Fremantle fans have been baying for blood after a disastrous start to the season and Ross Lyon has said he will ring the changes following an embarrassing 89-point loss to Port Adelaide on Sunday.
However, Dockers’ fans will be wondering whether Paul Hasleby is right and the club is in the “worst position in its history” or whether there is light at the end of the tunnel.
In previous seasons when Fremantle has had a down week, Lyon would usually axed a couple of fringe players like Nick Suban or Cameron Sutcliffe and replace them with guys like Tom Sheridan or Hayden Crozier however this time is different.
“On these results, we’re just going to have to start playing kids,” Lyon said following the game on Sunday.
But, is there anyone left in the shed for Lyon to call upon?
We take a look at all the changes Ross Lyon could make if he wants to go all out with his plan to “play the kids” this week as well as predict the actual changes the Dockers coach is likely to make, given it’s highly unlikely he will play every young player in one go.
The youthful team the Dockers could play in Round 3
B:Luke Ryan, Sam Collins, Brennan CoxHB:Ethan Hughes, Joel Hamling, Griffin LogueC: Bradley Hill, Lachie Neale, Stephen HillHF: Ed Langdon, Cam McCarthy, Hayden CrozierF: Lachie Weller, Matt Taberner, Michael WaltersFoll:Sean Darcy, Nat Fyfe, Brady Grey*I/C:Harley Balic, Luke Strnadica*, Darcy Tucker, Connor Blakely
???In: Sam Collins, Ethan Hughes, Harley Balic, Hayden Crozier, Griffin Logue, Matt Taberner, Sean Darcy, Brennan Cox, Luke Ryan, Brady Grey, Luke Strnadica.Out: Zac Dawson, Jonathon Griffin, Michael Johnson, Danyle Pearce, Nick Suban, Cameron Sutcliffe, Lee Spurr, Garrick Ibbotson, Shane Kersten, David Mundy, Aaron Sandilands.
If he wanted, Lyon has close to a whole new defence he could bring to the table against the reigning premiers with Sam Collins, Griffin Logue, Ethan Hughes, Brennan Cox and Luke Ryan all fit and having lined up for Peel at least once this season.
Other possible inclusions who are playing in the WAFL include perennial fringe players Hayden Crozier and Matt Taberner, young ruckman Sean Darcy and classy midfielder Harley Balic while rookies Luke Strnadica and Brady Grey are also fit.
Senior listed Alex Pearce, Harley Bennell, Michael Apeness and Zac Clarke are all on the injury list while four of the Dockers’ rookies six rookies (Josh Deluca-Cardillo, Taylin Duman, Ryan Nyhuis and Matthew Uebergang) are also out of action.
However, we believe Lyon is more likely to make at most six changes with Aaron Sandilands, Lee Spurr and David Mundy no chance to be actually dropped.
Our actual predicted Dockers’ team for Round 3
B: Lee Spurr, Sam Collins, Garrick IbbotsonHB:Ethan Hughes, Joel Hamling, Tom SheridanC: Bradley Hill, Lachie Neale, Stephen HillHF: Ed Langdon, Cam McCarthy, Hayden CrozierF: Shane Kersten, Matt Taberner, Michael WaltersFoll: Aaron Sandilands, Nat Fyfe, David MundyI/C:Harley Balic, Lachie Weller, Darcy Tucker, Connor Blakely
???In: Sam Collins, Ethan Hughes, Harley Balic, Hayden Crozier, Matt Taberner, Tom Sheridan.Out: Zac Dawson, Jonathon Griffin, Michael Johnson, Danyle Pearce, Nick Suban, Cameron Sutcliffe
Three of the likely inclusions (Taberner, Sheridan and Crozier) are reasonably well known to Fremantle fans having yo-yoed in and out of the Dockers’ team for the past three seasons.
However, for those fans wanting to know more about some of the other youngsters on Fremantle’s list – here’s a handy rundown Harley Balic
Harley Balic is classy, tall midfielder who is almost certain to receive a call-up for the Dockers this week after dominating for Peel in the first three weeks of the WAFL season.
Not only does he lead the competition for possessions, with an average of 30 touches a game, but the 187cm Balic took an impressive 11 marks in round three against South Fremantle, showcasing his impressive workrate and attack on the ball.
Dockers’ fans can expect to see lots of Harley Balic in the future. Photo: Kate Hedley.
Balic was an elite basketballer growing up and had to make a choice between that and football, a decision which paid off when he was selected in the level two NAB AFL Academy and for Vic Metro at the under-18 championships where he averaged 21 disposals.
Many experts predicted him to be a first round selection in the 2015 National Draft, with the AFL’s draft guru Cal Twomey ranking Balic 12th in terms of talent in his final Phantom Draft form guide.
