Matthew Pavlich leads out Fremantle (Slattery Images)

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Can the Dockers finally step out of the shadows and become a genuine Premiership threat?

Freo will be looking to go at least one better than last season’s semi-final loss to Adelaide.

A gritty victory over 2011 premiers Geelong in the first week of the finals suggests that the Dockers are becoming more accustomed to life at the pointy end of the ladder and 2013 should be a season filled with plenty of hope for the purple faithful.

Ross Lyon has a list with a number of players in between the vital ‘80-140 game bracket’ which is all so important for winning premierships.

Although I don’t see them saluting this year, they will be around the mark.

I’m not sure if a top-four finish is in order but if all of Fremantle’s key players including Aaron Sandilands, Nat Fyfe and Michael Barlow can remain fit, then anything is possible.

Skipper Matthew Pavlich may spend more time closer to goals after his bag of 69 last year and expect Chris Mayne to have more of an impact both in the forward line and midfield.

Stephen Hill oozes class and will only continue to get better while youngsters Hayden Crozier, Lachie Neale, Josh Simpson and Jayden Pitt all have the ability to become regular senior contributors.

The midfield, which has again lost Anthony Morabito to a knee injury, led by Barlow and David Mundy with the assistance of Clancee Pearce, Tendai Mzungu, Matt De Boer, Garrick Ibbotson, Hill and last year’s Best and Fairest Ryan Crowley is in a very strong position.

Down back, Luke McPharlin is the leader of a defensive group which includes the ever-improving Zac Dawson, the dash of Paul Duffield, the agility of Michael Johnson and the courage of Nick Suban, provided he can cement a spot in Lyon’s best 22.

Freo doubters will be everywhere, as is the norm, but this year they can shrug off some critics and again feature heavily in September with the view to bigger and better things in the next couple of years.

Predicted finish: sixth

Key players

Matthew Pavlich – A quality player who can do anything. Proven match-winner who should spend more time deep in the forward line this year.

Aaron Sandilands – Monster ruckman capable of dominating games. Can Freo overcome his pre-season injury?

Nat Fyfe – An extremely talented midfielder who will be the feature of the Dockers engine room for a very long time.

Break-out potential

Michael Walters – Finally showed his class with a fine second half of last season which yielded 22 goals from 10 games. So much potential which could be completely revealed in 2013.

Hayden Crozier – Promising midfielder/half-forward. Glandular fever knocked him around last year but could bob up with some big games in 2013.

Lachie Neale – 11 games last year was a nice return for Neale who is expected to become a more consistent contributor this season.

Promising youngsters

Josh Simpson – Stephen Hill-type who takes players on and possesses clever ball use. One of the top players in the draft. One to watch.

Tom Sheridan – Pick 16 in 2011. Running half-back who is progressing nicely and will benefit from more senior football.

Jayden Pitt – Has failed to deliver after being Freo’s top pick in the 2010 draft but has sized up over pre-season and really needs to step up in 2013.

Key inclusions

Danyle Pearce – Comes over from Port Adelaide. Will find plenty of the ball by running the lines at the spacious Patersons Stadium.

Notable departures

Greg Broughton – Gold Coast Suns.

Antoni Grover – retired.

Worth a punt

Nat Fyfe to win Brownlow Medal into Freo to make top eight.

AFL enthusiast. Richmond supporter. Annual September holiday-maker.

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