Lyon defends under-par Dockers duo

Fremantle coach Ross Lyon has leapt to the defence of small forwards Hayden Ballantyne and Michael Walters, predicting it won’t be long before the dynamic duo return to peak form.

Ballantyne and Walters have combined for just 13 goals so far this season – a far cry from their output of recent years.

Despite their slow starts to the season, they’ve still played important roles in Fremantle’s surge to top spot.

Lyon predicts it won’t be long before the duo wield even more of an influence.

“There has been a bit of noise about that,” Lyon said when asked about the pair’s quiet form.

“Hayden had three shots last week and I think two of them were really gettable.

“Sonny kicked two and I thought he played really well. I gave him votes.

“Some of his ball use and kicking – I thought he kicked clutch goals.

“We could always get a little bit more, but I think they are in pretty good nick still.”

Although Ballantyne has struggled to hit the scoreboard, his tackling and frenetic pressure remain elite.

“Things aren’t going perfectly, but they aren’t going bad,” Lyon said.

“Most small forwards would take three shots on goal.”

The Dockers will be bolstered by the return of defender Luke McPharlin for Saturday night’s clash with North Melbourne at Domain Stadium.

McPharlin has missed the past two matches because of calf soreness, but he trained fully on Sunday to allay any fears of a more serious injury.

Midfielder David Mundy has also been cleared to play despite needing stitches to his head after last week’s win over the Bulldogs.

However, Ryan Crowley remains unavailable for selection while he awaits the findings of the AFL’s anti-doping tribunal.

Crowley’s case was heard on Monday, with a decision expected by early next month.

The 31-year-old has been serving a provisional suspension since September last year after testing positive to a banned substance.

“I saw him downstairs, and shook his hand,” Lyon said.

“He feels it’s a step forward in the process. I didn’t ask too many questions.

“He said he thought it was a fair hearing and from his end he thought it went well. He’s obviously waiting for an adjudication.”

Kangaroos skipper Andrew Swallow (thumb) has joined fellow prime movers Daniel Wells (Achilles tendon) and Nick Dal Santo (hamstring) on the sidelines.

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