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Backline coming of age

Ross Lyon chats to Channel 7 ahead of the Western Derby. Ross Lyon chats to Channel 7 ahead of the Western Derby.

A young Fremantle defence is starting to stand on its own two feet heading into a crucial test against an experienced West Coast forwardline, according to key back Joel Hamling.

With Michael Johnson managed against the Bulldogs, the Fremantle back six of Hamling, Nathan Wilson, Luke Ryan, Taylin Duman, Alex Pearce and Connor Blakely were impressive, conceding only 54 points.

The average age of Freo’s back six on the night was 22.9 and it could receive a boost of experience if Johnson returns against the Eagles.

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“We’re all at a good age now. Getting Alex Pearce back this year has been great as it really helps myself out,” Hamling said.

“Adding Nathan Wilson with Luke Ryan stepping up. It’s all really exciting.

“There isn’t a bigger task I guess, playing West Coast in a derby and facing Josh Kennedy or Jack Darling. They’re both star players in the game.

“It’s exciting, it will be good, a big crowd and, hopefully, we get a win.”

The game will be Hamling’s 50th in the AFL, with the Bulldogs premiership player taking a winding road to the milestone.

He started his career at Geelong before making his debut with the Bulldogs, playing 23 games with a further 26 at Freo.

“It’s been a long journey so far. It’s my seventh season,” Hamling said.

“I guess I’ve come a long way, starting in Broome up north in the Kimberley.

“I played there for most of my junior career and moving down to Perth with Claremont and moving away over east for five or six years.”

Despite returning to his home state, Hamling said he still had to find a base in Perth.

“It took me time to find my feet again in Perth, as I’m obviously from Broome,” Hamling said.

“I’ve been enjoying it back here, the weather is really great. It’s perfect.

“It’s always good having a good balance in your footy career. I’m 25 not so I’m starting to find that out.

“I’ve got study. I’ve got a dog and a new house, so it’s all going well.”

The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of the AFL or its clubs