When the teams come around tonight for this round’s action, Fremantle’s changes will at the very least read: ‘Out: M.Barlow (injury), N.Fyfe (suspension), Z.Dawson (suspension)’.
Coming into the highly anticipated Grand Final rematch against Hawthorn, the last thing the Dockers would have wanted was losing two of their most industrious midfielders, along with a key cog in their defensive setup.
However, in Fremantle’s search for both vindication and redemption, their midfield depth will have to showcase their quality – which, fortunately for them, they have in abundance.
Naturally, losing Fyfe and Barlow takes a lot away from the prolificness of the midfield group. Both stars have been in ripping form to start the season, and will need to be replaced ably if they are to get the four points against the Hawks.
Despite losing two of their best players, Fremantle’s midfield group runs deep. Mundy, Crowley, Hill, Pearce, Mzungu and Suban will all spend significant time in the middle tomorrow night.
In addition to that, the likes of De Boer, Walters, Sheridan and likely inclusion Lachie Neale will feature in the guts throughout the game.
Undoubtedly, the two midfield exclusions will take a toll on Fremantle. However, time and time again, Ross Lyon has proved in the past that his game plan is suited to role players. The absence in quality of Fyfe and Barlow will be rectified, through both a player doing their job and the increased effort and output by those around them.
You just know that Lyon will hammer home to his troops that it wasn’t Fyfe nor Barlow who got them to their first Grand Final last year. It was the collective.
With Fremantle’s midfielders, it’s not a case of merely making up the numbers when someone is missing. They so often put in a performance which adds to Lyon’s selection headaches during the week.
It’s easy to forget, amidst the gloom that would normally come with losing that type of quality, that the Dockers have the best role player in the competition.
Ryan Crowley regularly takes out the opposition’s best player; it is now an anomaly when a player gets the better of him, rather than the other way around.
What’s also been lost during the week is that Luke Hodge will miss tomorrow night through injury, and Sam Mitchell is coming off a calf injury. The fact that Crowley could go to what would regularly be the third tagging choice is a scary proposition for Alastair Clarkson’s men, given what Crowley can do to the game’s very best.
In addition to that, they have the most dominant ruckman in the competition in Aaron Sandilands running around, which is always handy.
Their quality in numbers is evident with Colin Sylvia not travelling with the squad to Melbourne. The ex-Demon hasn’t had a look in since joining as a free agent last year.
Along with their quality in personnel, their temperament is one of the best in the league, and is synonymous with Ross Lyon-coached sides. The players work for one another and their maniacal pressure on the ball carrier will absolutely be in force every week, regardless of who plays and who doesn’t.
When it comes to tomorrow night’s game, many people have jumped off the Dockers bandwagon given their exclusions. Yet both the playing group and the coach will make sure the side picked will go out there and ruffle the Hawks’ feathers from start to finish.
The added notion of redemption in football always adds something extra in football, too. See Geelong against Hawthorn. You just know the Dockers will set out for something similar, and they’ve got the quality in both talent and mindset to do it.
It will be no easy feat to beat the Hawks tomorrow night; there’s a reason they’re the reigning premier. Freo would know as much as anyone how difficult it will be. But you know they won’t be making excuses, and the playing group won’t be feeling sorry for themselves.
While Fyfe returns in a fortnight, Barlow will be out of action for six weeks. Freo would undoubtedly love to have him on the park, especially given their run of games ahead. But whoever fills the void will absolutely be more than capable to make amends for his inaction.
For any regular team, the loss of Nathan Fyfe and Michael Barlow would be irreplaceable. However, this season, it seems like Fremantle aren’t just any regular team.
You’d have to have the quality around the ground and in depth to rectify losing those two; luckily for Freo, they clearly have both.