15/08/2022

The Dockers may have found an answer to complete their forward line in Amy Franklin. (Photo: Fremantle AFLW/Twitter)

Fremantle may have five straight wins in this year's AFLW season, but an Amy Franklin double on debut showed where the undefeated side can still improve.

It’s pretty hard to pick apart an undefeated side and spot where it could improve, but Fremantle debutant Amy Franklin has given her team an extra bounce in its win over the Western Bulldogs on Tuesday night.

The Dockers had been relatively unchallenged so far in the 2022 season, comfortably accounting for fellow flag contenders in Collingwood last round, but were given a major scare when the winless Dogs took them to the line at the VU Whitten Oval.

An electric five minutes from Franklin helped make the difference. Having struggled during a slow start, where both teams failed to score a goal in the opening term, the 14th draft pick from this year stepped up to the plate.

She began by taking a strong mark just inside forward 50, with a Bulldogs mistake gifting her a 50-metre penalty. Franklin duly slotted her first goal in her AFLW career, but her work was far from done.

The nifty forward was at it again only minutes later, staying strong and tall in a 2v2 marking contest to pull down a contested grab, before converting that chance. Franklin’s X-factor moment busted the game open, with the Dogs also kicking into action with two majors of their own.

Fremantle coach Trent Cooper held high praise for his debutant, and signalled that this effort was only the start of a fruitful career.

“She showed a bit, didn’t she?” Cooper said post-match.

“She’s really athletic, she’s got good hands, she’s got a good kick, to kick those two goals into the breeze was a huge effort for us.

“Amy is going to be a really good player for us, she’ll be a work in progress. We won’t see the best of her for five or six years but we’re really looking forward to what she can do.”

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The visitors, who were inspired by Franklin’s sterling debut, prevailed, claiming a tight six-point win that solidifies their spot at the top of the table even without star midfielder Kara Antonio.

Fremantle’s forward line, led by the likes of Ebony Antonio and Gemma Houghton, has looked largely untroubled this season. Scores of 43, 52, 77 and 38 in the lead-up to the Bulldogs game had them as the most dangerous attacking outfit in the AFLW.

Antonio’s miracle work was on display again in the final stages of the last quarter, kicking a remarkable running goal that ultimately gave the Dockers their six-point winning margin. It may have shocked many, but Cooper wasn’t surprised by Antonio’s antics.

“She’s capable of doing that at any stage of the game, even when she’s not playing well,” the coach said.

“I thought just get a point, as it would be valuable at that stage, but I knew she got it straight away as she kicked it.”

But Franklin’s emergence shows the Dockers have made yet another correct draft pick which threatens to bolster their forward line even more.

With the likes of Kiara Bowers (20 disposals) and Hayley Miller (18) dominating the midfield battle most weeks, Fremantle’s forward line efficiency is critical to its AFLW flag chances in 2022.

If Franklin’s strong and versatile frame can add another element inside forward 50, then the Dockers may continue developing a potent front five that could push them to premiership glory.

It’s critical to remember that Franklin is also the perfect player to complement Fremantle’s forward line. The mid-sized forward with good hands is an ideal foil for Antonio’s speed as a focal point.

The difference when Franklin kicked her goals in rapid succession was obvious – the Dockers’ forward line quickly opened up as the Dogs defenders stopped plugging Antonio’s leading zones and instead began worrying about Franklin’s marking capabilities.

For a Fremantle side that was crying out for more consistency across four quarters in 2021, the ideal way to get this is via a reliable and game-breaking forward group.

If Amy Franklin can continue on from a whirlwind debut match and become an attacking weapon, then she may hold the key to Fremantle going all the way this season.

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