21/04/2024

Can Fremantle's young stars lead them to the finals in 2022. Photo:@freodockers/Twitter.

With an exciting young core of talent and the injury troubles of the past two seasons behind them, could 2022 be the year Fremantle return to the finals for the first time since 2015?

Hoping to put the injury troubles of the last two seasons behind them and with a young core ready to take the competition by storm, Fremantle now looks primed to make a return to the top eight for the first time since 2015.

Last year:

11th (10-12) 86.5%

Fremantle fell just a game short of a possible finals berth in 2021, however again took steps in the right direction with the development of their young core to set themselves up to challenge for a top-eight spot in the future.

Fremantle’s poor kicking and injury struggles were the main contributing factors to why the Dockers could not take that next step and make finals. Best 22 players such as Michael Walters, Nat Fyfe, Rory Lobb, Brennan Cox, Alex Pearce, and Hayden Young all missed multiple games with injuries.

There were still plenty of positives to take from 2021 with Fremantle’s young players continuing to develop, building an exciting future for the club. Andrew Brayshaw announces himself as one of the best ball-winners in the competition in just his fourth season, averaging 28.4 disposals a game.

Sean Darcy had a breakout season and cemented his spot not just as Fremantle’s number one ruckmen but as one of the best ruckmen in the league which saw him rewarded for his stellar season winning Fremantle’s Best and Fairest, the Doig Medal.

Caleb Serong was able to back up his Rising Star winning year, playing all 22 games for the Dockers in 2021 and finishing in the top five of the Doig Medal.

Last season finished on a slightly sour note for the Dockers when young gun Adam Cerra informed the club he wanted to return home and join Carlton following a really strong 2021 campaign. Fremantle was able to cover the loss of Cerra bringing in Will Brodie from the Gold Coast and drafting local talent Neil Erasmus who can serve as potential replacements.

Ins

Will Brodie (Trade – Gold Coast), Jordan Clark (Trade – Geelong), Jye Amiss (Pick 8 – East Perth), Neil Erasmus (Pick 10 – Subiaco), Matthew Johnson (Pick 21 – Subiaco), Eric Benning (Pick 54 – Claremont), Karl Worner (Preseason Draft Pick 8 – Oakleigh Chargers).

Outs

Brett Bewley (delisted), Adam Cerra (Trade – Carlton), Reece Conca (delisted), Taylin Duman (delisted), Stefan Giro (delisted), Stefan Hill (retired), Leno Thomas (delisted), Tobe Watson (delisted).

Track watch:

Heading into his seventh season, Darcy Tucker has been able to get through the preseason without any injuries for the first time in two seasons after being hampered by hamstrings injuries. Tucker will look to play as an inside and outside midfielder for the Dockers in 2022.

New recruit Jordan Clark has impressed this arriving from Geelong during the trade period. In a recent match sim, Clark impressed showing great pace off halfback and composure to help launch into attack. Clark is expected to play off halfback and on the wing this season.

Key defender Alex Pearce is back to full fitness and hoping to play every game in 2022 after enduring several injury-interrupted seasons over the past few years.

Joel Hamling has shown promise on the track as he returns from a serious ankle injury that he sustained in the opening minutes of Round 1 last season which sidelined him for the rest of the season. Hamling has played just one game over the past two seasons.

2020 first-round pick Heath Chapman has had a solid preseason after just managing just six games in his rookie season due to injuries. In the small sample size of Chapman last season, he showed he has what it takes to make it at the top level as an excellent intercept marker and a great user of the ball.

Exciting small forward Liam Henry is getting more playing time further up the field this season with coach Justin Longmuir eying off a move to the wing for the 20-year-old. Longmuir has stated that he feels that Henry’s skills and ability would be better utilised on the wing.

Nat Fyfe and David Mundy have both been limited throughout the preseason with both rehabilitating shoulder and ankle injuries respectivley.

What to look forward to:

The injection of more young talent

With two selections in the top 10 of the 2021 AFL Draft, Fremantle bolstered their list with Perth boys Jye Amiss and Neil Erasmus. Both came off sensational 2021 seasons in the WAFL Colts, with Amiss goal-kicking ability and Erasmus, as a genuine contested beast.

Amiss was Fremantle’s first selection at pick 8, with the key forward brought in to help Fremantle’s goal kick woes, having kicked 51 goals from his 15 games for the East Perth Royals. Amiss will look to form a dynamic forward partnership with fellow forwards, Matt Taberner, Josh Treacy, and Rory Lobb.

Erasmus, despite only playing a handful of games in 2021 showed how damaging he could be as a midfielder. it was a good enough sample size for the Dockers to swoop at pick 10. Not only does Erasmus know how to win the ball but he is also handy in front of goals, making Fremantle’s midfield group more dynamic.  

