Senior coach Justin Longmuir has ‘absolute’ confidence that Fremantle will see an improvement on the injury front in 2022.
He expects the likes of Nat Fyfe, Sam Sturt, Joel Hamling and Matt Taberner to be fit and available by the start of the season after commencing the pre-season in reconditioning.
“I see our medical fitness staff working tirelessly and trying to improve our injury list,” Longmuir said.
“At the moment it’s in good shape but we’re not perfect, no club is. We’re trying to push our players to get as much work into them as we can whilst still looking after them and making sure our availability is good.
“We’ve got new staff, new processes in place and we’re really confident that we’ll improve that area.”
An exciting forward prospect, Sturt has played just four games in two years after sustaining significant ankle and knee injuries.
“Absolutely (he’ll be available), he’s progressing really well,” Longmuir said.
“He’s entered a bit of training and after Christmas he’ll step into full training and start building his loads.”
Taberner has been running laps as he builds his fitness from an ankle injury while Longmuir doesn’t expect Rory Lobb to be held back by a ‘back spasm’.
“Matt is a little bit ahead of schedule coming off that ankle injury. We’re looking to get him back probably towards the end of Jan into full training,” Longmuir said.
“Rory, it’s just a back spasm. I expect him to do some more work today and be right by the end of the week.”
Longmuir is hopeful Fremantle will get plenty of service from key defenders Alex Pearce and Joel Hamling in 2022.
“We probably haven’t set too many expectations on them for next year,” Longmuir said.
“I just expect ‘Pearcey’ to continue the way he’s been going. It’s the first time he’s actually started a pre-season in a long time.
“We’ll keep him progressing in the amount of loads we give him.
“Joel, it’s just be patient with that ankle and continue his process. We expect them both to play over the pre-season and round one but we just need to be patient with them as well and try not to get caught up into rushing them back.”
Longmuir expects to have a tough time at the selection table assessing Fremantle’s midfield due to the current depth and availability of the list.
“I’m really confident that Nat Fyfe will play a significant part of the season and be a great captain and a great player, like he always has been,” Longmuir said.
“Whether that’s round one or round two, we don’t need to put a date on it and we don’t need to put that pressure on him. What we need to do is make sure we rehab it right so once he’s back, he’s back for good.
“I think it’s been well documented that he’s got a lot of work ahead, but knowing him, he’ll be willing to do the work.
“We’ve shifted Darcy Tucker back up to the midfield. There’s a group of Darcy, Connor Blakely, Will Brodie who have come into the mix, that are really eating up the work and really competing hard.
“Add them to Andrew Brayshaw, Caleb Serong, Fyfe, David Mundy and obviously Sean Darcy and Lloyd Meek are going hard at it at training as well. I feel like we’ve got some depth and the competition’s on.”
Midfielder Luke Valente is building as he pushes for a debut in his fourth year on Fremantle’s list.
“Luke’s progressing well. He went home and missed a fair chunk of training but he’s done all the work, he’s just probably playing a little bit of catch up,” Longmuir said.
“He’ll be in the mix (for selection), he was close last year.”
Longmuir is pleased with how Fremantle’s new draftees are tracking in Jye Amiss, Neil Erasmus, Matthew Johnson and Eric Benning.
Rookie draftee Karl Worner is yet to join the group due to the border restrictions between WA and Victoria.
“I think they’ve settled in really well. As soon as they came to the club, our players were really good at bringing them in and got them training with the other players really quickly, which has allowed them to almost become a part of the fabric before we started training,” Longmuir said.
“I’m really impressed with the way they’ve approached the work we’re doing and learning the game plan. It’s going well.”
Second year defender Heath Chapman is expected to feature in a number of roles down back as he makes his return from a shoulder injury sustained in the round seven RAC Derby in 2021.
“I think Heath can play a variety of roles. At a pinch he could probably play as a third back, key position type player but he can also play as a high back,” Longmuir said.
“He’s returned in really good shape, he’s put on a lot of weight, especially his lower body strength over his time out. His competitiveness and drive off half back has really shone through. I’m really happy with the position he’s in.”