L-R: Caleb Serong, Andrew Brayshaw, Hayden Young. Pictures: AFL Photos

AFTER a competitive summer that coach Justin Longmuir described as the highlight of his team's pre-season, Fremantle's re-worked midfield has emerged to record historic clearance numbers this year that will set an AFL record if they continue. 

The Dockers lead the League in clearance differential in 2024, recording an average of 8.9 more than their opponents each week and a total of 107 more over their 12 games, with Port Adelaide (2.8 a game and 33) trailing in second. 

No team has ever completed a season with a total clearance differential of more than 200, but Fremantle is well on track to do that and break the Western Bulldogs' 2022 record of +182 at an average of +8.3 over that season. 

They are certainly in a strong position to create a new club record set back in 2015. 

The transformation of the Dockers' midfield, which recorded a differential of -0.8 last season, can be traced back to the summer and the decision to shift big-bodied pair Hayden Young and Nat Fyfe onball to complement star duo Caleb Serong and Andrew Brayshaw. 

Young (4.7 clearances a game) and Fyfe (5.1) have contributed significant clearance wins themselves while also helping lift Serong (7.8, AFL No.2) and Brayshaw (5.0) to career-high levels.  

Nat Fyfe handballs during the R11 match between Walyalup (Fremantle) and Collingwood at Optus Stadium on May 24, 2024. Picture: Getty Images/AFL Photos

"I think as a group, we're really growing and early in the year there was a few new pieces coming in. As a midfield group, it's really exciting what we're getting to," Serong said this week. 

"We've been doing a lot of the groundwork and getting a lot of things right around clearance and clearance numbers and the next thing for us now is becoming really damaging as a group and getting more bang for buck from those.

"That's been my focus as an individual and investing in teammates and I feel like the rest of the stuff kind of looks after itself."

Best Clearance Sides - 2024







Port Adelaide



Sydney Swans



Brisbane Lions



Western Bulldogs 



The Dockers also made an off-field shift during the summer, with Harry Garland moving from an analysis role to become stoppages and opposition coach, alongside midfield assistant Joel Corey. 

Garland had overseen the analysis of stoppages and opposition since arriving at the club in 2021 but moved into more hands-on coaching, having previously worked with West Coast as a long-time performance analyst.

The change, which was announced as part of a raft of football department changes in November, has clearly had an impact on the Dockers' stoppage returns this season. 

Best Clearance Side by Season (2019-2024)















Clearance Diff







Total Clearance Diff 







Points from Clearance Diff

+7.2 Pts

+4.9 Pts

+9.5 Pts

+7.7 Pts

+6.8 Pts

+1.9 Pts

Points from Clearance Rank







The next step for Fremantle is to generate more scores from its stoppage dominance, with Longmuir encouraged by that aspect of the game in a 92-point win against Melbourne before the round 12 bye. 

"I think we can get a bit more field position at times and I think we can structure up our forwards differently," he said on Wednesday. 

"(But) we kicked four goals out of there last week and had a really good score differential against a really good team, and a really good stoppage team, so there's probably just a few little tweaks in different areas." 

Despite their dominance with raw clearance numbers, there is significant upside still for the Dockers' midfield as ruck pair Sean Darcy and Luke Jackson build chemistry again after Darcy's absence. 

Luke Jackson wins the tap from Max Gawn during the R12 match between Fremantle and Melbourne at TIO Traeger Park on June 2, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

The team has achieved its clearance results so far while ranking 14th in the League for hitout differential and 12th for hitouts to advantage, with Jackson adding significant value as a ground-level player when he is in the ruck. 

Darcy has ranked No.3 in the AFL for the past two seasons for hitouts to advantage (11.1 and 11.3 a game) and, despite debate about the effectiveness of his partnership with Jackson, will clearly make a positive clearance difference. 

Longmuir told AFL.com.au during the pre-season that the midfield group had "all the pieces we need" in 2024 and could rebound from an inconsistent year after setting the standard for his team over a competitive summer.

It's proved an accurate summary over the first 12 weeks. The interest now will be in how far the talented group can drive the Dockers if their output stays on track for historic highs.