PERTH, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 25: The Fremantle Dockers leave the arena after the loss during the 2015 AFL First Preliminary Final match between the Fremantle Dockers and the Hawthorn Hawks at Domain Stadium, Perth, Australia on September 25, 2015. (Photo by Daniel Carson/AFL Media/Getty Images)

The season so far: Fremantle

Five teams left as we take a look at last season’s minor Premiers, Fremantle.

Pre-Season Prediction: 3rd

Current Position: 16th

Forecast: 16th placed finish

What a fall from grace this has been for Ross Lyon’s Fremantle Dockers. From claiming the minor premiership in 2015 to sitting just two games from bottom spot. I could not have possibly imagined that it would turn out this way given their home ground advantage, experienced list, good coach etc. But, its happened and for Fremantle now, its all about the rebuild.

It all started pretty pear shaped for Fremantle, losing their first ten games of the season. They were the talking point of the AFL as everyone tried to get their head around what has happened to this football club. Losing Nat Fyfe was a massive loss, as was Aaron Sandilands, but what is probably more concerning is the fact that their number one forward target is 34 years of age and not in the best of form. Their inability to kick a winning score has contributed to most of their losses.

Since that 34-point loss to St Kilda in round 10, they’ve won three out of their last five games, with wins over Essendon, Brisbane and Port Adelaide virtually ensuring they don’t finish last on the ladder. They’ve shown signs of turning around their poor form but with a hard run home to the season, Ross Lyon will probably be content with the three wins given what has happened so far in 2016.

What’s Gone Right

Not much has right for Fremantle this year, but Tackles are an area in which the club has drastically improved on from 2015. At the moment, the Dockers are ranked fourth in the competition for Tackles, averaging 73.4 a game. A steady improvement on last year’s numbers where they ranked 13th with just 63.6 a game. Chris Mayne, Michael Barlow and Nick Suban are leading the way in these stats averaging five to six tackles a game. Under Ross Lyon, Fremantle have been known for their pressure on the ball carrier and that hasn’t changed so much this year, its just more elements need to work in order for their strategy to play out as planned.

Despite just winning the three games this year, Fremantle have rarely been blown out of the water. The Western Bulldogs in round one represents their only loss over 50 points this season and they actually entered Round 15 with a better percentage than Carlton, a team that has three more wins than the Dockers.

Rarely does this happen under Ross Lyon, but have been plenty of young players that have impressed out West this season. Connor Blakely has played 10 of his 11 career games this year and has definitely impressed. He earned a Rising Star nomination in round 11 and is sure to be a vital part of the club’s future. Lachie Weller is another one that his been solid in 2016, playing every game for Fremantle this season. Mature-age recruit Sam Collins has also been strong in his debut season.

What’s Gone Wrong

Plenty has gone wrong but the following would of been predicted by any footy fan that has a brain. Fremantle chased forward targets in the off-season and came up short, leaving them with an incredibly bare forward line. The main question heading into 2016 for the Dockers was where they are going to get their goals from and its carried through to the present point of the season. Fremantle are ranked 16th for points scored per game, only averaging 10.9 goals a game. Last season that was fine as their defence was able to hold up, but add another year to their experienced players and problems start to occur, Matthew Pavlich isn’t what his once was and the ageing backline can’t keep up with the amount of opponent inside 50s they’re conceding.

during the round eight AFL match between the Hawthorn Hawks and the Fremantle Dockers at Aurora Stadium on May 14, 2016 in Launceston, Australia.
during the round eight AFL match between the Hawthorn Hawks and the Fremantle Dockers at Aurora Stadium on May 14, 2016 in Launceston, Australia.

The worst place for a football club to be is down the bottom with a mature age list. Pavlich is set to retire, Aaron Sandilands is 33. Michael Johnson is 31 and even recently appointed skipper David Mundy is 30. They’re all in the twilight of their careers. How do you replace such important talent quickly? Its incredibly difficult. Hawthorn and Geelong are recent examples of two clubs that pulled it off.

Star Player

LAUNCESTON, AUSTRALIA - MAY 14:  Lachie Neale of the Dockers runs with the ball during the round eight AFL match between the Hawthorn Hawks and the Fremantle Dockers at Aurora Stadium on May 14, 2016 in Launceston, Australia.  (Photo by Michael Dodge/Getty Images)
LAUNCESTON, AUSTRALIA – MAY 14: Lachie Neale of the Dockers runs with the ball during the round eight AFL match between the Hawthorn Hawks and the Fremantle Dockers at Aurora Stadium on May 14, 2016 in Launceston, Australia. (Photo by Michael Dodge/Getty Images)

While a lot of the team has failed to live up to the billing, young midfielder Lachie Neale has been sensational. His incredible 2016 numbers speak for themselves. He’s averaging 32.8 disposals a game, 73 per cent efficiency, 16 of them contested, 309 metres gained per outing, fivescore involvements, four marks, fourtackles, three inside 50s, four intercept possessions and five turnovers per game. Gary Ablett set the standard in winning a Brownlow Medal in a under performing team, Lachie Neale may be the second guy to do it if he continues this type of form for the remaining fixtures.

Star Rookies/Recruits

FREMANTLE, WESTERN AUSTRALIA - APRIL 05: Harley Bennell of the Dockers looks on during  Fremantle Dockers AFL training session at Fremantle Oval on April 5, 2016 in Fremantle, Australia.  (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)
FREMANTLE, WESTERN AUSTRALIA – APRIL 05: Harley Bennell of the Dockers looks on during Fremantle Dockers AFL training session at Fremantle Oval on April 5, 2016 in Fremantle, Australia. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

Boom recruit Harley Bennell is yet to play a game for the club. Bennell came into the Fremantle team, rated as an elite mid-forward by Champion Data, with expectation he would add firepower to a side that struggles to score. Yet Bennell hasn’t taken the field in 2016 after injuring his calf in the pre-season and then re-injuring it in May. Subsequently the Dockers have ruled him out for the rest of the season.

Second Half Expectations

A tough, tough draw awaits Fremantle in the remaining seven games with a fired-up Geelong coming into town on Friday night. Followed by that its off to the Gold Coast where they may claim their fourth win, but highly doubtful.

All top eight sides follow after that Gold Coast trip with games against Sydney, West Coast, Adelaide, GWS and the Bulldogs. They will not win any of those games and I don’t they’ll beat the Suns up there, so I think they will just stay with the three wins. The clubs below them aren’t any better so the Dockers will remain in 16th.

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