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Sports Media

AFL 2022: Fremantle Dockers season preview


Vendetta Sports Media is once again covering Australian Rules Football in 2022. Today we continue our AFL season preview series with a look at a young team on the rise, the Fremantle Dockers.

Fremantle home guernsey

The Dockers came close last year to making the finals for the first time since 2015, their efforts curtailed by a string of injures and some less than stellar forward line play. Can they continue their rise and play finals football in 2022?

For all of our previous season 2022 AFL team previews, click here.

Season 2021

11th position: 10 wins, 12 losses, 86.5%.

Fremantle made significant strides in 2021, their exciting, attacking brand of football resulting in some impressive performances in big wins over the Eagles and Giants. Freo’s talented young brigade found another level, namely midfielders Caleb Serong and Andy Brayshaw as well as young ruckman Sean Darcy who won the club Best and Fairest on his way to becoming one of the best rucks in the competition.

That said, 2021 left the Dockers faithful asking themselves ‘what if’?

What if the team hadn’t been bitten by the injury bug? Prime movers in Alex Pearce, Joel Hambling, Heath Chapman, Hayden Young and Sam Sturt all played less than half the season, whilst dual Brownlow Medallist Nat Fyfe suffered through another season tinged with shoulder problems, playing 15 games that were, by his elite standards, sub par.

What if the team had been able to convert the chances that their attacking play created? The Dockers ranked 6th in the AFL in shots at goal, but just 16th in actual goals kicked.

Key ins: Jordan Clark (Geelong), Will Brodie (Gold Coast), Jye Amiss, Neil Erasmus, Matt Johnson, Eric Benning, Karl Worner (all draft)

Key outs: Adam Cerra (Carlton), Stephen Hill, Luke Valentine (both retired), Brett Bewley, Reece Conca, Taylin Dunman, Stefan Giro, Leno Thomas, Toby Watson (all released)

Even for an organisation as starved for success as the Dockers traditionally have been, six years without finals football is too long to be standing on the outside. Fremantle’s slow, methodical rebuild has finally born fruit, with young talent all over the park.

Freo’s midfield, in particular, could really sparkle in the next few years. It starts with Darcy in the ruck. The 23 year old averaged 29 hit outs – most of them sterling – to feed a skilful and hungry pack of midfielders, led by Fyfe, the evergreen David Mundy, Brayshaw and Serong.

When he’s fully fit, Fyfe is amongst the very best handful of footballers in the world. Big, strong, quick, skilful, brave and gifted with flawless hands, Fyfe can tear a match apart. His long time running mate is the league’s oldest player, 36 year old Mundy, who’s 25.5 possessions per game last season was the 2nd highest output of his long career. They’re augmented by a pair of superstars in the making in Serong and Brayshaw. Serong finished the 2021 season with three straight games of 30+ disposals and will look to start the season in a similar vain. Brayshaw, the #2 pick in 2017 is already a star, putting up 28.7 possessions a game in 2021. Throw in their draft promising picks in midfielders Neil Erasmus and Jye Amiss, the maddeningly enigmatic but immensely talented Will Brodie and young forward Liam Henry moving to the wing, and you have a midfield that is young (with two notable exceptions), talented and deep. They lost another of their talented young midfielders in Adam Cerra to Carlton over the off season, but there is enough talent on this list to cover that defection.

Defensively, the Dockers really missed the presence of Alex Pearce and Joel Hambling last year. When the Dockers midfield was overran – as can happen to a young midfield corps – Fremantle simply lacked the hard bodied veterans of requisite quality to stop the dam walls from bursting. Inserting them alongside Luke Ryan, Brennan Cox and Griffin Logue should help solidify the Fremantle back line. Watch for Jordan Clark, imported from the Cats, to provide some dash off half back.

A stout defense and prodigiously talented midfield counts for nought if you can’t kick the ball between the bis sticks. That’s where Fremantle fall down. As mentioned above, the Dockers generate more than enough chances but converted them at a league low success rate in 2021.

Veteran small forward Michael Walters had a season to forget. The usually exciting forward kicked two goals against Carlton in round two, yet didn’t register multiple goals again all season, topping out with just 14 majors to his name. At age 31 it will be interesting to see if last season was an aberration. Fyfe, as he often does, drifted forward a lot in 2021, though he kicked an almost impossible 6.21. He’ll surely be better in front of goal this year.

There isn’t much depth in the forward line, either. Lachie Schultz and Rory Lobb can be brilliant though they all to often disappear. Sam Stuart, Travis Colyer and Mitch Crowden are nothing more than decent support players.

The one exception to all of Fremantle’s forward line woe is Matt Taberner. The 28 year old former Giant kicked 37 goals against 16 behinds in 16 appearances last season. He remains a strong mark both on the lead and in the pack and has greatly improved his accuracy by foot over the past few seasons. As good as he is, he can’t carry the offensive load alone. For the Dockers to return to finals action, others need to step up.

Prediction: 7th

To make the finals, much has to fall Fremantle’s way. For starters, they need to stay healthy for the first time in a long while given they don’t have the depth to cover for too many absences. Their budding stars will need to continue their rise and, of course, they’ll need one of the existing top eight to fall out of finals contention.

This talented group of youngsters are just about ready to genuinely pop, giving support to stalwarts Fyfe, Mundy, Walters and Taberner. In this writers opinion, this is the year that the Dockers get a little luck and slide into the top eight.

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