02/03/2024

Dockers in training for preseason. (Photo: Fremantle/Twitter; Design: Will Cuckson)

Fremantle had one of the harder draws last season, with a stint on the road due to COVID. Even with the challenges, the club made it to finals and missed out on a Grand Final spot at the hands of the Adelaide Crows. 

Last season:

Fifth (seven wins, three losses)

Fremantle has been one of the most consistent sides in the competition, regularly making finals. This year was no different, again making its way to a preliminary final. 

The Dockers had a strong start to the season with a win in the Western Derby, before a bigshake up due to changes to WA border openings. The changes saw them head on the road for four weeks, playing games out of order to limit the impact the restrictions would have on the season. 

The winning ways continued despite the challenges however, and they would not suffer a loss until Round 5. The loss came at the hands of a high flying Kangaroos outfit in Tasmania for the final game in their road trip. 

Questions would start to be asked of the Dockers on the back of a two game losing streak to Adelaide and then Melbourne. The Melbourne loss would be the biggest loss in competition history, which was not the momentum the Dockers were looking for at the tail end of their season. 

Fremantle would go on to face North Melbourne in the qualifying final, and after a slow start won in impressive fashion. Facing the Crows at Adelaide Oval was a big ask for the Dockers, and after starting well the Crows would eventually run over the top, eliminating them from the finals race. 

Overall it was a positive season for Fremantle considering the hurdles it faced along the way. The group showed their resilience and have had young players like Emma O’Driscoll take their game to the next level.

Aine Tighe overcame previous injury struggles to have a breakout season in the ruck and as a spare across centre half back. 

Fremantle does not lack talent, and this year Hayley Miller flourished after taking up the captaincy role, making the All Australian squad and winning Fremantle’s best and fairest.

Improving her averages to 18 disposals and six tackles per game for the season, she will be a beacon in the midfield once more this season. 

What to look forward to: 

Fremantle has an amazing amount of depth in their list, and have come away from expansion generally unscathed.

The midfield unit for Fremantle is one of the strongest in the competition, headlined by Kiara Bowers, Miller and Gabby O’Sullivan. O’Sullivan will be hoping to take her game to another level after a successful transition into the midfield last season.  

With a strong blend of experience and new talent across the list, Fremantle will be pushing for a finals spot once again. Being able to maintain a core of their group from season six, the Dockers have an even fixture that should see them pushing to end the year at the top part of the ladder. 

One area they are likely to struggle is the forward line, losing star Gemma Houghton to expansion side Port Adelaide. Houghton has been one of the premier forwards for years, and a pillar in the forward line for the Dockers.

Houghton’s departure makes way for the development of the exciting Roxy Roux and Tighe, who showed her versatility across the ruck, forward and back lines in season six.

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Biggest unanswered question:

The biggest question around Fremantle this season is will this finally be its year to get to the Grand Final?

The Dockers have been one of the strong contenders for the last three, and after the cancellation of the Grand Final in the 2020 season, everyone has been expecting them to get there again.

Sitting comfortably compared to some of the other expansion teams in terms of losses, there is a good case for Fremantle to continue to challenge and be one of the stronger teams in the competition.

Struggling to find a key forward to replace Houghton is the biggest issue it was unable to address in the off season.

The Dockers were expected to keep Sabreena Duffy, who would account for some of the scoring that Houghton provided, but in a late off season move she headed to Melbourne. This is the one area that could be the biggest threat to Fremantle’s chance at making a play for the flag. 

It’s a big year for… 

Nikki Gore has come over to Fremantle after being drafted by the Adelaide Crows in 2018. Despite being highly touted by the Crows when drafted, Gore struggled to carve out a permanent spot in the Adelaide midfield.

Gore has four seasons of knowledge to bring to the Fremantle line up, playing a career high eight games for the Crows last season. Coming back into the side in Round 10 for the win against St Kilda, she held her spot to be part of the Premiership side.

Playing three games in the SANFLW competition this season, she averaged 24 disposals and 14 tackles. These numbers show just what Gore is capable of doing when she gets to play in her dominant position. 

For Gore the opportunity at Fremantle is a chance for her to take her game to the next level and help Fremantle take the next step into the finals.

She plays a very similar game style to Bowers, and will no doubt have learned plenty from her in the pre-season.

Fixture highlights:

The biggest game of the year is the Primetime Thursday night derby under the lights of Optus Stadium. This will be the first time the derby is played under lights, and having it at the biggest stadium in the state will make the occasion all the more special. 

The game will be in Round 5 as part of the AFL’s festival of footy heading into the men’s Grand Final. With all the changes to the Eagles side, this season’s Derby is shaping up to be one of the biggest yet.

Much like last season, the Dockers will face Melbourne and Adelaide back to back in Rounds 6 and 7. These games will be a good marker for the Dockers to see where they have improved from season six. 

Full fixture:

R1: vs Brisbane, August 27 (Gabba)

R2: vs Geelong, September 3 (Fremantle Oval) 

R3: vs Western Bulldogs, September 9 (IKON Park) 

R4: vs Carlton, September 17 (Fremantle Oval) 

R5: vs West Coast, September 22 (Optus Stadium)

R6: vs Melbourne, October 2 (Fremantle Oval) 

R7: vs Adelaide, October 8 (Wigan Oval)

R8: vs Collingwood, October 16 (Fremantle Oval)

R9: vs Sydney, October 22 (Henson Park)

R10 vs Hawthorn, TBC (Fremantle Oval) 

Ins/Outs:

Ins: Nikki Gore (Adelaide), Madeleine Scanlon (Claremont), Tara Stribley (Swan Districts), Megan Kauffman (Wembley Magpies), Amy Mulholland (Subiaco), Tahlia Read (Calder Cannons)

Outs: Gemma Houghton (Port Adelaide), Maggie MacLachlan (Port Adelaide), Steph Cain (Essendon), Sabreena Duffy (delisted), Ann McMahon (delisted) Tiah Toth (delisted), Jasmin Stewart (retired) 

Inactive: Ashley Sharp (maternity leave), Mikayla Morrison (injury)

Predicted Round 1 line-up:

(Design: Will Cuckson)

Ladder range:

First-fourth

Fremantle still has a strong group to work with that has played together and developed under head coach Trent Cooper for four seasons.

Being relatively undisrupted from expansion teams should allow it to continue its strong position in the competition and challenge for a spot deep in finals. 

Players such as Tighe and O’Driscoll will be important for the team this season after the strong outings they both had in season six of the competition.

The extent of Ebony Antonio’s knee injury remains to be seen, but replacing her quality if necessary is something we believe the Dockers are capable of.

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