Freo, Bombers battle at the bottom of AFL

While the AFL premiership is wide open, the other end of the ladder will have a much clearer focus after Saturday night.

Fremantle will host Essendon and the match will go a long way towards deciding who will “win” the wooden spoon.

One half of this equation was never in doubt, given the Bombers’ well-documented doping bans and the makeshift nature of their team in 2016.

Adding to their woes, injuries are starting to take effect.

Michael Hartley hurt his hamstring in Saturday night’s loss to Richmond and ruck-forward Sam Michael might have to go into the side as a key defender against the Dockers.

But Fremantle’s plummet to the foot of the ladder has been as astonishing as Essendon’s problems have been predictable.

A year ago, the Dockers had opened the season with a nine-game winning streak and would make the preliminary finals.

They were rightly bullish about contending again, but after 10 rounds, Fremantle are the only team without a win.

While Essendon also are struggling, they managed an upset win over Melbourne in round two.

Brisbane are in the neighbourhood as well with only one win, but they showed strong signs of life in Saturday’s loss to Hawthorn.

The other bottom-four residents are Gold Coast, whose strong start to the season means they are two games clear of the Lions and Bombers.

Saturday’s match will show whether Fremantle turned a corner last weekend.

After a woeful first quarter against St Kilda, Dockers coach Ross Lyon ripped into his players at quarter-time.

Fremantle then improved to the point where they were leading in the last quarter before the Saints rallied for the win.

“It’s just feedback (that) we need to improve, isn’t it,” Lyon said of defensive skill errors in the pivotal last term.

Fremantle’s poor form means inevitable speculation about tanking for draft picks – something they vehemently deny.

The danger for the Dockers and Bombers is without a win or two soon, morale will suffer.

Essendon coach John Worsfold is determined that whatever happens in his first season at the club, the Bombers will not wallow.

In-form David Zaharakis admitted at the weekend that with the Melbourne winter nearly upon them, the Bombers had to be mindful about morale.

“When you’re 1-9, you do always think about that,” Zaharakis told Channel Nine’s Sunday Footy Show.

“What is going to be the vibe of the group?

“With us, we just keep blooding young guys and having those new guys coming in.”

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