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Forwards coach David Hale says Fremantle won’t be making any sweeping changes to their forward line structure after the injury of small forward Hayden Ballantyne.
Ballantyne is expected to miss between eight to ten weeks after suffering tendon damage to left hamstring against Carlton in Fremantle’s final JLT Community Series hit-out.
Instead of switching the game plan ahead of Fremantle’s round one clash with Geelong at Domain Stadium on 26 March, Hale said the coaching group will be looking into a number of options for Ballantyne’s replacement.
“(Ballantyne) plays a higher pressure role so the requirement for who comes in will be similar,” Hale said.
“They’ll provide that pressure and crumbing in contests that Hayden gives.
“We don’t think, whether it’s Hayden or someone else, if the actual role changes too much.”
Fremantle’s WAFL affiliate Peel Thunder will open their season this weekend against East Perth, and Hale says the game provides an opportunity for many to push for a case in Fremantle’s starting 22.
“I think we’ve played a pretty settled line-up over the JLT,” Hale said.
“So with Hayden going down, there’s a couple of spots probably up for grabs, so round one in the WAFL is a good chance for those guys to push their case.”
The loss of Ballantyne increases the importance of fellow small Michael Walters to Freo’s forward line.
In the 2016, Walters spent some time in the midfield, but Hale said Fremantle always intend to use the 26-year-old where he can make the most impact.
“We’d like to keep ‘Sonny’ (Walters) where we get a good bang for buck and kick some goals in our forward half,” Hale said.
"Obviously he’s got the ability to play midfield and on the wing, but the closer we can get him to goal the better for us.
“I don’t think (Ballantyne’s injury) will change the dynamic too much, (Walters) will still go on ball and still play positions to get him involved, so that dynamic won’t change too much.”
Hale also said Fremantle would consider playing three talls up front, led by key forwards Cam McCarthy, Shane Kersten and Matt Taberner.
"I think we’ll adapt depending on who we’ll play," Hale said.
"If we think we need another target up forward, whether it’s the three talls or if we need a bit more speed.
"We’ve probably played with four smalls in the JLT (Series), that will be depended on week to week and a bit on form as well.
"If all three are up and marking and producing what we need there’s no reason why we can’t play three."