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The flawed five: Fremantle's worst recruitment woes

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Roar Rookie
22nd February, 2020
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Being a Fremantle supporter for my entire life was essentially signing up to a yearly subscription package of disappointment.

Over the years the club has brought in some big-name players that get fans varying degrees of excited, only to manifest as a colossal letdown. Here are my five biggest letdowns signed by the Dockers, either through trades or free agency.

Harley Bennell (2015)
Fremantle were more than aware of the baggage carried by the exciting Bennell when he crossed over from Gold Coast in 2015. He’d been embroiled in scandal after scandal at the Suns, but there was hope that a return to his home state would get him back on track. That was unequivocally not the case.

Calf issues plagued him the entire time, managing just two games over three seasons while a cavalcade of off-field issues followed him around. Now at Melbourne, Dockers fans watch with bated breath to see whether a player that caused so much excitement can get it sorted.

Harley Bennell Fremantle Dockers AFL 2016

(Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

Trent Croad (2001)
This one just makes me sad, really. Fremantle could not take a trick in 2001, getting battered on a weekly basis. The silver lining was a number one draft pick in what would unfold as a stacked draft.

Who would Fremantle get? Would it be the perennially underrated Luke Ball or possibly the greatest player of the noughties, Chris Judd? Who could forget the exciting Luke Hodge, touted by many at the time as one of the most promising young players around?

In a word, no. Fremantle traded their first pick away to Hawthorn but they still had pick four, where they would take Graham Polak. From Hawthorn they received future club legend Luke McPharlin and Trent Croad.

The reason the latter lands in this list is simple. Acquired as the main piece of the trade, Croad never took a shine to the West, despite kicking 60 goals over his two seasons. He requested a trade back to Hawthorn in 2003, which Fremantle took full advantage of by using the pick ten they got back for him to draft Riley Dunn. Croad would go on to win a flag at Hawthorn and be an All Australian, while Dunn would play a whopping total of eight games for the Dockers.


Colin Sylvia (2013)
This is obviously a very difficult one to talk about, given Sylvia’s untimely passing in 2018. Sylvia came across from Melbourne as a free agent in 2013 after years of consistent performances for the Demons.

He never settled and struggled with fitness and form, leading to his retirement in early 2015. Sylvia was tragically killed in a car accident outside Mildura at age 32, rocking the football world with his tragic death.

Shane Kersten (2016)
This was a massive off-season for the Dockers, with Joel Hamling, Brad Hill and Cam McCarthy – who avoids this list by a length shorter than the margin between Might and Power and Doriemus in the 1997 Melbourne Cup – all coming in through the doors.

Another promising signing ushered through the door was Shane Kersten, with the club desperate to fill the Matthew Pavlich-shaped hole in the boat. I remember vividly being really excited for Kersten to come in. I thought he’d shown enough at Geelong to justify a chance to potentially play a more significant role out West.

He was phenomenally disappointing, stringing together form so poor Ross Lyon even tried to jam him into defence. What could have been.


Jesse Hogan (2018)
While this is an early judgement on Jesse Hogan’s blockbuster trade to Fremantle, I don’t think any supporter can honestly say it’s worked out.

Jesse Hogan

(Photo by Will Russell/AFL Photos/via Getty Images )

Off-field issues began before the first game of the 2019 season and have continued throughout his spell at the club. These issues have left a fan-base crying out to replace Matthew Pavlich shaking their heads in frustration and at times bewilderment.

While his current mental-health battles obviously need to be addressed and he should be commended for having the courage to seek help, there is a growing sense that things aren’t going to improve from an on-field standpoint.

As a Fremantle fan, I want nothing more than for Hogan to get his ducks in a row professionally and personally, but you have to wonder if we are going to see it.