Senior coach Justin Longmuir provided updates on a number of players in a Friday media conference ahead of Fremantle's clash with Gold Coast at Optus Stadium on Saturday.
Read the latest from Longmuir below.
How close was Matt Taberner and is there a problem there?
Well there’s clearly a problem. He’s got some ligament damage in his ankle and it clearly hasn’t come along as well as quick as we’d like. He’s got no pain but he’s lacking a little bit of strength and really, we feel like if we played him, we’d be putting him at longer term risk if something happened to that ankle again. With the bye coming up and that ankle not being 100 per cent right and the risk to his long-term ability to play in the back half of the year, we just thought it was a risk not worth taking.
Two debutants this weekend, can you talk us through that?
We’ve got players to choose from but we feel like they’ve (Joel Western and Brandon Walker) been executing their role really well at Peel. Both players have come through our academy together and been a part of the club for a long period of time. Both have got strengths that will hold them in good stead at AFL level with their speed and we feel like they’ve done enough to earn their opportunity. Clearly the injuries presents an opportunity but we think they’re ready to take it.
We know about Western, what does Walker bring to the team?
He’s an incredible athlete. I feel like his ability at Peel to get in really good defensive positions and defend really well have been really strong. His ability to take the game on with ball in hand and use his speed in offense will excite our fans. Clearly both of them aren’t the finished product, they never will be in their first year, but we think they’ve done enough to earn the opportunity.
Walker has just played the four games in the WAFL?
He played two reserves games, I think it’s four or five senior games. He’s an incredible athlete and sometimes with these younger players we’re trying to get their bodies right as much as anything. He’s got a body that will stand up really well, he’s got a fitness base that will stand up really well at AFL level so those concerns with him are never there. It’s probably just the footy stuff that we’ve had to get right, and we feel like that’s up to a level where he’ll be able to help us.
What sort of role will Walker play?
He’s a half back. Him and Darcy Tucker will play high half back, he’s got the running attributes to be able to play that role really well for us.
Does Western slot straight into your midfield?
No, he’ll play more as a forward. We’ve been trying to split his time at Peel, he’s mainly played as a forward. He’s had some moments on ball but he’ll play as a forward for us, a high half forward who can get up and down the ground and bring his speed to the game.
Is Sean Darcy definitely going to play?
Yes, he’s going to play. The scans came back all clear. Last week he went into the game with a sore hamstring and once he started getting soreness in there again and he cramped, there was just a no risk policy with how important he is to us. Like I said after the game we were probably more optimistic on Sean than the others and the scan came back good so he’s ready to go.
With Alex Pearce back will that create some balance across the field?
Yes, it does. I’m looking forward to having him back because he’s played on key forwards his whole career, the big guys, and they’ve got a big guy in Ben King. His leadership is really important to us as well, he’s one of our most vocal demanding leaders and that will bring some leadership and some organisation to our backline. I would rather not lose Brennan Cox to have to bring Alex Pearce in but he’s a good replacement.
What was the call around leaving Reece Conca in the WAFL?
He just had aspects of his game he needed to work on and sometimes the best way to work on them is to go back at a lower level where the games a little bit slower and easier and you don’t have the pressure of it being broadcast and all those things. Sometimes that’s easier to work on your game and I feel like his last two weeks at WAFL level have been really good and he’s earnt his recall. He’ll play his 150th AFL game this week so I’m really proud of how he’s approached the last three weeks, he’s gone back with real maturity, real purpose and he’s a better player for it.
What were the things that he had to work on?
Sometimes that’s best left between the coaches and the players.
What sort of confidence do you and Alex Pearce have in his body?
Real confidence. He’s played two full games and a half game back at WAFL level. I know he had the incident first up, but he changed a few of his training loads around and the last two games he’s got through really well with his lower leg injuries. I’ve seen a real shift in his mindset and his confidence, and that’s given me a lot of confidence. The injuries have played a part, but we would have welcomed him back this week no matter how many injuries we lost.
How significant is Stephen Hill’s setback?
