2018 AFLW team preview: Fremantle Dockers

2017 was a season of disappointment for the Fremantle Dockers who entered the season as the premiership favourites, but slumped to a seventh-placed finish.

Not only did the Dockers just narrowly avoid ‘winning’ the wooden spoon, they only managed to pick up the one victory and their draw against GWS gave them their only premiership points claimed away from home.

The list is in much better shape heading into season 2018, but injuries are mounting close to the season, and could have a real impact on the Dockers’ premiership aspirations.

2018 AFLW season preview: Adelaide Crows
2018 AFLW season preview: Brisbane Lions
2018 AFLW season preview: Carlton Blues
2018 AFLW season preview: Collingwood Magpies
2018 AFLW team preview: GWS Giants
2018 AFLW team preview: Melbourne Demons
2018 AFLW team preview: Western Bulldogs


Fremantle Dockers

2017 in a nutshell
Ladder finish: 7th (1 win, 5 losses, 1 draw, 64.1%)
Prior to the season last year, Fremantle was tipped as a likely premiership contender mostly because of the strength of Western Australian women’s football. But the loss of talent like Sabrina Frederick-Traub, Chelsea Randall and Emma King, and the season ending injury of Kiara Bowers, were huge hits to their chances before a ball was even bounced. Still, Freo’s round one match against the Bulldogs was touted as the Grand Final preview, but nothing went to plan for the Dockers. A first-up 32-point loss was followed but another, albeit smaller, loss to Brisbane. A white knuckle draw against Fremantle in round three was some salve for their season, but by their round four 23-point loss to Adelaide, any hope of reaching the big dance was lost. While a round 6 win against Carlton gave some joy to the season, they ended the season with a 54-point thumping at the hands of Melbourne.

2018 Fixture
R1: Sunday, February 4 (4.35pm EDT): Western Bulldogs vs Fremantle @ VU Whitten Oval
R2: Saturday, February 10 (4.10pm WST): Fremantle vs Collingwood @ Perth Stadium
R3: Sunday, February 18 (3.35pm WST): Fremantle vs Melbourne @ Fremantle Oval
R4: Saturday, February 24 (3.35pm EST): Brisbane vs Fremantle @ South Pine Sports Complex
R5: Saturday, March 3 (2.05pm WST): Fremantle vs GWS @ Fremantle Oval
R6: Friday, March 9 (5.35pm CST): Adelaide vs Fremantle @ TIO Stadium
R7: Saturday, March 17 (2.05pm WST): Fremantle vs Carlton @ Fremantle Oval

2018 squad
Coach: Michelle Cowan
1. Ashley Sharp, 2 Kiara Bowers (vc), 3 Brianna Green, 4 Lara Filocamo, 5 Tayla Bresland, 6 Tiah Haynes, 7 Amy Lavell (vc), 8 Evangeline Gooch, 9 Alex Williams, 10 Stacey Barr, 11 Jodie White, 12 Ebony Antonio, 14 Leah Mascall, 15 Kara Donnellan (c), 16 Lisa Webb (rookie), 17 Dana Hooker, 18 Belinda Smith, 19 Hayley Miller, 20 Stephanie Cain, 21 Kellie Gibson, 22 Gabby O’Sullivan, 23 Kirby Bentley, 25 Tayla McAuliffe, 26 Beatrice Devlyn (rookie), 27 Gemma Houghton, 28 Jade de Melo (rookie), 29 Melissa Caulfield, 30 Alicia Janz, 31 Emily McGuire, 33 Cassie Davidson, 37 Ashlee Atkins
Injuries: Kirby Bentley (meniscus tear, season), Kiara Bowers (ACL, round 4), Kellie Gibson (hip flexor, round 6), Beatrice Devlyn (broken finger, round 4)

Best 21

Why the Dockers can win the flag in 2018
Despite their trials in 2017, there were some bright spots: the breakout season of Dana Hooker and the Kara Donnellan’s season-long performance among them. Freo picked up WAWFL best and fairest and Coastal Titans ruck Jodie White in the AFLW Draft; they also lured defender Alex Williams back from GWS. The Dockers had the most players ranked above average in 2017 and four of the top 15 midfielders in the competition. If they can get their game right and get their forward line to click and kick straight, they could be the dark horse of 2018.

