After a horrid 2009 season that resulted in a bottom-three finish, Fremantle bounced back with a strong start to the 2010 decade, advancing to the semi-finals before a heavy defeat from Geelong.
After promising so much in 2013, Fremantle’s 2014 must have disappointed their long suffering fans. Can they live up to their potential in 2015?
1. Outside run
The inside presence of Fremantle has never been in doubt with the likes of David Mundy, Nathan Fyfe, Michael Barlow and Lachie Neale giving the side a dominant inside midfield.
Fremantle have done an outstanding job of defining roles for their players as is highlighted by the rebound 50 and inside 50 statistics for Stephen Hill and Danyle Pearce. Looking towards 2015, the possibility of Michael Walters being freed to add some more runs will make them even more dangerous.
The trio of Stephen Hill, Danyle Pearce and Michael Walters give Fremantle as dangerous a run and carry game in the league.
2. Small forwards
The only reason that Fremantle can take the punt on Walters as a running midfielder is the development of their small forwards. Again Fremantle should be praised for creating a strong succession plan within the group.
They have slowly been building Walters up as a midfielder while still being an important small forward. Partly due to Walters’ absence last year, Fremantle was able to build a core of small forwards including Hayden Ballantyne, Hayden Crozier, Max Duffy and even Tom Sheridan and Cameron Sutcliffe.
Late in the season, Fremantle experimented with Ballantyne, Crozier, Duffy and Walters in the same forward line. Walters may go into the middle but don’t be surprised to see Fremantle try a four pronged small attack again.
3. Defensive realignment
Probably the biggest surprise of Fremantle, especially late in 2014, was the inability of their lauded defence to be able to stop opposition runs. The Port Adelaide semi final was the stand out, but this was no longer the dominant defence that Fremantle once had.
Expect 2015 to be about recapturing that mantle as unquestionable toughest defence.
While the names are likely to change with Luke McPharlin, Paul Duffield, Michael Johnson and even Zac Dawson getting on in years, the process that Fremantle used to build a formidable defence is going to be back on display in 2015.
As much as they talk about wanting to score more, 2014 highlighted that this is a team that is build from defence and the defence failing is far more significant than a misfiring forward line.
4. Desperate Dockers
Another part of Fremantle being undersold ahead of 2015 is the psyche of the veterans on this team who want to be a part of the first ever Fremantle premiership.
Fremantle fell away late last year with some dispirited losses towards the end of the season. Expect the passion that Fremantle has always been renowned for to be at its best in 2015.
While the Dockers suffered a brutal season, but again the reality is they were not able to come through when it mattered most. If Fremantle find themselves in another sudden-death final, with the game on the line, expect everyone of these Dockers to be desperate.
As they say desperate times call for desperate measures.
5. Forgetting the wasted talent
Fremantle made a bold statement at last year’s draft when they went for small types when the expectation was for Fremantle to go tall.
As the club rightly pointed out, they were set for young tall players, but this was also a message that they are going to give chances to young players as opposed to going back to previous failed ventures.
Colin Sylvia has been a bust and was overtaken by this group of draftees. Anthony Morabito’s circumstances are sadder, but the reality is that the time has come for Fremantle to look at the future and that is what last year’s draft said.
For Lachie Weller and Connor Blakely especially, they will be given every chance to grab a spot whether that is forward of centre, in the middle itself or with a lime green vest.
Either way instead of hearing Fremantle fans speaking of the hope in Morabito and Sylvia, be ready for the real threat that comes in Weller and Blakely.
6. Early retribution
This is a club that is probably looking at what is a tough opening to the season as a chance to embrace the catch cry “anyone, anytime, anywhere”. They want Port Adelaide at home to avenge last year’s semi-final loss, they get just that in Round 1.
They want Geelong in Geelong to avenge last year’s after-the-siren loss, they get just that in Round 2.
West Coast and Sydney Rounds 3 and 4. Anyone, anytime, anywhere.
7. The Ross Lyon legacy
While he is a hard man to read, Lyon does appear to bristle and is perhaps a bit upset for the reputation that he left St Kilda in a state of derelict.
What has been clear from Lyon’s time with Fremantle that as much as he is as desperate to win a premiership as ever, he is also desperate to shake the tag that he is a club killer.
It is underappreciated what Lyon did do with some of the youth at St Kilda and it is vastly underappreciated the rejuvenation process that Fremantle is going through.
A club like Geelong is actively praised for blooding young players but staying competitive, yet Fremantle are getting no praise for a similar style and strategy.
In 2014 alone players like Max Duffy and Michael Apeness were able to impress on debut while Jack Hannath, Tom Sheridan and Hayden Crozier were again given opportunities.
Players like Lachie Neale, Cameron Sutcliffe and Lee Spurr have continued to grow and are now integral parts of the Fremantle best 22. That group is the nucleus of the next generation that Lyon is desperate to prove can give Fremantle sustained success.