However, a serious wrist injury saw him slide to the end of the second round where the Dockers snapped him up with pick 38.
His first year on Fremantle’s list was hampered by a wrist injury which saw Balic unable to train all preseason and need further surgery early in the year. He subsequently missed the first 19 games of the season but returned late in the year for Peel Thunder where he played a couple of reserves games before picking up 17 possessions in his WAFL debut in Round 23.
He then played a key role as the Thunder claimed their maiden premiership, averaging 20 possessions across the finals series.
Balic isn’t overly quick but he excels in traffic, is hard at the ball and is good overhead which saw him compared to Collingwood captain Scott Pendlebury and young midfield bulls Marcus Bontempelli and Patrick Cripps in his draft year.
Although he has played in a number of positions at junior level including half-back, Balic looks likely to start his Dockers career as a high half-forward who will rotate through the midfield Ethan Hughes
Dockers coach Ross Lyon had some high praise for Ethan Hughes last season when he said the medium defender was “terrific athlete” who had Nat Fyfe-like attributes.
“He’s a really terrific athlete, in the Fyfe mould really,” Lyon told PerthNow in September.
“Big boy, runs really well, competitive winger, half-back. Clean ball-handler.”
Ethan Hughes is a running half-back. Photo: Getty Images.
However, what Dockers’ fans might not know is Hughes was latecomer to Australian rules football having only picked up the game in 2012.
He took to the game like a fish to water and in his first season won the best on ground medal in the South West Football League colts grand final for Harvey-Brunswick Leschenault (HBL).
Hughes has a fantastic leap, to the point where HBL used him as their leading senior ruckman for parts of the 2013 season despite standing just 187cm tall.
His meteoric rise continued in 2014 when he moved to Perth to play for Swan Districts where he impressed with his athleticism and caught the eye of the Dockers who took a chance on him with pick 13 in the 2014 AFL Rookie Draft.
The skillful defender played one game in his debut season – when the Dockers famously rested 13 players for the final round of the regular season against Port Adelaide in order to freshen their list up for finals – and impressed with 22 disposals and eight marks.
Hughes played three consecutive games for Fremantle in 2016 from Rounds 7-9, with his marking an asset, before being grounded by a calf injury.
He returned for the Round 20 Western Derby where he performed well on Mark LeCras before showing some more good signs in an under-siege Dockers’ defence the following week against Adelaide.
After bulking up in the offseason, and being the senior emergency in Round 2, Hughes seems like a logical inclusion to play a running half-back role and, unlike some Fremantle defenders, is a player Fremantle will want to get the ball to as his kicking skills are highly regarded. Sam Collins
Sam Collins, who was picked up by Fremantle as a mature-aged defender in the 2015 AFL Draft, is a young key defender who is the antithesis of Ross Lyon’s favourite Zac Dawson.
In his debut, against St Kilda in Round 10 last year, Collins took seven marks and had eight kicks – three times more marks and eight times more kicks than Dawson had on the weekend in Fremantle’s thrashing by Port Adelaide.
Sam Collins is a younger, better version of Zac Dawson. Photo: Getty Images.
In 12 games last year Collins competed strongly against the likes of Travis Cloke and Justin Westhoff, although the 22-year-old did have his colours lowered by Eagles spearhead Josh Kennedy and GWS giant Jonathan Patton.
Collins, who was drafted from Hawthorn’s affiliate Box Hill and has played in two VFL grand finals, is strong in the contest and has excellent closing speed.
However, like Dawson, Collins can struggle to impact a game offensively at times however his ability to take an intercept mark, instead of just spoiling the opposition forwards, and not turn it over immediately by foot should have in consideration as a like-for-like replacement for the dour incumbent. Sean Darcy
Widely considered the “best tap ruckman” in the 2016 AFL Draft, Sean Darcy looks poised for a big future at the Dockers once man-mountain Aaron Sandilands retires.
Fremantle saw the 202cm Darcy as a long-term replacement for Sandilands which is why they swooped on him with Pick 38 – earlier than many draft experts expected.
Sean Darcy has been likened to GWS big-man Shane Mumford. Photo: Getty Images
The Geelong Falcons product, who is “still growing” according to the Dockers, won 71 percent of ruck contests in the TAC Cup with an impressive 32 percent of those taps to the advantage of his players.
By comparison, 208cm All-Australian ruckman Max Gawn recorded a hitout to advantage percentage of about 37 percent last year.
Darcy’s bullocking, aggressive style and 110kg frame has seen him drawn comparisons to GWS big-man Shane Mumford who drew both praise and criticism last season for laying “the greatest tackle ever laid” on Mitch Duncan of Geelong.
