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Star spearhead Hogan is not the 'saviour', says Lyon

Freo speedster up and running Mitch Cleary and Riley Beveridge discuss Fremantle's pre-season.

STAR spearhead Jesse Hogan is not the "saviour" who will end Fremantle's recent scoring drought, coach Ross Lyon warns. 

In each of the past three seasons the rebuilding Dockers have finished in the bottom three teams for scoring, with their best average return in that stretch a lowly 73 points a game in 2017.

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However, Freo appears extremely well placed after last year's NAB AFL Trade Period to change all that. 

Ever since Lyon took over as coach at the end of 2011, the Dockers had been desperately searching for a key forward, most notably missing out on big-name targets Travis Cloke, Jack Riewoldt and Mitch Clark.

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So when they snared Hogan from Melbourne last October along with fellow West Australian Rory Lobb from Greater Western Sydney, they finally seemed to have the forward line marking power to open their scoring floodgates.

Hogan, in particular, as one of the game's most prodigious young talents, appeared the answer to their prayers.

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However, Lyon told Fremantle could not rely solely on 2015's NAB AFL Rising Star to turn its scoring fortunes around.

"Jesse is a bona fide A-grade key forward, but he's certainly not a saviour. AFL footy is not about one player," Lyon said.

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Nonetheless, adding Hogan, 195cm, and Lobb, 207cm, to Freo's forward line mix should help transform an attack that Lyon conceded looked "a little bit undersized" last year, especially when Matt Taberner was sidelined with injury.

With Taberner, 199cm, Brennan Cox, 193cm, Cam McCarthy, 192cm, among Fremantle's other forward options, Lyon suddenly has a wealth of talls to call on.

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The Freo coach says this will change the way his team plays "a bit", with the Dockers keen to take advantage of their new aerial targets by getting the ball inside their forward 50m arc quickly. 

"You've got to give them a chance to get the ball when you can and give them good ground level support. Our challenge is to make sure we get the ball to Hogan, Taberner, Lobb and those guys," he said.

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"I don't think it changes the world, but it certainly helps having some targets." 

Lyon and his coaching staff are grappling with what the Dockers' optimum forward line structure will be on a daily basis.

That could include playing Hogan and Lobb alongside a third tall such as Taberner.

"The trend in AFL footy is the smaller mobile forward line but the Eagles were able to play taller, so how many (talls) exactly we play we're going to have to work through it," Lyon said.

"Until we get to games and assess availability, it's a case of best-laid plans. We had Connor Blakely playing midfield last week but we won't see him until round seven now. It makes it hard. 

"It's a little bit difficult. It's a daily thing going through my mind, trying to figure it out." 

Ross Lyon is excited by Freo's young list. Picture: AFL Photos

Another on-field dilemma facing the Dockers in 2019 is filling the considerable midfield hole left by Lachie Neale's departure to Brisbane in last year's Trade Period.

Lyon is confident Freo has the midfield stocks to cover the loss of Neale – on one proviso: its onball group enjoys a reasonable run with injury.

So the coach readily concedes he is concerned two of the players he had slated for bigger midfield roles, Stephen Hill (quad) and Connor Blakely (hamstring), will make delayed starts to the season through injury. 

Nonetheless, with veteran ball-winner David Mundy set to be released from the forward line role he played in 2018, the addition of experienced recruits Reece Conca and Travis Colyer, and the rapid development of youngsters Andrew Brayshaw and Adam Cerra, Lyon thinks the Dockers can hold their own in the middle of the ground. 

"With Fyfe, Mundy, Brayshaw, Cerra and Conca going through there, we're still pretty healthy and on our wings we've got enormous run with Brad Hill, Ed Langdon, Darcy Tucker and Colyer. Michael Walters is a pretty handy midfielder too," he said.

"Again it's just trying to get to the line healthy. I think we can structure up there pretty quickly if we do."

After winning 2015's minor premiership, Fremantle has finished 16th, 14th and 14th, winning eight games in each of the past two seasons. 

Since 2016 the Dockers have turned over 31 players, an aggressive list overhaul that will see them enter the 2019 season with only 11 players older than 25, including just three 30 or older. 

"We're young, but that's exciting. We're building, we want to improve and we're aiming to play finals," Lyon said.

"But in saying that we fell off the cliff in 2016, played what we had, then went to the draft in 2017 and 2018, so it's still relatively early. From my view we improved last year and I expect us to improve again.

"We see really bright futures for Cerra, Brayshaw, Stefan Giro, Brennan Cox, Luke Ryan, Sean Darcy, Darcy Tucker, all those kind of guys.

"You hear the pressures of timeframe. Are you going to win? How long does a rebuild take? I'm not stuck on that, I know it takes time.  

"But no one wants to win and improve quicker than I do and our players do. We're committed to that, we want it to happen quickly, but I understand there are going to be some ups and downs."