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.
Longmuir was appointed Fremantle’s new AFL coach on a three-year deal on Monday.
Not only was it a public holiday in Western Australia, but the Dockers players are currently on leave.
So Longmuir was pleasantly surprised to walk into the club’s headquarters in Cockburn and see Hill and Walters having a kick around.
“I told them it was a smart move to come for a run when the senior coach gets appointed, so they’ll be in the starting team come round one next year,” Longmuir said with a laugh.
“Just two quality people. I was actually working in recruiting at the football club when we drafted them, and their personalities haven’t changed.
“Hilly is quiet, and ‘Son Son’ is loud and boisterous. It was good to see them working hard during their break.”
Fremantle have missed the finals for four consecutive years and Longmuir faces a big challenge to break that run in 2020, especially with star wingmen Brad Hill (St Kilda) and Ed Langdon (Melbourne) almost certain to leave during the trade period.
But Longmuir is excited about the list at his disposal.
Fremantle crashed out of finals contention this year following serious injuries to Matt Taberner, Jesse Hogan, and Alex Pearce.
But if that trio can get up and running, Fremantle could become a finals smokey.
“When you look at the dynamics of our list, it is inexperienced and it is young,” Longmuir said.
“I’m a true believer that our great improvement will come from that core of young players pushing each other and coming through together.
“We’ve got a bloke on our list (Nat Fyfe) who just won his second Brownlow.
“I think the core of our midfield is there … and I think our tall stocks are really good.”
Fremantle had been criticised for being too defensive under previous coach Ross Lyon.
Longmuir is promising to bring a balance between attack and defence.
“And I strongly believe the game starts at the contest, so I want to be a really strong contested ball team,” he said.
Fremantle president Dale Alcock hopes a new chief executive will be in place by the end of October.
Peter Bell has ruled himself out of that role, saying he is happy to remain as the club’s football operations manager.