The difference maker
In 2017, Fremantle ranked second-last for scores per inside 50 and only 34% for accuracy in front of goal. But when their forward line clicked, like it did against Adelaide, they looked good. Last year, key forward Stacey Barr had 13 shots at goal, but she was hampered by inaccuracy. If Barr can find the big sticks, she could be the difference Freo needs. She has already made a positive start to the season by kicking three goals in Fremantle’s pre-season win over Adelaide, so her confidence will be sky high. Also worth mentioning is Ashley Sharp, whose performance in the aforementioned game was sensational without Kara Donnellan present.

Why the Dockers can’t win the flag in 2018
Kiara Bowers. Kellie Gibson. Kirby Bentley. Beatrice Devlyn. Freo’s injury list continues to grow. Bentley is out for the season and while all of Bowers, Gibson and Devlyn will make it back, how much impact can they really have in a shortened season? These aren’t just players who can be easily replaced – three key midfielders will be missing for over half the season, which would have any of the eight AFLW teams out of the premiership race. It’s a challenge that is surely too much for Fremantle to overcome.


GPF staff predictions

Matt Marsden
Two months ago, it was easy to be optimistic about Fremantle climbing the ladder rungs in 2018. Now, with the confirmation that Kiara Bowers, Kellie Gibson and Beatrice Devlin will miss half the season, on top of Kirby Bentley being out with an ACL injury, that optimism has waned. Once again, it’s going to be up to Kara Donnellan, Dana Hooker and Lara Filocamo to do all the midfield work – plus Ebony Antonio will have to push up the field again – for the first half of the season, and that might be enough to put Fremantle out of the premiership race. I want to remain positive that the Dockers can live up to their potential, but it’s hard when so many key players are out, particularly Bowers who would drastically change Fremantle’s stature alone. I’ll stick to the two wins I chalked up before Gibson and Devlin were confirmed outs, but it’s not looking great.
Ladder prediction: 6th
Record prediction: 2 wins, 5 losses
Best and fairest: Kara Donnellan
Leading goal kicker: Stacey Barr

Katie Lambeski
The story of the Dockers’ 2017 was the difficulty they faced in dealing with the absence of so many elite West Australian talent. While many in the team will have learned from the experience, it is hard to see how they go much further. They will be hurt by the loss of Kirby Bentley after a knee injury, as well as not having Kiara Bowers until the later rounds of the season. Much will fall on captain Kara Donnellan and Ebony Antonio, as well as inaugural season standout Dana Hooker. Michelle Cowan will also be hoping that their first pick in the draft, Stephanie Cain, can translate her 2017 WAWFL form into the AFLW season.
Ladder prediction: 8th
Record prediction: 1 win, 6 losses
Best and fairest: Kara Donnellan
Leading goal kicker: Stacey Barr

Peter Holden
I don’t like to say it, but the coach who had great success in the exhibition matches could be under great pressure if the side doesn’t improve on last year’s seventh-placed finish – especially with the looming shadow of the Eagles entering the competition in 2020. Before the 2017 season, Fremantle lost most of the state’s star talent to other AFLW clubs, and only convinced Kellie Gibson to return home during the first trade period. With Kirby Bentley missing this season, and Kiara Bowers missing the first few matches, new recruits like Evangeline Gooch and Emily McGuire are going to have to bring their A-game from the very first match to improve the Dockers’ future outlook.
Ladder prediction: 8th
Record prediction: 1 win, 6 losses
Best and fairest: Kara Donnellan
Leading goal kicker: Stacey Barr

Kirby Fenwick
Fremantle has plenty to prove in 2018. The Dockers started the inaugural season as favourites but wound up languishing towards the bottom of the ladder. Losing a big chunk of WA’s talent to interstate teams certainly didn’t help their cause and the loss of Kirby Bentley and Kellie Gibson, and the delayed return of Kiara Bowers, will certainly create headaches. Freo struggled in the ruck last year so the addition of Jodie White, the winner of the WAWFL best and fairest in 2017, should help there. While the likes of Kara Donnellan and Dana Hooker starred last year, Freo will need plenty of their teammates to step up to get anywhere near a Grand Final this year.
Ladder prediction: 8th
Record prediction: 1 win, 6 losses
Best and fairest: Kara Donnellan
Leading goal kicker: Stacey Barr