With key forward and club captain Matthew Pavlich unavailable until at least round nine, the Dockers face the difficult task of finding a replacement target to kick a winning score. Pavlich has been a stalwart of the club for 13 years and has been their primary source of goals in that time. His latest achilles injury could be a blessing in disguise for the Dockers, as it forces them to plan for the near future when the champion centre half forward will begin to wind down his career.
Pavlich’s importance to the side is extremely high, and he is the cornerstone of the club. Last year he kicked 22% of the team’s goals and was the spearhead in a number of big wins, including the Elimination Final upset against Geelong.
Taking a look at their current list doesn’t exactly inspire hope for the future in terms of tall forwards. Kepler Bradley is the next closest choice for a developed forward and the Dockers wouldn’t want to rely on him to kick bags of goals. His role in the team is important but unfortunately he is not number one forward material. There is also the option of Michael Johnson being moved up forward. This could be a good idea until Pavlich returns but Johnson himself is 28 and doesn’t fit into the long term plans for Ross Lyon and his team.
The Dockers’ picks in last year’s Rookie Draft were used on two young tall forwards which is a step in the right direction. Matthew Taberner from the Murray Bushrangers and Alex Howson from East Fremantle were taken with picks #11 and #25 and have the raw skills to become important players in the forward 50. The main problem that Fremantle have is the fact that key position players take a long time to mature, with most not making a significant impact until they have spent three or four years in the system.
So where to for Fremantle? Do they rely on the output from their small and medium forwards, hoping that players like Ballantyne, Walters and Mayne can kick a winning score in the absence of their captain? One avenue to guaranteed goal scoring power is to clinch the highly valuable signature of Mr. Lance Franklin. Rumours are rampant in the football world that Buddy is looking to move elsewhere for the next period of his footballing life and Fremantle looms as a front runner for his services. At 26 years old he is in the prime of his career and Ross Lyon could start building towards a premiership with Buddy as the key target.
No matter what ladder position Fremantle ends up at the end of the year, they must start to plan for life after Matthew Pavlich otherwise they will struggle for winning scores against top eight teams.