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Season preview: Fremantle

Can Nat Fyfe point the Dockers in the right direction this year? - AFL,Season previews,Fremantle Dockers,Ross Lyon
Can Nat Fyfe point the Dockers in the right direction this year?

Best 22 – round one
B: Luke Ryan, Joel Hamling, Michael Johnson
HB: Nathan Wilson, Alex Pearce, Connor Blakely
C: Bradley Hill, David Mundy, Ed Langdon
HF: Michael Walters, Cam McCarthy, Bailey Banfield
F: Brandon Matera, Matt Taberner, Hayden Ballantyne
Foll: Aaron Sandilands, Nat Fyfe, Lachie Neale
I/C: Andrew Brayshaw, Darcy Tucker, Shane Kersten, Lee Spurr

Emerg: Sean Darcy, Brennan Cox, Danyle Pearce, Cameron Sutcliffe

Fans' season preview: Fremantle

2017 best and fairest top three
1. Bradley Hill
2. Lachie Neale
3. Nat Fyfe

Injury list
The Dockers are sweating on the fitness of the Hill brothers. Bradley's quad strain is minor and he's a chance for round one, but Stephen (calf) hasn't played at all this pre-season. The Dockers won't rush them back for the season-opener. Harley Bennell (calf) should be close to playing for Peel, while Griffin Logue (foot) is expected to be available this weekend. Michael Apeness (adductor) is another week away.

The big questions

How quickly can Freo rebuild?
It's tough to answer but the Dockers enter the season with optimism and could worry some good teams this year, especially if their best 10 players stay on the park. Competition for spots is heating up and, if things go well, Freo could better last year's eight wins but at the very least the club's attack (17th
 in 2017) and defence (15th) should improve. 

Will Matt Taberner become the marking target Freo desperately needs?
The former rookie has enjoyed a standout pre-season, tallying five goals and eight contested marks against Adelaide and West Coast. Taberner has shown glimpses before but with 53 games under his belt and a clear opportunity to be the main man, 2018 could be a breakout year for the 24-year-old.

Matt Taberner is primed to be the focal point of the Fremantle attack. Picture: AFL Photos

Can Aaron Sandilands get through the entire season?
The 35-year-old is still so important to the Dockers' engine room and proved that this pre-season with some influential efforts in the ruck. While protégé Sean Darcy is AFL-ready, if Sandilands can put two injury-ravaged years behind him and play every game, as he wants to, then Freo's prospects will be significantly brighter.

Look for…
A significant boost in pressure. The Dockers copped some hammerings last year and want to become tough to play again. Already this pre-season we've seen a lift in intensity around their contested ball work while Freo's chasing and tackling has been noticeable across the board, but particularly from their small forwards. The desire to ramp up their pressure has made it tough to squeeze two ruckmen into the same line-up. 

Who they play
Ross Lyon knows the Dockers need to hit the start line running with five of last year's finalists looming in the opening seven weeks. But there is a chance to build a head of steam mid-year when the Dockers face four of last year's bottom six in the space of five games from round 10 onwards. Freo doesn't face any of the 2017 top-four twice.

Fantasy cash cow
Not only can Andrew Brayshaw find the footy, but the No.2 NAB AFL Draft pick loves to wrap-up opponents in tackles and he seems a bargain pick-up for $268,000. The 18-year-old laid a game-high nine tackles to go with 19 touches in the final JLT Community Series clash with West Coast – earning him 82 fantasy points - after picking up 14 touches with six tackles against the Crows. He appears primed to debut in round one and will get plenty of opportunities in 2018 running through the Dockers' engine room. 

Sudden impact
Rookie bolter Bailey Banfield has been all but guaranteed a start in the season-opener by Ross Lyon after slotting in seamlessly as a pressure forward, while Brayshaw also seems highly-likely to debut against Port Adelaide. Former Giants star Nathan Wilson is a no-brainer at half-back and ex-Suns goalsneak Brandon Matera has done enough to receive an opportunity in the early rounds. 

It's crunch time for…
Lee Spurr. The 30-year-old wasn't picked for the opening pre-season game due to an interrupted summer and is set to face stiffer competition for spots in Freo's evolving defence this season. Spurr, who was omitted from the leadership group, still has a role to play but needs to make every post a winner in the final year of his contract. 

Lee Spurr needs a big season to earn another contract with Fremantle. Picture: AFL Photos

Pressure rating on the coach
Freo's backing the Boss. As long as the Dockers compete fiercely and show improvement then Ross Lyon, who is contracted until 2020, will be given time to complete the rebuild.

The 2017 habit the Dockers must kick…
Is rolling over and turning losses into blowouts. Freo copped three triple-figure hammerings last year and must limit the damage in 2018. 

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The Dockers will have a good year if…
Their best 10-12 players can avoid injuries. Michael Walters, Aaron Sandilands, Hayden Ballantyne, Alex Pearce and Connor Blakely all missed chunks of football last year, but the Dockers' best team will be competitive.

They’re in trouble if …
Matt Taberner and Cam McCarthy don't kick at least 60 goals between them. While Nat Fyfe and David Mundy will spend time forward, the Dockers need other reliable marking targets who can hit the scoreboard.

Pass mark
Winning eight games again would still be a pass, as long as the Dockers don't cop as many hidings. Improving their percentage from 74.4 last year to somewhere in the 90s would be a sign of progress. predicted ladder finish: 13th

Player Ratings star
Lachie Neale, 10th. The ball magnet battled groin and knee soreness last year but climbed to that career-high after another consistent campaign averaging 27 touches in 21 games.