PERTH, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 04: Rory Lobb of the Dockers taps the ball during the 2019 JLT Community Series AFL match between the Fremantle Dockers and the Collingwood Magpies at HBF Arena on March 04, 2019 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Will Russell/AFL Media/Getty Images)

Last Season

Fremantle were very firmly in the middle of the pack last year, beating teams below them and losing to those above.

They managed eight wins on the year to finish in 14th for the second year running.

They fell away badly at the end of the season, only winning one of their last six games including a 133-point loss to Geelong in round 22.

Nat Fyfe was a highlight as he recaptured his Brownlow Medal winning form before suspension and injury derailed his season.

Despite only playing 15 games, Fyfe managed 16 votes showcasing that he is still a superstar in the league.

Their best and fairest winner, Lachie Neale, is no longer with the club and could prove tough to replace due to his ability to consistently find the footy.

Their lack of presence up forward was a major issue, with Michael Walters kicking 22 goals and Hayden Ballantyne 21 to lead the side in terms of goalkicking.

Ed Langdon and Connor Blakely both had breakout years through the middle of the ground and will be looking to carry that momentum forward, while Cam McCarthy had another disappointing year managing only 19 goals in 17 games.

The young players also displayed their talent with Andrew Brayshaw and Bailey Banfield in particular showing that they will contributing players for Freo over the next few years.

Off-season moves

In: Jesse Hogan (Melbourne), Rory Lobb (GWS Giants), Reece Conca (Richmond), Travis Colyer (Essendon), Sam Sturt (Pick 17, Dandenong Stingrays), Luke Valente (Pick 32, Norwood), Lachlan Schultz (Pick 57, Williamstown), Brett Bewley (Pick 59, Williamstown), Tobe Watson (Rookie, Swan Districts), Jason Carter (Category B rookie, Peel Thunder)

Out: Lachie Neale (Brisbane Lions), Tommy Sheridan (GWS Giants), Michael Johnson (retired), Danyle Pearce (retired), Lee Spurr (retired), Cameron Sutcliffe (delisted), Brady Grey (delisted), Luke Strnadica (delisted), Michael Apeness (delisted)

Off-season grade: A

For a while it looked like Fremantle would finish the off-season without the top level talent everyone thought they would get.

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A blitz on the final day of the trade period saw the Dockers end up with star young forward Jesse Hogan and versatile big man Rory Lobb.

The addition of Hogan gives Freo their first major key forward since Matthew Pavlich, while Lobb is in an ideal situation to be both a back-up ruck and a secondary tall forward.

The additions of Reece Conca and Travis Colyer will add depth and experience to the side as well as speed and penetration off half-back and on the wing.

Their draft was fairly quiet, with their first pick coming at number 17.

The selection, Sam Sturt, is very much a prospect for the future having focused on cricket for much of his junior career and never having done an AFL pre-season at any level due to these commitments.

Defining period

To open the season Fremantle have three games that they will definitely feel they can win.

North Melbourne and St Kilda at home and Gold Coast away will have Docker fans hoping they can go into the round four derby undefeated and near the top of the table.

If they could carry momentum into the derby then there is no reason why they couldn’t knock off the reigning premiers despite not beating West Coast since the 2015 season.

Best 22

FB: Luke Ryan, Joel Hamling, Griffin Logue

HB: Reece Conca, Alex Pearce, Nathan Wilson

C: Bradley Hill, David Mundy, Stephen Hill

HF: Michael Walters, Matt Taberner, Adam Cerra

FF: Rory Lobb, Jesse Hogan, Hayden Ballantyne 

R: Aaron Sandilands, Nat Fyfe, Connor Blakely 

I/C: Andrew Brayshaw, Ed Langdon, Bailey BanfieldTravis Colyer

Strengths and Weaknesses

The additions of Jesse Hogan and Rory Lobb mean that the Dockers now have one the strongest forward lines in the competition. Adding Hogan and Lobb to the likes of Matt Taberner, Michael Walters, Hayden Ballantyne and Cam McCarthy means that they have multiple options and plenty of depth.

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Hogan is the key forward they have been searching for since the retirement of Matthew Pavlich and with more than 40 goals in three of his four years in the league he has plenty of consistency too.

Their depth is an issue. Should they be struck with injuries, the Dockers may have cause for concern as they will likely need to fall back on a number of young players.

While these players are far from ordinary, they are still fairly new to the AFL level and it will take time for them to adapt to the highest level and play with consistency.

Prediction

14th

The Dockers have certainly improved, but still lack any real star power aside from Nat Fyfe.

Bailey Banfield and Andrew Brayshaw look set to be key features of the Dockers’ midfield over the next few years.

Banfield especially has shown he is capable of being a tagger in a similar style to former Freo cult hero Ryan Crowley.

The additions of Jesse Hogan and Rory Lobb will bolster the forward line and the midfield key targets to kick to.

These additions could see Cam McCarthy put to one side for the time being, but at only 23 there is still time for the forward to find his way in the league.

Freo are in a similar position to where North Melbourne were this time last season.

There are very few expectations on them with many considering the teams around them to be more talented and in a better position to compete.

However, the Dockers might just surprise a few people, especially if they start the season off in the right way.