Fremantle 2012 Season Preview

INS: Hayden Crozier (national draft), Zac Dawson (pre-season draft), Alex Forster (national draft), Lachie Neale (national draft), Tom Sheridan (national draft), Cameron Sutcliffe (national draft).

OUTS: Justin Bollenhagen (delisted), Roger Hayden (retired), Clayton Hinkley (delisted), Joel Houghton (delisted), Rhys Palmer (GWS), Byron Schammer (retired).

YEAR IN REVIEW: Stars in their prime, youngsters on the rise, finals the season prior; the Dockers were poised to push for a premiership in 2011. Injuries to key men, including Anthony Morabito and Michael Barlow before the season began, put the brakes on. Then the casualty list hit crisis point and the Dockers slumpt to seven straight losses to finish their miserable season. The shock axing of Mark Harvey capped off a horror season for the coach. Amid all the gloom came another best and fairest for skipper Matthew Pavlich and the emergence of Nathan Fyfe as an elite midfielder.

GAME BREAKER: Love him or hate him you’ve got to acknowledge Hayden Ballantyne’s importance. It’s not often the 24-year-old is out of the game. Whether he’s kicking goal of the year or delivering a sledge of the year contender, Ballantyne always looks busy. Last year he ranked No.1 for scoreboard impact. The main flaw in his game is his inability to perform away from home. That should come as he passes 50 AFL matches.

RISING STAR: From the team who had Nathan Fyfe break out in 2011 comes another lean teen who could rise under Ross Lyon, if given the chance. Jayden Pitt, a classy kick on both sides of the body, played eight senior matches he notched in his first season in the AFL.

KEY ARRIVAL: Forget the circumstances. Ross Lyon will be good for the Dockers. His winning percentage at St Kilda finished at 63, that’s up there with the best in the game. Lyon will look to bring the hard edge and defensive strategies that defined the Saints during his time to Fremantle. The coaching coup has been hailed as the most definitive move in Fremantle’s history.

COACH FACTOR: If you don’t reckon ice runs through the veins of Ross Lyon then take another look at his maiden press conference as Fremantle coach. With a rabid media baying for blood, Lyon kept his nerve, looked every reporter in the eye, and explained his move calmly. It was a telling performance from a man headhunted to give Fremantle the credibility they’ve longed for. Lyon has been to three grand finals for a draw and two losses. You wouldn’t put another past him after inking a four-year deal with the Dockers.

STATS THAT MATTER: There will be some aspects of Fremantle’s 2011 performances that Lyon will be keen to keep. The Dockers averaged six more tackles than their opponents, ranked No.1 during the home-and-away season. With the ball was more concerning though. They were 14th for inside 50s, points for and came in 15th for scoring accuracy. They averaged the second-fewest effective kicks per game in 2011.

THE VERDICT: 7th. Fremantle was hit hard with a strenious injury list last year but remarkably stayed in the eight until round 17 before losing the last seven matches. With a fit and healthy list, the Dockers will play finals football in 2012 under new coach Lyon. They have relied on Sandilands and Pavlich for too long but that is slowly changing. Fyfe, Hill, Ballantyne, Barlow and Broughton are the future, and they appear ready to lead this club into a successful era.

BEST 22

B: Suban Dawson Silvagni

HB: Ibbotson McPharlin Mzungu

C: Broughton Hill Morabito

HF: Fyfe Pavlich Mayne

F: Ballantyne Bradley Anthony

Foll: Sandilands Mundy Barlow

I/C: Johnson, Crowley, McPhee

SUB: Duffield

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