The versatility of Blake Acres and James Aish are set to be assets as Freo look for ways to gain an advantage out of the AFL’s cut to interchange rotations in 2021.
The fitness of all players will be tested heavily as the AFL returns to 20-minute quarters while rotations have been reduced from 90 to 75.
Assistant coach David Hale said Acres and Aish could have a big impact as Freo look to rotate players through the midfield.
“I think the way with the interchange is this year, you’re going to have to spin a lot of guys,” Hale told 6PR.
“A lot of mids are going to have to play forward and the advantage of Aish and Acres, they’re both competent at playing inside.
“‘Aishy’ is a really good centre bounce and clearance player and Blake has really good size for a winger.
“No doubt, you’ll (also) see plenty of rotations with Adam Cerra and Andrew Brayshaw, with their ability to go inside and out, it’s going to be important for us.”
Both Aish and Acres arrived at Fremantle ahead of the 2020 season with the pair having a big influence at times.
Acres played two blocks of games in 2020. He initially averaged 13 disposals per game between rounds six and eight after returning from a pre-season hamstring injury.
After more time on the sidelines, Acres then averaged 24 disposals during the final four games of the season.
Aish was one of Fremantle’s best against Brisbane (26 disposals, seven marks) and in Freo’s win in the wet against Melbourne with 22 disposals, nine contested possessions and five marks.
Hale expects both players to have an impact if they stay fully fit.
“Those guys will provide some really good experience on the wing,” Hale said.
“Both of them had interrupted seasons at certain points last year so hopefully, with a good run at it, both can have really good years for us.”
While much of the focus around Fremantle’s midfield has been on up-and-coming trio Brayshaw, Cerra and Caleb Serong, Hale said 24-year-old Darcy Tucker was also gearing up for a big season.
Tucker has returned to football training after recovering from a hamstring injury sustained last season and showed his progress in Friday’s intraclub game.
“I thought Darcy was pretty sharp. He rested for the first quarter and then came on and was managed a little bit,” Hale said.
“He gives another dimension to our midfield. We’ve got the three young guys who are going really well. Darcy is still pretty young in a footy sense but his ability to get out of stoppages and his clean hands, it stands out when he’s up and going.
“Hopefully, he continues to progress and put his name up for selection in round one.”