AFLW 2018 team preview and predicted finish: Fremantle Dockers

Joel Shepherd Roar Guru

By Joel Shepherd, Joel Shepherd is a Roar Guru

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12 Have your say

    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.

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    The Crowd Says (12)

    • Roar Guru

      December 8th 2017 @ 11:22am
      Penster said | December 8th 2017 @ 11:22am | ! Report

      Can we get a Welfare check on Don Freo, this article’s been up for at least an hour and no sign of him.

      • Roar Guru

        December 8th 2017 @ 3:45pm
        Dalgety Carrington said | December 8th 2017 @ 3:45pm | ! Report

        I think Don’s off lurking around the cricket tab.

      • December 9th 2017 @ 12:20am
        Don Freo said | December 9th 2017 @ 12:20am | ! Report

        Is there a rule that I have to follow women’s footy? I love women’s hockey…I go and watch that. Love women’s cricket too. AFLW hasn’t yet pressed my buttons.

        • Roar Guru

          December 9th 2017 @ 6:24pm
          Penster said | December 9th 2017 @ 6:24pm | ! Report

          Not at all, just assumed The Don was all things Freo.

    • Roar Guru

      December 8th 2017 @ 3:44pm
      Dalgety Carrington said | December 8th 2017 @ 3:44pm | ! Report

      Kellie Gibson is an electrifying player and at her best slices through play. Last season Freo seemed a bit hesitant at stoppages, particularly with a loose ball situation, Kellie is likely to make a big difference here along with the return of Kiara Bowers.

      • December 8th 2017 @ 4:45pm
        Joel Shepherd said | December 8th 2017 @ 4:45pm | ! Report

        I agree Gibson’s very good, but if she plays forward again she’ll mostly impact stoppages on the forward half and have limited effect elsewhere. And Freo need all the forwards they can get. I think Bowers is an even bigger deal because Donnellan looked so lonely last year, no one else getting even close to her level. I think Freo looked hesitant at stoppages last year because their midfield list simply wasn’t very good. At the rate the rest of the competition’s midields are improving, they need to fix that fast — Bowers is a start, and another three of four just like her will soon be necessary as well.

        • Roar Guru

          December 11th 2017 @ 1:18pm
          Dalgety Carrington said | December 11th 2017 @ 1:18pm | ! Report

          Or maybe the midfield simply didn’t look very good because they were hesitant at the stoppages. Either way, Freo were in most games last year (in fact dominated early in a few too), but couldn’t translate that competitiveness into goals, so they weren’t as far off the pace as their W/L indicated. I think they just need a bit more of a killer instinct.

    • December 9th 2017 @ 2:08pm
      Martin said | December 9th 2017 @ 2:08pm | ! Report

      The article’s first paragraph says it all, well said.
      Why is it that West Aussies are just not loyal to their state, prefering to play for interstate clubs? If only Fremantle had kept this state’s best players for ourselves then last year would have been a completely different story. Perhaps it would have been Freo playing in the grand final at Metricon Stadium instead of Adelaide.

      • December 9th 2017 @ 2:52pm
        Don Freo said | December 9th 2017 @ 2:52pm | ! Report

        No choice. There’s your answer.

      • December 9th 2017 @ 5:54pm
        Joel Shepherd said | December 9th 2017 @ 5:54pm | ! Report

        A lot of the top WA players were offered a lot of things by interstate clubs, like jobs in football administration, which were too good to pass up. When the AFLW offers football industry jobs to players, they’re not just talking about the women’s comp, they’re talking about the men’s as well, and that could potentially lead to a fun steady job once playing days are over.

        On the other hand, I’ve also read second-hand grumblings on some online forums about how poorly the WAWFL is run, favouritism in coaching and selection, etc. I’ve no personal experience of it, but I have seen first hand how poorly some non-football women’s sports are run and how disillusioned it can make some of the players. IF the complainers on the forums are right, that could be playing a role in why so many WA players want to head east. Then again, a lot of them could just be Eagles fans who’d rather shift 4000 Ks than play for the Dockers…

        • December 12th 2017 @ 12:59pm
          Jarren said | December 12th 2017 @ 12:59pm | ! Report

          Apparently, Rachel Ashley, taken by the Bulldogs after the draft as a free agent, had wanted to nominate for the Vic draft, but Freo talked her out of it, then didn’t select her.
          Unfairly or not, the perception is, and from what I have heard, a perception held by a few female footballers, is that the chief issue with Ashley is she is not from the ‘right clubs’.
          I am not involved with womens footy, but its an issue I keep hearing about, resentment in WA about how the comp is run, and people from certain clubs being entrenched in footy admin.

          • December 12th 2017 @ 4:42pm
            Joel Shepherd said | December 12th 2017 @ 4:42pm | ! Report

            I’ve heard that too — all the best players playing for just a couple of clubs, and those clubs dominating administration and selection. It can’t happen in Victoria because with the current reorganisation of the VWFL, most of the state clubs will be aligned with AFLW clubs, who will retain players and thus spread out the competition. In my experience, the obscurity of many women’s sports allows some administrators to get away with all sorts of stuff, because they know there’s no media or scrutiny. We can hope that anything connected to the AFLW will be different.

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