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Fremantly Football Club

Youngsters to learn from veterans

Sandi chairs off Ballas Aaron Sandilands chairs off his best mate in their final home game

Ross Lyon has challenged Fremantle's youth to learn from the dedication exhibited by departing veterans Aaron Sandilands and Hayden Ballantyne after confirmation the rebuilding Dockers will miss finals for a fourth-straight season.  

With North Melbourne flogging Port Adelaide on Saturday night, the Dockers' finals door could have remained ajar heading into round 23 if they had taken care of business against an under-siege Essendon.

But Fremantle fell flat in Sandilands and Ballantyne's farewell games, going down by 32 points in a turnover-marred performance.

Speaking post-match after emotional scenes when Sandilands carried Ballantyne off the field on his shoulders, Lyon threw down the gauntlet to the Dockers' emerging players to make the most of their AFL careers.

"I just really want to acknowledge Aaron Sandilands and Hayden Ballantyne, that's rare air they're in, 200-game players, big-time players over a long period of time, very special, but you've got to earn that," Lyon said.  

"So we spoke about their epitaph, what's written and what they'll be remembered for, just fierce competitors forged in the hottest games.

"They've stood up under the fiercest heat.  

"In my time, I never had to speak to them about coming back in shape and fit, never spoke to them about training hard, never spoke to them about concentrating in meetings, never spoke to them about competing on game day.

"That's how you get your longevity, and that's what they've modelled.

"But that young group, how many of them are going to tick those filters off and have long careers? 

"That's what we spoke about tonight, so it was pretty special … and we couldn't get it done for them tonight.
"But it wasn't through a lack of trying, it was through a lack of execution and decision-making really."
 

The Dockers dominated most of the key categories against Essendon, and recorded a staggering +55 contested possession differential with 14 more clearances and 11 more inside 50s but could only manage seven goals.  

Lyon, who next year will become the first coach in Dockers history to take charge of the side after missing finals for four years in a row, believed improving skills was where the club had major upside heading into 2020.

"It's (inability to score efficiently) clearly a combination of execution, decision-making, the ability to create – like a (Michael) Walters would do, step, fake, bring it inside, see the free target, hit it," Lyon lamented.

"The ability to kick it advantage side. If you mark it outside 50, there's Nat Fyfe, don't kick it behind him, kick it in front of him.

"I thought there was some really bad turnovers coming out our defence, really that made it easier (for Essendon)."

With Sandilands and Ballantyne unlikely to travel to face Port Adelaide, and given the Dockers' lack of height in attack, youngster Hugh Dixon could make his debut. 

Fremantle has lost all four of its trips to Adelaide Oval against the Power by 56.5 points.

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