The Dockers also picked up local talent Matthew Johnson on the second night of the draft with pick 21 after the inside midfielder fell to them in the second round. Johnson was expected to be a first-round pick due to his ability to extract the ball from the contested and feed outside runners.

Both Erasmus and Johnson have already made an impact over the preseason with the pair looking at home as inside midfielders during match simulations.

With Fremantle’s track record in recent years, drafting and developing talent, all signs point to Amiss, Erasmus, and Johnson being influential players and potential stars for Fremantle for the next 15 years.

These players will just add to Fremantle’s young list with players such as Brayshaw, Cox, Darcy, Griffin Logue, Serong, Treacy, Chapman, Clark, and Brodie, all being best 22 talents and 23 or younger.  

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It’s a big year for:

It is a big year for Fremantle’s new offseason recruit Will Brodie as he looks to finally get the opportunity to play consistent footy.

Brodie was starved of opportunities at Gold Coast playing just 25 games during his five seasons with the Suns. During this time Brodie showed glimpses of the player he could be, especially during the 2019 season where he averaged 21.7 disposals, 5.5 tackles, and 4.5 clearances from the eight games he played.

Since then, Brodie struggled to break back into the Suns’ midfield with them bringing in free agents and drafting players who play the same position as him.

It was clear Gold Coast no longer wanted Brodie, effectively trading him as a salary dump. Fremantle, therefore, did not have to give up much for him, trading away a future second and fourth-round selection for the wantaway Sun and also receiving pick 19 in the deal.

At 23 years of age with a fresh start and entering his sixth season of footy, it is time for Brodie to start performing and live up to his potential. Brodie has performed well over the preseason, playing in the guts and it appears will be in the Round 1 side if fit.

With Fremantle having many hungry young players waiting in the wings for their opportunity, Brodie will need to perform well to keep his spots in the side, with Longmuir known for setting high standards.

Biggest unanswered question:

Will Fremantle be able to fix up their goal-kicking issues?

Last season the Dockers scored 219 goals and 264 behinds ranking them 16th in goals scored and 4th in behinds. With Fremantle hoping to make finals this season, cleaning up this area of their game is going to be important to help with not just wins but also percentage which could become crucial when determining the eight.

Captain Nat Fyfe was one of the worst offenders, kicking 6.21 for the year. With Fyfe expected to split his time between the middle and forward line, this is an area that he must improve on in 2022.

Matt Taberner was one of the club’s only accurate shots of goal going at 68.5% for the year to kick 37.17. Taberner will need support from his other talls such as Lobb who kicked 20.19 for the year and Treacy who finished the year with 13.10.

With Treacy getting another preseason under his belt and having had a taste of senior footy he should improve this year and offer Taberner better support.

With the addition of first-round pick, Amiss should also help, with the East Perth Royals product being a deadeye in front of goal. If Amiss can break into the side this season and continue his accurate kicking he will be a massive asset to Fremantle’s forward line.

Fremantle scored more goals than behinds on only six occasions last season, so if they can improve on their accuracy in front of goal, it should make them a far more damaging side in 2022.

Coach pressure index:

Low

Entering his third season in charge, Justin Longmuir has got his side to improve year on year going from seven wins in 2020 to 10 in 2021.

It has not been easy for Longmuir since becoming coach, with many of Fremantle’s best players and leaders spending time on the sideline, however, he has put his faith in youth to help lead the Dockers into the future.

The development of young players such as Serong, Young, Henry, Brayshaw, and Cox since he has arrived is a testament to him and his coaching staff and their ability to put players in the best position to succeed.

He has proven with big names out he can still formulate a competitive game plan to win matches through a strong defence scheme and the ability to win the clearance battle.

It is clear that the Fremantle board believes Longmuir is the right man for the job, with him signing a contract extension until 2024 at the end of last year.

Justin Longmuir has exceeded expectations since joining Fremantle. Photo:@freodockers/Twitter.

Predicted Rd 1 lineup:

Ladder range:

7th – 10th

Fremantle should be aiming to make the finals this season after a six-year drought. They have a list with a very similar age demographic to 2021 finals sides Sydney and Essendon, where there is a good balance of older experienced players and young talent who are rapidly developing into future stars of the competition.

Considering over the past two seasons since Longmuir has been at the helm, they have finished 12th and 11th with injuries to key personnel, however, at full strength, the Dockers should be a much-improved side.

Barring injuries, with Fremantle’s young players having another preseason under their belt and continuing to develop on a similar trajectory, they should be competing for a top-eight spot in 2022.

Fremantle will need to get off to a good start to the season with a tough fixture to end the season and with the likes of St Kilda, Carlton, and West Coast also hoping to return to finals in 2022.

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