It’s not ideal given his history. I really feel for him he was progressing so well and he was looking at playing in the WAFL this week so it’s a real dent to his confidence and our confidence. Knowing the character that he his, he’ll rehab it and create another opportunity for himself.
Has Nat Fyfe spoken with surgeons about his shoulder?
Yeah, we feel like he will be able to play out the year. He’s got to get some strength back in his shoulder first so we don’t put it at further risk of damage, but we are pretty confident he will play out the rest of the year.
How much of the rest of this season do you think will impact Adam Cerra’s decision?
I think he sees what we are trying to build here and what the future holds, he sees the opportunity that we have given to our younger brigade especially through the middle of the ground, I think the footy stuff will look after itself. He has got to make a decision on what is best for him and his family and I’m respectful of the time he takes with that because it is a big decision. He is a young man with a big decision in front of him and we’ll give him as much time as he needs to make it.
Does Caleb Serong have a role on Matt Rowell this weekend?
He might. It’s the way we’ve leant two of the last three weeks. It allows Caleb to play to his strengths and be around the ball. I think it helps the team and I think it’s a role that suits Caleb.
How have you seen the Suns this year?
I think, like us, they have had a few flat spots but their best is very good. They are a very good contested team and their work rate to support their backs is really good and a lot of that is driven through the middle of the ground. They are developing as a team week in and week out, they will be fresh off the bye, we’ll have to be ready for them and I think we have had a good week in preparation, so I’m looking forward to tomorrow.
What do you think when you see Matt Rowell listed back in the Gold Coast side?
It’s good to see him back, he is a young gun of the competition and has had his injury setbacks which you don’t like to see with the stars of the competition. Hopefully, he’s a bit rusty and he can finish off the year and beat some of the other sides up!
Are you tempted just to take him on rather than have a run-with player go with Rowell?
We want to play our way all the time and we want to make sure that we don’t lose our identity and react too much to the opposition. But, as a team we also have to respect the opposition’s strengths and try and take some of them away from the opposition as well. We are always trying to get that balance right.
Have you made a decision on who will captain the side this week?
Dave Mundy will captain the side, he is a former captain of the club and has done it for us this year already so he will take that responsibility on.
You’re two games out of the eight at the moment, if you lose against Gold Coast are you concerned that finals are starting to get out of reach?
I haven’t really thought about that to be honest; we’ve had a six-day break and a lot to deal with this week. We just want to set the players up to perform really well. That looks after itself.
Where is Connor Blakely at, going forward are you confident he will be at the club?
He’s got to work on some aspects of his game, to get midfield time he has got to get ahead of Mundy, Cerra, Fyfe, Brayshaw and these types of players. I think the sub role has suited him two of the last three weeks so he will do that again for us this week.
Is it a trade-off playing as a sub week in and week out?
Yeah it is a bit of a trade-off, we gave him an opportunity last week in the 22. It’s the confidence that he can execute that role really well for us and two of the last three weeks he has been sub and has come on and helped us perform.
What does Brett Bewley bring to the team?
He has had a real battle with injury, and it’s been nearly a year since he played. He battled osteitis pubis for a bit. He is a true winger and it’s probably something we have lacked a little bit of, that true winger type who holds balance for us, runs in really good patterns on the wing and can use the ball well. Blake Acres has probably been our only real winger since we moved James Aish back, so it will be good to have two wingers in the side.
How did you react to the news of Nathan Buckley?
I was shocked to be honest, Collingwood and 'Bucks' made a call but I’m sad to see him out of the coaching ranks. He is a person who taught me a lot in my two years at Collingwood. It is sad to see him go but I don’t think he will be lost to the industry or lost to coaching for too long.
Back on Nat Fyfe and Stephen Hill, what are the timelines for those two?
We’re hoping ‘Fyfey’ will be right for the Collingwood game (in round 15) so fingers crossed for that, he will have to improve a fair bit. It’s probably about a month for ‘Hilly’ with a hamstring.
Will you have many players through the WAFL this weekend?
There are some guys returning from injury. Bailey Banfield returns from injury and Luke Valente is still building his minutes up off the back of injury. Then there are a couple of others down there and it’s important that they go back and perform really well so that they are ready if we need them.