THE CLUB best prepared to deal with COVID restrictions and player infection could be in the prime position in season 2022, according to Fremantle's Alex Pearce.
The Dockers defender believes a deep list, well-placed youngsters and, ideally, a plan to stop the virus from cutting a swathe through player ranks will go a long way to deciding who thrives this year.
And it's that third option - avoiding infection completely - that Pearce plans to take.
“I still think the best thing to do is to just avoid it and not get it and not have to worry about the health risks that come with it, not have to worry about the isolating, the extra stress on keeping players apart and all that kind of thing," Pearce said on Wednesday.
"It might be wishful thinking, but we’re going to do our best to limit our exposure and make sure that as many players are available for every game this season.”
The Dockers, along with crosstown rivals West Coast, have enjoyed a relatively uninterrupted pre-season in Western Australia where COVID cases are still rare, but when the season starts it will be near impossible to avoid as AFL sides jet around the country.
"I think for us, when COVID inevitably does get into WA and we have to deal with it and we have to start traveling interstate, we’ll just have to be careful with what we do and where we go," Pearce said.
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"I think it’s going to be a real competitive advantage for the teams that can keep players on the park.
“We’ve been lucky at the moment, we’ve been able to enjoy some freedom but that’s not going to be the same for the whole season. When that comes, we’ll have to change the way we do things and look after ourselves.”
Should available player numbers dwindle at some stage, Pearce thinks Freo will still be in a strong position due to a young and well-managed list.
"I think over the past couple of years we have blooded a lot of young guys who have performed, and the competition on the training track has been fierce,” he said.
“I’m super confident that everyone’s going to be ready to step up, you use a lot of your list anyway during the season, maybe we have to use a few more. It’s just super exciting for the guys when they have the chance to step up.”