Dockers gamble on underdone AFL defender

Fremantle have sent an SOS to defender Alex Silvagni as the club attempts to address its forward-line woes in time for the finals.

Silvagni will be rushed back into the side to replace suspended veteran Zac Dawson for Sunday’s AFL clash with St Kilda at Etihad Stadium.

The move will allow fellow defender Alex Pearce to remain up forward for a second straight game, giving the Dockers another chance to evaluate the 20-year-old’s attacking potential.

Pearce showed glimpses of promise playing as a key forward in last week’s 21-point win over GWS, kicking one major from four shots on goal.

And with fellow spearhead options Matt Taberner and Zac Clarke out of form, coach Ross Lyon is keen to give Pearce the chance to lock down a permanent key-forward berth in the lead-in to the finals.

Silvagni has battled hamstring issues for most of the year, restricting him to just two matches.

His first outing was for WAFL side Peel Thunder in April when he tore his hamstring, and his only other match was for Peel’s reserves three weeks ago.

Silvagni and Luke McPharlin will have their hands full containing Saints duo Nick Riewoldt and Josh Bruce on Sunday.

Lyon is adamant Silvagni, who hasn’t played for the Dockers since last year’s qualifying final loss to Sydney, will be ready to fire against St Kilda despite his limited build-up.

“We’ve got no concerns,” Lyon said.

“Zac (Dawson) was the same (before he played last week).

“Silvagni has got great character off the field, and great football character.

“He’s come from the VFL, and persisted and persevered. He’s really popular.”

Pearce had two set shots from 45m out that failed to make the distance against the Giants.

Lyon said the failed shots were probably more to do with a mental block rather than any major technical flaws.

“They (the club’s goalkicking experts) just spoke about swinging the club – just relax a little bit. And then he slotted the next one,” Lyon said.

“He’s fundamentally a pretty good kick. A little bit of an awkward style, You wouldn’t say he’s a classic disposer of the ball.

“But it’s about effectiveness, and he’s quite an effective kick.”

The Dockers have struggled to find consistent goalkickers this year.

Skipper Matthew Pavlich and goalsneak Michael Walters have each booted 32 goals, and Chris Mayne is next best with 21 to his name.

But Taberner (12) and Clarke (6) failed to grasp their chances up forward when trialled as secondary spearheads to Pavlich.

The ladder-leading Dockers hope Pearce can fill that void as the club attempts to snare its maiden premiership.

Star midfielder Nat Fyfe will miss a second straight match because of a groin injury, but Lyon is confident the Brownlow medal favourite will return for next week’s western derby.

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