‘FIT, AVAILABLE and on the same page’.
It might not have the same ring as ‘anyone, anywhere, anytime’, but expect to hear that refrain a lot from Fremantle this summer.
While everyone else is talking about an influx of talent – especially in attack – this off-season, the Dockers know that alone won’t propel them up the ladder after consecutive 14th-placed finishes.
Instead, they will need improvement across the board and everyone working to Ross Lyon’s gameplan to push for finals.
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“It’s not like basketball, where you can have one marquee player who can dominate and change the whole team,” star goalkicker Michael Walters told AFL.com.au.
“We do have some good players here, but it’s going to take everyone to move us forward and get us to where we want to be.
“We can’t keep relying on Nat Fyfe, Dave Mundy and Aaron Sandilands because we won’t get anywhere.
“Players that find it hard to get into the team and are playing WAFL, we need them to really push for selection and put us older players on the hook as well.
“As much as they need us, we need them as well.”
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Walters recently re-signed until 2022, but the brilliant left-footer is aware there is no time to waste in his quest for success.
The past three seasons have been spent in the wilderness of a rebuild, and it has been five years since he booted two goals in the Grand Final loss to Hawthorn.
Footy moves quickly and there are only six survivors left from that heartbreaking defeat – Walters, Fyfe, Mundy, Sandilands, Hayden Ballantyne and Stephen Hill – after Lachie Neale (Brisbane) and retirees Michael Johnson, Lee Spurr and Danyle Pearce exited this off-season.
Walters celebrates a goal in the 2013 Grand Final as future teammate Bradley Hill looks on. Picture: AFL Photos
“It’s weird, and I’m the fifth-oldest in the team and I’m only 28 next year (in January),” Walters said.
“The whole dynamic of the team has changed, and that’s why I want to fast-track everyone as fast as we can.
“The good thing about it is we do have a young group that can play with each other for a number of years now.
“We saw Hawthorn and Geelong do it, teams who had real success and played with each other over a long period of time and that’s what I want to do here.
“I’ve got an old saying ‘footy’s only part of your life, it’s not all of your life’, and I want to make the most of it while I’m here.
“If I can drag a lot of younger players along with me, that’s what I want to do.”
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With expectations rising ahead of 2019, the Dockers have booked a training camp on the Gold Coast and will spend next week drilling into how they want to play.
Fremantle, which will have the fourth-youngest squad and rank 13th for experience (58.3 games) next year, has added 32 players over the past three off-seasons and getting on the same page is a priority.
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“Without giving too much away, we just want to be predictable to each other,” Walters said.
“Last year, I felt a couple of times our brand did slip away, like Fyfe said, but that was more based on the predictability.
“We had a lot of young players come in and play games, and there’s not a lot of old heads around anymore.
“I just want our brand to get back to where it was in 2013. We were predictable, we knew when to pressure, we knew when to take the game on or defend.
“That’s what I want us to be in 2019.”
Source: AFL FOOTBALL NEWS