Sandilands return won’t fix AFL Dockers

Fremantle coach Ross Lyon says his team can’t rely on Aaron Sandilands to fix all their woes when the star ruckman makes his long-awaited AFL return in Sunday’s western derby against West Coast.

The Dockers are a team in freefall after suffering a 90-point loss to Sydney in Matthew Pavlich’s 350-game milestone at Domain Stadium on Sunday.

The defeat was Ross Lyon’s biggest loss in his 236-game coaching career, with the Dockers (3-15) almost certain to finish in 16th spot on the ladder.

Sandilands hasn’t played since suffering a punctured lung and broken ribs during the round-three derby loss to West Coast.

But the 211cm ruckman has been back in full training for several weeks now, and Lyon expects Sandilands to be fit to tackle West Coast.

Zac Clarke, Jon Griffin, and Jack Hannath have all failed to adequately fill the ruck void in the absence of Sandilands.

Lyon described the situation as a “moving feast … or famine”.

But he said Fremantle’s problems ran much deeper than just the ruck.

“He should help us, but it’s a big ask,” Lyon said of Sandilands’ impending return.

“He hasn’t played for 15 weeks.

“There’s no quick fix here. People have got to stand up and take ownership and improve.”

Coincidentally, the man who inflicted the injury on Sandilands – West Coast ruckman Nic Naitanui – is also due to return.

Naitanui has missed the past six games after undergoing surgery to relieve Achilles tendon pain.

Fremantle will also be boosted by the return of goalsneak Hayden Ballantyne, who has missed two games with a fractured cheekbone.

But defender Zac Dawson is almost certain to be suspended for his brutal hip-and-shoulder on Sydney’s Jake Lloyd.

The Dockers take on West Coast, Adelaide, GWS, and the Bulldogs in their last four games, meaning there could be plenty more pain to come.

Lyon was scathing of his team’s performance against Sydney, saying pre-season can’t come quick enough.

“Men win footy games, not abstract thoughts and emotions. Men win footy games, and the team of men won the game (on Sunday),” Lyon said.

“There’s no sugar-coating this. There’s no silver bullet here.

“We’re not going to run away and hide. We need to front up and man up and say, ‘Yep, clearly we need to improve’.”

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