A new era has begun at Fremantle, and veteran duo Michael Walters and Stephen Hill have already earned some brownie points with incoming coach Justin Longmuir.
Fremantle skipper Nat Fyfe is confident a brighter future lies ahead for the AFL club, but says they need to find a way to stop falling “off the cliff” late in seasons.
The Dockers’ big-man stocks were ravaged by injuries this year, resulting in a 13th-placed finish and the sacking of coach Ross Lyon.
It continued a worrying trend of horrendous fadeouts for Fremantle over the past four years.
The Dockers lost eight of their last nine games in 2016, 11 of their last 13 in 2017, 10 of their last 14 in 2018, and eight of their last 10 this year.
The axing of Lyon and chief executive Steve Rosich sent shockwaves through the club, but has also paved the way for a fresh start.
Fyfe believes Fremantle possess a good spine of players to take the team forward, and he’s hopeful success isn’t far away.
“The promising sign is that we beat some good sides when they were playing their best footy – Giants away, Collingwood away, Geelong at home,” Fyfe said.
“So going into next season we’re not daunted about taking on the best teams in the competition.
“We fell off the cliff again, which I think is the fourth time in a row that’s happened to our club.
“What we do need to work on is ironing out our inconsistencies and finding ways to win multiple games in a row.”
Fremantle lost nine games by 50 or more points last year.
This season the figure was just one – a 91-point loss to West Coast in round 16.
Fyfe says it’s hard to predict when exactly success will come. But he’s confident it will come.
“I think our spine is in great shape and our age demographic is in the slot,” Fyfe said.
“If you look at Jesse Hogan, Matt Taberner, Rory Lobb, Alex Pearce, Joel Hamling, Sean Darcy as our ruck – that is a really solid six or seven players, and they set up the skeleton of our team.
“If we can keep those players fit and available on the field for 20 games next year, we should be a pretty good football side.”
Fremantle face a fight to retain star wingers Brad Hill and Ed Langdon.
Fyfe hopes they’ll stay, but says he won’t be getting down on his knees “and pleading”.
Former Docker and current Collingwood assistant Justin Longmuir is the frontrunner to be appointed Fremantle’s next head coach, but Peter Sumich is also in the running.
Fyfe says he wants a coach that is well equipped with the modern game, has got a good handle on personal relationships, and is able to build a good culture.
And as for the future of Lyon?
“I don’t think that’s the last we’ve seen of Ross Lyon,” Fyfe said.