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Hamling hopeful Johnson will go again

Travis King - afl.com.au  August 1, 2017 2:44 PM

Joel Hamling addressed the media on Tuesday.

Fremantle full-back Joel Hamling hopes veteran defender Michael Johnson plays on next season to help guide the Freo Dockers' young backline. 

Johnson, who turns 33 in October, is out of contract this year but wants to continue for a 14th season in 2018. 

The Freo Dockers stalwart has reportedly been given an assurance from the club he and feisty goalsneak Hayden Ballantyne are part of Freo's plans beyond this season. 

Johnson has played all 18 games this season, bouncing back from long-term injury and a slow start to the campaign to be among the side's most reliable performers. 

He is no longer part of the leadership group, having stood down after a controversial kebab shop incident which will see him stand trial in October, but Hamling compared Johnson's influence on his career to previous mentors at Geelong and the Western Bulldogs.

"He's been outstanding," Hamling said. 

"I've had some good old guys in my career (like) Harry Taylor and he stacks up with them, even Dale Morris - he's up there with those two.

"I would love to have Johnno around again, of course.

"Everyone at the club loves Johnno, he's a great leader and off the field."

Fremantle's defence is set for a re-shuffle this weekend against Gold Coast after Connor Blakely twice dislocated his shoulder in last round's narrow loss to GWS.

"It's definitely upsetting seeing Connor go down, he's such a great player but we've got some good players in the WAFL ready to stand up," Hamling said.

"Connor's like no other I think. He's a really courageous player. To see him come back out on the ground and pop his shoulder out again, it's a credit to him."

Hamling has had tough jobs on the League's power forwards this season and is gearing up for the challenge of standing Suns star Tom Lynch this Saturday night.

Lynch has booted 41 goals this year and snared four last time the teams met. 

"He works up and down the ground really hard, he's about 100-odd kilos and he's a great leader for their club," Hamling said.

"I think there's a lot of good key forwards in the game now. Tom Lynch is definitely up there as a great key forward. 

"I'm going to need some support from our backline." 

The Fremantle Dockers haven't won at Domain Stadium since round nine and have lost eight of their last nine games, while the Suns have lost four-straight to pile more pressure on under-siege coach Rodney Eade. 

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