Zac Clarke will get a chance to cement a spot in the Fremantle side in the NAB Cup
FREMANTLE'S young key forwards will be given a chance to push their claims during the early stages of the NAB Cup as captain Matthew Pavlich completes his recovery from back surgery.
Pavlich, who is yet to join full training after undergoing a back operation in late November, is aiming to play at least one pre-season match in preparation for the 2013 season.
However, the champion forward's likely absence in the early rounds could present opportunities for first-year tall Jack Hannath and rookie recruits Alex Howson and Matt Tabener.
The NAB Cup will also be a chance for Zac Clarke (15 games in 2012), Jon Griffin (13) and Kepler Bradley (12) to push for round-one selection after failing to cement their positions last season.
"It's a great opportunity for all those taller players and younger key forwards to shape up and see how things will go in the next couple of weeks," defender Paul Duffield said on Friday.
"We've got some talls in the likes of Jack Hannath, Zac Clarke and Jon Griffin … Aaron Sandilands as well is in great shape.
"We're looking at those sorts of guys playing roles."
Tall defender Tanner Smith, who was recruited with pick No. 36 in the 2012 NAB AFL Draft, has impressed this pre-season and is also seen as a forward line option.
Fremantle trained at Patersons Stadium for the first time this pre-season on Friday, with the club's NAB Cup opener against West Coast and Geelong 15 days away.
Duffield, who rediscovered his best football last season after a disappointing 2011, said he was looking forward to playing in the pre-season competition after recovering from a left-knee clean up.
"I haven't missed a beat in terms of getting everything right and I'm a couple of weeks ahead of schedule, so really looking forward to getting out there and playing in a couple of weeks," he said.
"The NAB Cup provides us with a great opportunity to play games against the rest of the competition, but then also completely prime us for round one.
"That's what we're really looking forward to, but I guess as a player you're really looking forward to playing some footy again – chasing a white line around the outside doesn't necessarily always entertain you for too long."
Nathan Schmook is a reporter for AFL Media. Follow him on Twitter: @AFL_Nathan