Alex Pearce leads the Dockers out before the round one match between Fremantle and Brisbane at Optus Stadium, March 17, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

FREMANTLE coach Justin Longmuir has labelled Alex Pearce's start to the AFL season as phenomenal, but says fans will have to tune in to see whether the skipper's next target will be Adelaide's Taylor Walker.

Pearce endured a tough first year as captain in 2023, with his form and leadership both questioned as the Dockers sank to 14th on the ladder.

The 28-year-old was barely able to train last year due to an ongoing leg injury.

But a fully fit Pearce has played a key role to Fremantle's 2-0 start this season, with his ability to shut down his opponent and win the contest proving crucial.

Pearce kept North Melbourne spearhead Nick Larkey to one goal last week and he tallied 19 disposals to help Fremantle come from behind against Brisbane in round one. 

Alex Pearce is tackled during the round one match between Fremantle and Brisbane at Optus Stadium, March 17, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

"He's had a great pre-season, probably the most (of a) pre-season he's done since I've been in the club," Longmuir said ahead of Friday night's clash with the Crows at Optus Stadium.

"He's just been phenomenal about how well he's played in the first few games. 

"He's not only been able to quell his opponent but he's been able to win the ball back for us as well. So he's playing super."

Longmuir feels Pearce has struck a better balance between his leadership commitments and his own preparation this year.

Alex Pearce leads his team after the round 21 match between Fremantle and Brisbane at Optus Stadium, August 06, 2023. Picture: Getty Images

"There's only so much time in the week and maybe last year there were a couple of times where he could have worried about himself a little bit more," Longmuir said.

Walker, who kicked 2.2 in last week's 19-point loss to Geelong, looms as the likely match-up for Pearce, but Darcy Fogarty is another option.

"You'll have to tune in," Longmuir said with a smile when asked about Pearce's match-up.

Longmuir was in a playful mood on Thursday, even having a laugh as a tour bus rolled past his press conference at Optus Stadium.


Things are more serious for Adelaide, who are 0-2 and already facing a fork-in-the-road moment as they attempt to qualify for the finals for the first time since 2017.

The Crows' midfield has been criticised across the opening two rounds for being too slow and lacking flair.

Rory Laird, Matt Crouch and Jordan Dawson are all noted ball winners but lack pace, with coach Matthew Nicks handing the likes of Izak Rankine, Josh Rachele, Luke Pedlar and Sam Berry midfield bursts to help give his team a spark. 

"We're constantly looking at the midfield and I guess how we change that dynamic a little, support what is already in there," Nicks said.

Matt Crouch and Jordan Dawson after the round two match between Adelaide and Geelong at Adelaide Oval, March 22, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

"Matt Crouch is in, I'd say, career-best form. He has, the first two rounds of this season, been a standout.

"We've now got to put some players around that, that might give us a little bit more explosive outside game."

Fremantle spearhead Matt Taberner sent a scare through the camp earlier this week when he appeared to tweak his troublesome back at training, but Longmuir declared the veteran a certain starter against Adelaide.

Nat Fyfe, who was subbed off during last week's 26-point win over North Melbourne, is also fit to play.