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Fremantle Dockers: Anything can happen

Fremantle silenced their many critics by finishing in the top eight last year but can they continue this improved form in 2011? Kevin Cheong previews the Dockers' upcoming season.


It is fair to say I am not the only person surprised by Fremantle’s brave showing in the 2010 AFL season. Tipped by many experts to be in the bottom four, the Dockers shocked the AFL world to finish sixth at the completion of the home-and-away season. They then won their elimination final against Hawthorn, only their second finals win in their 16 year tenure.

The Dockers showcased some fantastic new talents in Anthony Morabito and Dylan Roberton. Essendon discard Kepler Bradley also came into his own, while mature-age recruit Michael Barlow starred. In fact Barlow was leading the Brownlow Medal voting, before suffering a shocking leg break in round 14, which set Fremantle and many a SuperCoacher back after his injury.

The Dockers’ senior players also came to the fore, with regulars such as Aaron Sandilands, Matthew Pavlich, David Mundy and Paul Duffield showing the way. Sandilands collected another All-Australian guernsey following another dominant season in the ruck and Mundy scored his first Doig Medal as Fremantle’s Best and Fairest. If these players can recapture their best form, another appearance in the finals is well within their grasp.

They showed plenty of potential last season, and 2011 gives them another chance to showcase their talents and keep Freo in the finals race.


Aaron Sandilands is undoubtedly a barometer to how well Fremantle plays. Often playing without a recognised second ruckman, he sets the benchmark for his side with his courageous and tireless play, as he towers over all other ruckman in the competition. His ability to take marks inside 50 without a big enough defender to cover him means that he is a reliable avenue to goal. Look out for a big year from the even bigger man.



Round 8 – v West Coast, Sunday 15 May at Patersons Stadium

Round 18 – v West Coast, Sunday 24 July at Patersons Stadium

The two derbies are always heated confrontations, with Fremantle claiming both victories last year. The Dockers were led superbly by skipper Matthew Pavlich, Sandilands and Barlow, who claimed the Ross Glendenning medal and three Brownlow votes in the first derby of the year. These, sometimes spiteful, games are sure to be two feisty encounters in the 2011 season.

Round 12 – v Essendon, Sunday June 12 at Patersons Stadium


Not a side which has drawn too many rivalries outside of the Western Derby, the game against Essendon will be as close to a rivalry as they come. It will serve as a homecoming for many a player in the Fremantle side. The team from the West has almost served as a retirement home for Essendon players with Mark Johnson, Dean Solomon and coach Robert Shaw having spent much time there. This year, Adam McPhee, Kepler Bradley and coach Mark Harvey will again play host to their former side in what will also a heated battle for four points.



The loss of Barlow to a serious leg injury was always going to be a big blow in 2010. But the Dockers still managed to secure a finals spot. It will be interesting to see how they cover him this season.

Will the likes of Morabito and Roberton get the second year blues? Can Pavlich and Sandilands carry the team on their shoulders yet again? If they are to replicate their efforts in 2011, these players will have to fire again. With the help of mid-range players such as McPhee, Luke McPharlin,  Michael Johnson, Hayden Ballentyne and Ryan Crowley they could very well set the standard for the younger players and record back to back finals appearances for the first time in their history.

Will they even be able to make a push for the four? Any prediction of Fremantle’s ladder positioning is a bold prediction. Will they be able to replicate the form of the first half of last season, or will the curse of the Fremantle Shockers come back?

The public’s apprehension with predicting Fremantle’s prospect is understandable, as it relied heavily on its best players last season. If the Dockers are to become a true contender, young guns like Nathan Fyfe, Stephen Hill, Morabito and the like will need to step up before the old front hang up the boots.


5th – 9th.

Kevin Cheong is a first year Bachelor of Journalism student at La Trobe University. This is his first piece for upstart.

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