Fremantle are bracing for a physical contest against Geelong at Optus Stadium, with the Cats naming an experienced line-up for the blockbuster Thursday Night Footy clash.

The Cats are on average 55 games more experienced (146.1 vs 95.1) and 2.5 years older (27.9 vs 25.4) than Freo and executive general manager of football Peter Bell said Fremantle need to ensure they stand up to the Cats’ ‘mature bodies’.

Bell said the return of defender Ethan Hughes from injury would be crucial in that aspect. He last played in the RAC Derby in round seven, where he sustained a shoulder injury.

“Ethan’s a really hard and tough player,” Bell told TAB Radio.

“When you're going to play Geelong, you know they’re a very good contest team. They have mature bodies, they’re big bodied players, so a player like Ethan becomes even more important.

“He’s a really valued member of our team, a really popular member, he gives us versatility as well. He can play taller if we need to play taller, he is a very good runner. So that flexibility is important.”

Fellow defender Alex Pearce has illustrated his importance to Fremantle following his return from a knee injury sustained in round one.

The 201cm leader has slotted in seamlessly for the past four games, with Freo winning three of those contests.

“Alex is a very good player, and maybe because he hasn't been able to get out there much in the last couple of years, people have forgotten how good of a player he is,” Bell said.

“I think back to 2019, up until he got that injury, he would have to have been in All Australian calculations before he hurt his ankle.

“Having Alex back really solidifies our defence, his leadership's really important and it means that some of our other defenders can play different roles as well.

“We're thrilled to have him back. He's really important for our Club and our team and you can see the difference that having him available makes.”

Fremantle have significantly improved their connection between the midfield and forwardline in 2021 and Bell said they would need to be on point with their forward entries against Geelong.

“(Geelong have a) really good defence, they keep their six defenders behind the ball a lot,” Bell said.

“If you just hack it in there or kick long without looking, players like (Tom) Stewart, particularly, and others will have an absolute field day.

“We have to be really clever and composed with the way that we move the ball inside 50.

“At times if there's no other options, then there's nothing wrong with a long deep entry that allows your smaller players to get to feet of players like Rory Lobb and Josh Treacy.”

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