AFL draft analysis: Fremantle Dockers

Maddy Friend Columnist

By , Maddy Friend is a Roar Expert

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    An eleventh-hour trade that saw Fremantle secure pick 2 from the Gold Coast Suns for Lachie Weller has the Dockers come into the 2017 AFL draft with two selections in the top five.

    A hand of cards like that, if played right, gives them the chance to set up their future for a generation to come, and makes them one of the most intriguing clubs to consider on Friday.

    Draft picks: 2, 5, 42, 60, 66, 70

    Trade period wrap
    Out: Lachie Weller, Hayden Crozier, Harley Balic
    In: Nathan Wilson, Brandon Matera

    Click here to see the rest of Maddy’s draft analyses.

    Losing Lachie Weller was a blow, as his form over the past few seasons has improved to the point where he looks likely to become one of the competition’s best midfielders. However, getting pick two for him was an absolute coup, providing their strongest draft hand for many years.

    Harley Balic struggled with homesickness during his two years at the club, and while he has the potential to develop into a good player, there was no point keeping him. Hayden Crozier likewise had talent but was at times inconsistent, and his departure isn’t a huge loss.

    Adding Nathan Wilson and Brandon Matera was shrewd – playing Wilson off half-back potentially frees up the likes of Darcy Tucker to play more in the midfield, while Matera will be a good replacement for Hayden Ballantyne, who is nearing the end of his career.

    Wilson is a genuine gun, and the Dockers will be rapt to have given up only a second-round pick for him. Matera has been plagued by injury and inconsistency over his career so far but may flourish in a new environment. Importantly, both players hail from Western Australia, so there won’t be any risk of the ‘go home’ factor.

    Nathan Wilson GWS Giants AFL 2017

    (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

    What they need
    With Weller’s departure they could do with some more midfield class, and likewise more developing ruckmen given Jonathan Griffin’s retirement and Zac Clarke’s delisting. They’ve bolstered their forward line in recent years, but it’s still an area that could do with work, particularly in the mid-sized forward area. Running defenders would also be good additions to the list.

    Who they might consider
    At picks two and five, Freo have the luxury of taking the best available player. That’s likely to be a midfielder, and any of Cam Rayner, Adam Cerra, Paddy Dow, Luke Davies-Uniacke or Andrew Brayshaw would be worthy additions. They might also look at someone like Hunter Clark or Darcy Fogarty here, but despite Western Australia natives Oscar Allen and Aaron Naughton being available here, I don’t see Fremantle taking either.

    Pick 42 will likely be too late for ruckman Sam Hayes, but there are a few others in the mix. They may also look to some local talent, such as midfielder Brandon Starcevich, or to the WAFL. They have shown in recent years a penchant for drafting mature-aged players – Luke Ryan last year, Lee Spur and Michael Barlow previously – so it wouldn’t surprise if they looked at one or two to bolster their list.

    Draft and trade strategy
    I haven’t listed all Fremantle’s picks here, but they are likely to take seven, which would be a massive haul. Given that and where their picks sit, they’re well placed to take a pair of future stars with their first two selections and then look to address needs later on. Whoever they get at picks two and five are likely to be able to play next year, as might some mature-aged talent, which would be a definite benefit for their developing team.

    This looms as another important draft for a side in a rebuilding phase, but with their trade period additions, they are building a nicely balanced list. It’s not often that a team outside of the expansion clubs has two top-five draft picks, and the Dockers need to make the most of it.

    In a few years, we may well look back on this draft as being the most formative in Fremantle’s development.