FREMANTLE has maintained a laser-focus on Brisbane during its second week in quarantine, with coach Justin Longmuir confident the players have been able to steer clear of top-eight distractions after re-entering the fight for the last two finals spots.
The Dockers jumped from 12th to eighth last Sunday with their thrilling four-point win against Richmond and will strengthen their hold on a finals spot if they can back that up with a win against the sixth-placed Lions at Optus Stadium on Sunday.
With West Coast a game clear in seventh, but still looking shaky, the Dockers are in a fight for eighth predominantly with Greater Western Sydney, Essendon and Richmond. Carlton and St Kilda remain mathematical chances.
Longmuir said the experience of staying focused and avoiding the buzz from fans, who have not seen a Fremantle finals campaign since 2015, was a good one for his young team to go through.
"It’s a balance of how much social media players consume and how much of the news players consume," the coach said.
"They’re the distractions we need to monitor and we need to deal with. The situation of this year is just another great experience for all our young players to go through.
"Not every player will get it right all the time, but these are experiences you have to go through to become a good side. It’s going to hold us in good stead for years to come."
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Longmuir said the Dockers, who come out of quarantine after the Lions clash, had only wavered in their preparation this season after jumping to seventh on the ladder after their win against Hawthorn in round 17.
This week's challenge will include matching it with the Lions' strong-bodied midfielders, including former Docker and two-time Doig medallist Lachie Neale, who was an early mentor for Fremantle's young onballers.
That task will fall to Andrew Brayshaw, Adam Cerra and Caleb Serong, who Longmuir said had all stepped up in the absence of injured captain Nat Fyfe and helped lead the team against Richmond.
"I was really happy with not only the way they played, but they led the players during the week, and even on game day," the coach said.
"All of our mids took on a little bit more responsibility, and it also allows them to get more game time in the midfield as well."
Longmuir said second-year forward Liam Henry would continue on a wing for the rest of the season as part of the midfield shuffle in Fyfe's absence where he can use his speed and classy ball-use.
Regular medical substitute Connor Blakely will also come under consideration for a full match after impressing once again when given the opportunity to replace the injured Bailey Banfield (concussion) on Sunday.
Key defender Alex Pearce has ticked every box in his recovery from concussion and will return against the Lions if he gets through main training this week.
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Longmuir said a return for tall defender Brennan Cox this season was "very realistic" after a diligent rehabilitation from hamstring surgery that will see him in full training next week.
"Probably in round 23 he'll be available," Longmuir said.
"It would be nice to get a couple of key talls in the same team. I don't think it's happened since I've been here.
"It's a great effort by him and I'd like to reward that as well."