AFLW 2018 team preview and predicted finish: Fremantle Dockers

Joel Shepherd Roar Rookie

By , Joel Shepherd is a Roar Rookie

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    Fremantle got spanked last season after most of WA’s outstanding talent left for interstate, and their second marquee midfielder did her ACL.

    This season they’ll need more depth, pace and skill in the midfield, more targets in the forward line, and strong bodies with smart heads in the back line. Luckily for them, they’re getting all three.

    Last season the Dockers’ best forward was twenty-year-old Ashley Sharp, followed by Amy Lavell, neither of them giants.

    This season they’ve added young Emily McGuire from the draft — a strong, athletic target — and former Adelaide marquee player Kellie Gibson, a native West Australian, who will provide extra speed and skill.

    It’s still not an intimidating forward line, but Fremantle has various tall defenders and utilities, like last season’s replacement ruck Alicia Janz, who could provide support.

    Kara Donnellan is one of the competition’s best midfielders, but last season she had no help. This season she’ll be joined by Kiara Bowers, recovered from her knee injury, and known as one of the best midfielders in the country.

    I’ll admit I’ve seen nothing of Fremantle’s midfield draft picks, but the Western Australian competition is the most mature in the nation and filled with mature-age players just now realising how desperately they want to play AFLW, and putting in the work accordingly.

    This year the Dockers’ first two draft picks were mature-age but still-young midfielders — Stephanie Cain and Evie Gooch, both winning their respective clubs best and fairest in 2017 in teams filled with AFLW players.

    Also added is a desperately needed tall ruck, Jodie White, who just won the WAWFL best and fairest at the tender age of 37.

    A good ruck plus two star mids and some strong support from the draft picks in addition to whichever of last year’s players can still make the grade, and Fremantle start to look very competitive in areas they were sorely lacking last season — contested possession, stoppages and accurate disposal.

    Then there’s the Freo backline, dramatically strengthened by the return of one of GWS’s best defenders in season one, Alex Williams.

    Plus there’s the intriguing prospect of Gemma Houghton, one of the most athletic large-bodied players in the competition, who was so new to the sport last season that in her early games she looked lost… and in her late-season games improved to become one of Fremantle’s best.

    Should that upward curve continue, Freo’s half-back line, with the even more athletic Ebony Antonio, could become genuinely exciting and provide lots of streaking runs up the ground.

    Backing Freo to make the top-four is a leap too far for me, but it seems unlikely they’ll be the easy-beats in 2018 they were in 2017.

    Prediction: 5th.

    In addition to his interest in sport, Joel Shepherd is a professional Science Fiction author. You can read more by him here.