After a disastrous 2016 campaign in which they finished 16th with just four wins, the Dockers had a better 2017, when they doubled their wins and finished 14th on the home-and-away ladder. More importantly, they blooded seven debutants, creating an excellent platform for their rebuild into finals contention.
The Dockers started off with two heavy defeats to Geelong (42 points) and Port Adelaide (89 points), which led to Ross Lyon swinging the axe. The Dockers then won six out of their next seven games to sit in fifth spot on the ladder.
The second half of 2017 saw Fremantle struggle with consistency, only winning two games, one against North Melbourne (four points) and the other Gold Coast (23 points).
While the Dockers took some small steps forward, some it was clear some off-season movements were necessary to speed up the rebuilding process.
FB: Lee Spurr – Joel Hamling – Michael Johnson
HB: Luke Ryan – Brennan Cox – Nathan Wilson
C: Bradley Hill – Lachie Neale – Stephen Hill
HF: Harley Bennell – Cam McCarthy – Michael Walters
FF: Shane Kersten – Matt Taberner – Brandon Matera
R: Aaron Sandilands – Nat Fyfe – David Mundy
Int: Connor Blaklely – Andrew Brayshaw – Griffin Logue – Alex Pearce
Emg: Sean Darcy – Bailey Banfield – Darcy Tucker – Adam Cerra
Best 22 Analysis
The Dockers are still a young team, but their potential is sky high. Over the pre-season, the Dockers brought in 12 players. Integrating them into the team will be a challenge.
Boom recruits Nathan Wilson (half-back flank), and Brandon Matera (forward pocket) slot straight into the team, while top five draft picks Andrew Brayshaw and Adam Cerra should expect to get game time early in the season. These two players could allow the likes of Nat Fyfe and David Mundy to rest forward, similar to the way Geelong and Richmond deploy Patrick Dangerfield and Dustin Martin respectively.
Veteran defenders Lee Spurr and Michael Johnson have been loyal servants, but there is a strong chance that they could be out of the side midway through the season, especially with the likes of Darcy Tucker, Ethan Hughes and Griffin Logue developing into fine footballers.
Aaron Sandilands should start the season as the club’s primary ruckman, but due to his recent injury problems and age, Sean Darcy could be expected to take the mantle as the club’s number one ruckman in stints throughout the season. Recent draftee Scott Jones is also capable of stepping up to the rigours of AFL straight away.
Up forward, the Dockers will be hoping that Shane Kersten, Cam McCarthy and Matt Taberner can all gel to become a formidable trio. As well as these three key position players, Harley Bennell, Michael Walters and Brandon Matera are all quality small-to-medium sized forwards who can provide maximum damage on any given day.
Round 1 vs Port Adelaide @ Adelaide Oval
The Dockers would love to get off to a good start in season 2018 and that is why round one against Port Adelaide is crucial. As well as getting off to a good start, they would love to atone for their 89-point hiding at the hands of Port Adelaide in round 2 last season.
Round 6 vs West Coast @ Optus Stadium
The first Western Derby at the new Perth Stadium should make for fantastic viewing. With both sides keen to win the bragging rights, viewers can expect a fiery contest, with the fierce rivalry being taken to another level in this match.
Round 7 vs Richmond @ MCG
The Dockers would love to test themselves against the reigning premiers in order to see where they are at with their development. Fremantle beat Richmond in round eight with David Mundy kicking the winning goal after the siren, but in round 22 the Tigers demolished them by 104 points.
Breakout Player – Connor Blakely
It’s been an excellent couple of seasons for Blakely, especially last year when he averaged 24 possessions, 5 marks, 4 tackles, 3 rebound 50s and 2 inside 50s across 23 games to finish eighth in the club’s Best & Fairest.
The 2018 AFL season looms as the year Blakely becomes a bonafide star of the competition. Throughout his 33-game career thus far, he has demonstrated that he is aggressive in the stoppages, with outstanding clearance work, but he also has an excellent outside game which is why the Dockers have been keen for him to play on the half-back line.
Fantasy Gold – Nat Fyfe
By all reports, Nat Fyfe is back to his Brownlow-winning best and as such, he should be a lock in every fantasy team.
In his Brownlow year of 2015 he averaged 94.55, while in 2014, when he finished runner-up in the Brownlow, he averaged 92. What should excite most fantasy coaches is that it looks like Fyfe is back better than ever, and with his performance against Adelaide in JLT 1 (he scored 114 points), expect Fyfe to lead the way in 2018.
Ladder Prediction – 9th-13th
The Dockers are on track to make finals, just not in 2018. The average age of their playing group is 23 years and 292 days, making them the ninth youngest group in the AFL., while the average games played is just 63.2. Despite the nice acquisitions of Wilson, Matera and their draft picks, the Dockers need to gel before making a serious run in the finals.
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