Safe to say that 2018 wasn’t the kindest to the Fremantle Dockers.
Pessimists would describe it as a disaster while the most optimistic of the purple haze will say they can see the light at the end of this gloomy tunnel.
It was officially a rebuilding phase prior to October but the Dockers, with new head of footy Peter Bell at the helm, worked tirelessly in the trade period to strengthen their list with experienced players.
Jesse Hogan and Rory Lobb will reshape Freo completely and help transform the way they play, while Reece Conca and Travis Colyer provide some experience and depth.
2019 should be a year of progression, but there is still plenty of work to do for Ross Lyon and co. before supporters can sleep easy.
Below is what Fremantle’s best 22 looks like pre-draft:
FB: Luke Ryan, Joel Hamling, Nathan Wilson
HB: Reece Conca, Alex Pearce, Stephen Hill
C: Brad Hill, Nat Fyfe, Ed Langdon
HF: Andrew Brayshaw, Rory Lobb, David Mundy
FF: Brennan Cox, Jesse Hogan, Brandon Matera
Fol: Sean Darcy, Connor Blakely, Michael Walters
Int: Adam Cerra, Darcy Tucker, Travis Colyer, Bailey Banfield
The Dockers will be reeling after losing dual Best and Fairest Lachie Neale in the trade period.
They now need to add midfield quality in order to allow Nathan Fyfe, David Mundy and Michael Walters to share the load.
Connor Blakely will return from injury, and new recruits Colyer and Conca will add to the rotation, but elite midfield quality is a necessity.
Impressive pair Adam Cerra and Andrew Brayshaw will no doubt bring natural improvement, but a top-end youngster or two to come through alongside them would make the future appear much brighter.
The Dockers basically met their short-term needs during the trade period by bringing in a pair of key forwards in Hogan and Lobb.
That was the main area that needed to be addressed and for Freo fans, they’ll be feeling buoyant after finally landing the man (Hogan) they’ve wanted for a while.
Add the incoming duo to promising youngster Brennan Cox and the forward line suddenly looks set to flourish after a recent era of underperformance.
On the agenda must be a small-to-medium sized forward to replace Hayden Ballantyne who, despite kicking 21 goals in 2018, is set to commence stepping to the side for the future.
Michael Walters simply has to spend more time in the midfield so an up-and-coming youngster capable of providing forward pressure and with an eye for goal would be handy.
Another short-term need is to completely unleash Sean Darcy as the number one ruckman. There’s no point playing him scond fiddle to veteran Aaron Sandilands who will more than likely retire at the end of next season.
They must get games into Darcy now.
Draft picks: 14, 31, 43, 65, 81
Who could they target?
The Dockers will no doubt have been looking closely at speedy Western Australian talent Ian Hill throughout 2018 and prior.
The second cousin of Brad and Stephen is a fast and skilful half-forward who can also operate through the midfield, which addresses two of the club’s needs.
Talented midfielder/half-forward Zak Butters from the Western Jets is a player that has been on Fremantle’s radar and could be on his way to WA if not taken before 14.
Similarly, if Jordan Clark gets through to 14, the Dockers will “strongly consider” the attacking half-back, according to AFL.com.au draft guru Cal Twomey.
The U18 Championship All-Australian was recently hit with glandular fever but that should not dissuade Freo, especially considering he is a Claremont product.
Gippsland Power midfielder Xavier Duursma and Geelong Falcons small forward/mid Ned McHenry may also be considered with their first pick while exciting local boy Sydney Stack may feature at Pick 31.
To appease their midfield needs if they miss key targets earlier in the draft, the Dockers could potentially throw 2018 Sandover Medallist Jye Bolton an AFL lifeline with a late pick.