For a Fremantle team that started the season so badly, the fact that the Dockers find themselves within touching distance of the top eight just six games later highlights their finals credentials.
After losing their opening two games by 42 and then 89 points, it’s fair to say that the majority of Fremantle fans were expecting a repeat of last season’s disappointments.
A change of approach and tactics from head coach Ross Lyon, though, and the Dockers are now one of the AFL’s in-form teams, looking more and more like a team capable of challenging not only for a top eight finish, but potentially even a place in the top two.
Lyons took some drastic action following the opening two rounds, dropping a number of experienced veterans and replacing them with some exciting youngsters. Out went Zac Dawson, Nick Suban and Jonathon Griffin, and in came Tom Sheridan, Hayden Crozier, Brady Grey, Harley Balic, Ethan Hughes and Griffin Logue.
A solid win against the Western Bulldogs got the Dockers’ season up and running, followed by three more victories over the next four games that proved Lyon had made a fantastic decision in changing things up. These football tips predict that the Dockers will continue their impressive recent form when they meet a Carlton team that have endured their own struggles this season.
One area where the Blues will be focusing their attention will be on Michael Walters. Having spent the majority of his career as a small forward, the 26-year-old has established himself as a very effective midfielder, recording 38 disposals, 15 contested possessions, six clearances, four huge tackles and was involved in 10 scoring moments, gaining 448 metres in the victory over the Tigers.
Walters hasn’t been the only player to shine in midfield this year for the Dockers, with Brad Hill producing a string of eye-catching performances on the wing. But it’s been the emergence of a host of younger players that will be most pleasing to the Dockers fans and management.
Talented youngsters Connor Blakely, Ed Langdon and Darcy Tucker have all stepped up and proven they can compete at this level. Another benefit of this breakthrough season for these rookies has been the ability for Lyon to give Nat Fyfe and David Mundy more freedom to push up the field – something the duo haven’t been able to do in recent years.
One area where the Fremantle midfield hasn’t always impressed in recent rounds has been when it comes to protecting captain Fyfe – a player more than capable of single-handedly winning games. If the Dockers are going to not only reach the finals, but also genuinely compete in them, they are going to need a fully fit skipper. That said, what looked as though it would end up being a second dismal season in a row could actually result in the Dockers challenging for a place in the Grand Final in September.