Connor Blakely is set to play his first game in 2020, with senior coach Justin Longmuir confirming the midfielder would make his return against Collingwood on Sunday at Optus Stadium.

Blakely last played in round 23 of the 2019 season on 25 August, more than 11 months ago.

In his weekly media conference on Friday, Longmuir confirmed Blakely would come in for injured midfielder Darcy Tucker while fellow midfielder Michael Walters is also set to miss the game. 

“Connor Blakely will play his first game of the year, he’ll come in for Darcy Tucker,” Longmuir said.

“I’m really keen to give Connor a go, we will lose a couple of midfielders this weekend. He’ll get his opportunity on ball where he’s been training, where he can play to his strengths and execute his role. 

I think he’s a better player than what he was eight weeks ago and that’s on the back of his dedication to get the most out of everything he’s doing. I’m really excited for him to get his opportunity.

- Longmuir

Longmuir said captain Nat Fyfe (hamstring) and defender Brennan Cox (hip) are both likely to make their returns from injury, providing they get through Friday’s training session.

“Nat’s travelling well. Clearly his final hurdle is training today,” Longmuir said. 

“We expect there to be no issues with that. I expect him to get through and expect him to play. 

“Brennan’s got to tick off training. It’s reasonably positive at the moment but I’m not going to declare him fit until we get through training.”

08:49 Mins
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'Blakely will play his first game of the year' | Justin Longmuir 31.7.20

Justin spoke to the media before main training.

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With the likes of Alex Pearce, Joel Hamling and Griffin Logue on the sidelines, Longmuir said Fremantle had considered other options to boost their tall defensive stocks.

“We’ve got some guys within the team that we can swing back. It might be Rory Lobb, that type of situation but (at this stage) we’ll back the guys down there to be able to defend,” Longmuir said. 

“In our system we clearly have to defend well in the middle of the ground and our team defence will have to be really good to give them a chance. We’ll just keep backing them in.”

While young forward Liam Henry has shown glimpses of his talent in his two scratch match appearances on limited minutes, Longmuir said the no.9 draft pick still needs more time to build his fitness.

“On Liam, He’s not quite ready yet,” Longmuir said.

“He played 60 minutes of footy last week against Geelong reserves. He played a quarter in our last game on the Gold Coast. He’s shown some really good signs.

“He’s really worked on his body and getting that right. He just needs more time. He’s going to be an exciting player for us for a lot of years so we’re not going to rush him.”

05:46 Mins
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Highlights | Reserves scratch match v Geelong

Our reserves took on the Geelong at Cockburn.

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