Ruckman often take several seasons to develop so Dockers’ fans shouldn’t expect to see too much of Darcy this year however with Jonathon Griffin also on the wrong side of 30 and Zac Clarke still out injured, Fremantle might look to blood him in 2017. Griffin Logue
With another 2016 Western Australian draftee in Sam Powell-Pepper already shining in round one, and on the weekend against the Dockers for Port Adelaide, Fremantle fans will be wondering if they made a mistake with their top pick in last year’s draft.
However if draft experts are on the money, Fremantle can rest assured they haven’t missed out by choosing the 193cm Logue instead who was the best tall defender available in the draft pool.
In order, experts ranked the top five WA draftees as Sam Petrevski-Seton (Carlton, Pick 5), Griffin Logue (Fremantle, Pick 8, Tim English (Bulldogs, Pick 19), Sam Powell-Pepper (Port Adelaide, Pick 18) and Shai Bolton (Richmond, Pick 29).
Griffin Logue is an athletic key defender. Photo: Getty Images.
The 19-year-old Swan Districts product’s prospect soared towards the end of 2016 following an outstanding NAB AFL Draft Combine where he broke 10 minutes for the 3km time trial and was a joint winner of the beep test. He also won the running vertical jump, finished fourth in the standing vertical jump and placed in the top 10 for the repeat sprints – an outstanding effort for a player of his size.
His athleticism is what made him a Top 10 pick however, it is his intercepting ability which will most appeal to Dockers’ fans with Logue able to cut off opposition attacks and rebound out of defence with ease. Logue also showed his versatility with a 34-possession game for Swan Districts colts towards the end of 2016.
Key defenders usually take time to develop but Logue has an AFL-ready body so if Ross Lyon is looking for a replacement for the ageing Michael Johnson or Zac Dawson then he could turn to the athletic defender. Others
Other players on the Fremantle Dockers’ list include:
Senior listAlex Pearce – the forgotten man of the Dockers’ defence, Pearce is close to a shoe-in to play fullback for Fremantle if he can get back to his best following a broken leg. Pearce was a standout for the Dockers in 2015, forcing his way into a Fremantle lineup which came within a few kicks of a grand final. He was tracking well against last year until suffering a fractured tibia in round nine – an injury he aggravated in preseason this year.Michael Apeness – Blighted by injuries during his time at Fremantle, Apeness is currently working his way back from a PCL injury suffered in the preseason for Peel Thunder. The club’s top draft pick in 2013 has played just 7 games so far with the Dockers hoping he will develop into a strong power forward who can help out in the ruck. Luke Ryan – A mature-aged, intercept marking defender, Luke Ryan played his first game for Peel Thunder on the weekend after an injury-interrupted preseason. Ryan had a remarkable VFL debut for Coburg in 2016 where he racked up 29 touches, eight intercept marks, five contested marks, 10 rebound 50s and kicked at 87 percent efficiency. He led the VFL in intercept possessions and the Dockers will be hoping he can do similar for them when, not if, he gets a game in 2017.Brennan Cox – The All-Australian under-18 centre half-back has settled into life well at the Dockers but like most key position players will take time to develop. The 193cm Cox, who can also play as a forward, has a strong contested marking game and is extremely athletic.
Ross Lyon has compared Alex Pearce to Dustin Fletcher. Photo: Robert Cianflone
RookiesBrady Grey – Dockers’ fans have already had a taste of what Brady Grey has to offer after he played two games for them last year and one in 2015. A fierce-tackling, hard-at-it midfielder, Grey needs an uninterrupted run with injury and to improve his disposal if he’s any hope of cracking the senior team again.Josh Deluca – Like Grey, Deluca has been on the Dockers’ list for several seasons however he’s yet to debut despite playing close to a full season for Peel, including four finals, last year. Deluca is a small, speedy midfielder who can run and carry the ball. Luke Strnadica – Strnadica was surprisingly overlooked in the 2016 national draft so the Dockers swooped on him as a rookie. The 201cm key forward kicked 17 goals and averaged 12 disposals and six marks for South Fremantle colts last year. He has a good set shot, clean hands and can take a good contested mark.Matthew Uebergang – After having chosen AFL over E-Sports, Uebergang played the first 13 games for Peel last year before a hamstring injury cut his season short. Uebergang is a 194cm swingman who reads the play very well and is an excellent kick.Ryan Nyhuis – Drafted in 2015 as a rookie, Nyhuis had an injury-interrupted first year at Peel playing as a third tall defender. The 188cm Nyhuis is being groomed as a one-on-one defender who can play on both tall and small forwards???Taylin Duman – A versatile defender who was the Dockers first pick in the 2016 Rookie Draft, Duman can also push onto a wing or play as a third tall forward. Currently on the club’s injury list following a knock to his ankle, Duman is lightly built and will need time in the gym before debuting.