunday April 5

 

In a repeat of last year’s epic semi final the Docker’s will be desperately seeking redemption in what is set to be an intense contest out west.

 

Round 3 vs West Coast, Domain Stadium, Sunday April 19

 

Expect no love to be lost between two of the AFL’s bitterest rivals as they both intend on claiming early bragging rights.

 

Round 15 vs Hawthorn, Aurora Stadium, Sunday July 12

 

In another instalment of the 2013 grand final expect another fiery contest between two of the competitions top teams as the Dockers look to avenge what could have been.

 

Where I think they’ll finish

 

5th. Despite the obvious strength that lies within their list I feel the Dockers aren’t quite good enough to mix it with the absolute best. With key players such as Matthew Pavlich, Aaron Sandilands and Luke McPharlin entering the twilight of their respective careers expect the Dockers to continue into a downward spiral as their focus shifts to the next generation. However I still feel that with hard work and a bit of luck the Dockers can still make one more genuine push towards their first premiership.

 

Watch Out For: The rise of Matt Taberner. After seeing glimpses of brilliance last year now is the time for this 197cm giant to step up and secure a position in Fremantle’s best 22. With extreme athletic ability and powerful contested mark expect this youngster to claim the position of club legend Matthew Pavlich in the coming years.

 

Don’t Hold Your Breath: If you believe “The Pav” can chalk up another 50+ goal season. The man is simply becoming to old to compete with other power forwards around the competition. Expect his workload to be minimised this year as the Dockers look to further extend the career of their greatest ever player.

 

Ladder Prediction: 5th

 

About

Young sports journalists who is looking to get his name out. Love all things Footy, Tennis and Cricket, am I die hard Crows fan and SA cricket fan.

Comments

  1. Good preview Zac. I went to watch the Dockers and my Eagles last Sunday. The good were as good as I feared, and the Eagles as bad as I thought. Fyfe is the best player in the AFL, but Sandilands is the player the Dockers can least afford to lose. With his ruckwork the Dockers midfield is unbeatable.
    Zac Clarke is a disappointment and I think Hannith will take the second ruck role if he doesn’t show more. Duffy and Sutcliffe are other young players that look to have improved.
    Mayne is a plodder but a valuable role player to hold the ball in the forward line while the zone catches up with the ball. You are right about Pav – great player in his day and still handy – but Walters is their most dangerous forward. Height at the back is a problem as you say, as I can’t see McPharlin’s body lasting (great player and servant of the club from its dark days).
    Crowley’s career is over for a dumb lapse of judgement (but hardly a hanging offence compared to systematic doping at Essendon – just easier to prove). I think they just want to let him have his day in court – just like waiting for the vet to put down the faithful hound.
    Definite top 4 if Sandi’s body stands up. Hope that puts the kiss of death on the mongrels.

  2. Sean Gorman says

    Zac, good effort but no Tendai in the best 22? V good player and V underrated. Keep them coming.

  3. We can bring Tendai in cos there are only 21 in Zac’s top 22.

    Watch out for C Blakely in the Rising Star calculations.

    Certain premiers.

  4. ZacStandish99 says

    I accidentally forgot to add him to the bench, Definite best 22 in my eyes.

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