Fremantle coach Mark Harvey spoke to the West Australian newspaper yesterday about his preseason selection strategy, which will allegedly be based more around senior players than blooding youth. Then again, you can’t really trust anything the “Worst” reports about the Dockers, given their long-running anti-Freo editorial line.
The story quotes Harvey as saying that he will only play a “couple of younger players” in the NAB Cup. The story is perhaps overblown, but there’s a grain of truth there for fantasy coaches to cling to, in that the Fremantle best 22 is a work in progress.
A couple of things stand out at me from looking at the Fremantle list. The first is that Harvey has obviously gone to his recruiting officers before this draft and asked them to pick the eyes out of the WAFL, which led to the drafting of Hayden Ballantyne and Greg Broughton as mature-age players and Stephen Hill and Michael Walters among the kids. Harvey has evidently decided that if he’s going to turn over the list, he’s going to live or die by investing in local talent, something which he can’t be faulted for by the Docker fans. I like his thinking, personally.
The other is that, like Richmond and Brisbane, there seem to be a hell of a lot of middle-aged players who are all not quite good enough for the AFL but have clogged up the list for many years: Adam Campbell, Ryan Murphy, Brock O’Brien, Andrew Browne, Daniel Gilmore, Marcus Drum, Andrew Foster and of course Brett Potato, I mean Brett Peake. Some of these players can be given passes due to injury, but most just aren’t good enough to be in Freo’s best 22. Harvey made a good start to cleaning away the excesses of the Chris Connolly era by showing most of the average older players the door in the eoffseason. This year he needs to finish the job by letting these also-rans sink if they can’t swim, lest the team be weighed down by them like so many sheet anchors. That may mean more chances for the aforementioned draftees, as well as Nick Suban, Clancee Pearce and Matt DeBoer.
It was instructive to read this prediction post on Dockerland which could only find consistent game time for Ballantyne among the draftees, but I think that’s underselling Harvey’s commitment to list renewal. With the proviso that Ballantyne may not be sighted in the NAB due to his pre-Christmas wrist surgery, I am confident that he won’t be the only lucrative fantasy rookie in 2009 to turn out in purple. If there are only two or so places in the NAB reserved for draftees, it may be a vital sign for the regular season as to which of the multitude of solid prospects Harvey decides to play.
Are you as bullish on the Docker youth as I am? How many Docker rookies can you stomach in your squad of 30, especially those who are also taking the punt on Paul Hasleby or Des Headland? Is it just Ballantyne and no one else? Tell me in the comments.