Fremantle coach Ross Lyon has lost something important – and he hopes a feisty goalsneak and an out-of-favour forward can help him find it again.
The Dockers enter Saturday’s qualifying final against Sydney with huge question marks hovering over their misfiring attack.
The return of 173cm-antagonist Hayden Ballantyne from a eight-week pectoral injury is a huge boost, while Lyon has gambled on spearhead Matt Taberner to come good during the finals.
Fremantle, led by their rampant midfield, averaged 94 points per game during their 9-0 start to the season.
But they have averaged just 78 points per game since then, losing five games along the way.
Finding the best forward-line mix has been an ongoing problem for the Dockers this season.
Taberner has booted just 14 goals from 14 games, while ruckman/forward Zac Clarke fell horribly out of form in the second half of the season.
Jon Griffin’s hamstring injury has given Clarke a chance to atone, while Taberner’s two goals against Port as part of Fremantle’s ‘B’ team last week were enough to earn him a finals berth.
Ballantyne was hardly setting the world on fire before tearing his pectoral muscle in round 16.
But the 28-year-old will provide much-needed grunt and pressure in Fremantle’s forward half.
Lyon knows he needs to boost his side’s scoring potency if they are to be a genuine chance of winning this year’s flag.
But he says it doesn’t need to be by much.
“I think we’ve lost two goals a week on average from early in the year,” Lyon said.
“So that’s really what you’re asking – can you get those two goals back?
“That’s our aim. But time will tell.”
Skipper Matthew Pavlich said a combination of injured personnel, slower ball movement, and misfiring leading patterns had contributed to the team’s drop-off in scoring.
Although he’s hopeful everything will click against the Swans, he knows there’s no guarantees.
“That’s probably wishful thinking to say – bang – we’re going to implement it straight away against Sydney,” Pavlich said.
“But we’ve been building for so long and trying everything we can in both the lecture theatre and out on the training track to rectify that.
“Our mantra here for a long time is commit, do, review.”
Pavlich was among 14 inclusions for the Dockers this week.
Brownlow medal favourite Nat Fyfe is back from a leg injury, while fellow stars David Mundy, Luke McPharlin, Michael Johnson, Stephen Hill, Michael Walters and Aaron Sandilands were among the other big names to return.
Sydney were able to recall Ben McGlynn and Jarrad McVeigh, but the loss of star forward Lance Franklin (illness) and Kieren Jack (knee) will leave a massive hole.
FREMANTLE’S LEADING GOALKICKERS THIS SEASON
*39 – Matthew Pavlich
*38 – Michael Walters
*26 – Chris Mayne
*17 – Nat Fyfe
*16 – Stephen Hill