Today in my postseason list breakdown series we’re taking a look at the Fremantle Dockers, a team who I – rather mistakenly – tipped to be a surprise finalist at the start of the year.
To borrow and amend the lines of the nursery rhyme about the girl with the curl: “When they were good, they were fairly good, and when they were bad they were horrid.”
That pretty much sums up the Dockers’ 2018.
Some good wins were followed by some serious thrashings which left most of the experts scratching their heads and unable to predict how the club will fare in 2019.
Not helped by injury, Fremantle had only two players – David Mundy and Lachie Neale – who played every game during the season. Adam Cerra missed Round 1 and Nathan Wilson missed one game during the year, while Bailey Banfield missed two. Cerra, Wilson and Banfield were all first-year players at the club and – along with another seven debutantes – will fill important roles at the club into the future.
Nathan Wilson (six years at Greater Western Sydney) and Brendon Matera (seven years at the Gold Coast Suns) will add some much-needed experience while 23-year-old new recruit Scott Jones will provide another mature body to the all-important mix of players needed to ensure success at the club.
Of the ten new recruits to the club, only one (backman Taylin Duman) failed to score a goal in his debut year with Matera topping the debutantes with 13.
Fremantle still has a good nucleus of experienced players, but apart from Mundy none of their top six current players played more than 17 games for the season. Their powerhouse ruckman Aaron Sandilands, who gives them so much first use of the ball, played only 11 games, the now-retired Michael Johnson 13, Stephen Hill 13, the unsociable Hayden Ballantyne 17 and Brownlow Medallist Nat Fyfe 15.
The next most experienced Docker, Lachie Neale (No 25 on the Dockers all-time top 100 game players list), is reportedly unhappy and wants out despite knocking back an offer and signing a new contract with the club last year.
While Michael Johnson contributed something in his final year, he and the other two retirees will not be missed. Danyle Pearce played only three games and contributed one goal and Lee Spurr never took the field in 2018 due to injury, yet both players played every game in 2016.
With some reasonable recruiting and the development of the younger players and if the older, more experienced players can manage to stay on the paddock, the Dockers could surprise on the upside next year.
Fremantle are still a relatively young club, having played only 543 games and used 211 players in their history. They will live in the shadow of their colossus Matthew Pavlich for the next decade, but the club already has a second player in the AFL all-time top 100 game players – David Mundy.
Mundy has played 294 games and sits in 89th position, equal with former Richmond champion full-forward Jack ‘Skinny’ Titus and North Melbourne’s dual Brownlow Medallist Keith Greig (1973 and 1974) and it is not beyond the realms of possibility that – if he has a trouble-free 2019 – he will not only pass the 300-game milestone but climb up the list to a top 50 AFL game players position.
That in itself is something for Dockers fans to look forward to in 2019.