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Premiership Bulldog growing impatient with Docker drought

Time for Dockers forward to deliver Mitch Cleary and Riley Beveridge bring you an update on the Dockers' pre-season

TWO YEARS after tasting the ultimate success at the Western Bulldogs, key defender Joel Hamling is growing impatient to play finals football at Fremantle. 

But the 25-year-old is "very optimistic" that September action might not be far away after an influx of talent, and in some cases finals experience, via the NAB AFL Trade Period and drafts.

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Hamling made the tough decision to leave the Bulldogs after playing a vital role on Sydney superstar Lance Franklin in the 2016 decider – just his 23rd career game - and joined a Dockers outfit which was in the midst of a rebuild.  

Fremantle has finished 14th in consecutive seasons since he returned to WA but gradually remodeled its best 22, with Hamling becoming a key defensive pillar alongside Alex Pearce.  

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With the additions of marking targets Jesse Hogan and Rory Lobb - plus Travis Colyer and Reece Conca - this off-season, the pieces are seemingly falling into place for a climb up the ladder and Hamling isn't shying away from rising expectations or the 'F-word'.  

"We're very optimistic. There's definitely a lot of water to go under the bridge yet, we've got a long four-month summer really to get everyone in shape, getting everyone fit, available and ready," Hamling said at Freo's 2019 team photo shoot with the AFLW squad.

"We want to go up the ladder. Not sure where we'll finish, but we're hoping to get back into finals." 

Despite finishing top 10 in the Doig Medal in both seasons in the west, Hamling has vowed to play his part by improving his game and came back a week early to pre-season as he attempts to boost his running power.  

"Personally, it's been up and down. Every player always wants to do better and get more out of themselves," Hamling said.

"I think under the circumstances I've performed reasonably well but I always want to go to another level.

"Eventually my aspirations are to get back into finals, like I said, and go from there." 

While Freo's men's team has a long grind ahead before competitive football is even on the horizon again, the club's AFLW side is gearing up for the looming 2019 campaign. 

The Dockers' women have finished seventh in both seasons of the new competition but are entering a new era under first-year coach Trent Cooper.  

"We can't wait. Now that we're back training, all the girls are really excited and there's an awesome vibe around with 10 new girls joining us," reigning club champion Ebony Antonio said. 

"We're really looking forward to a couple of pre-season games and then our first game is February 3."

Antonio has made her name as a key defender but is open to being thrown forward to address Freo's lack of marking options, and allayed fears about her fitness after off-season Achilles surgery.

The 26-year-old is back in full training and has been thrilled to see yet-to-debut marquee Kiara Bowers tearing up the track. 

"'Turbo' (Bowers) won the 2km time trial, no surprise there for the girls who have seen her play," Antonio said.

"She's looking fit, she's strong. She's eager as they come. I'm sure she's a bit nervous, but at the same time I'm sure she's really excited to pull on the jumper for the first time."