Fremantle ruckman Aaron Sandilands has backed long-time teammate Byron Schammer to grab a critical opportunity if he is selected to replace injured Michael Barlow against Richmond on Saturday night.
Schammer and Sandilands, who will play his 150th game when the Dockers take on the Tigers at Etihad Stadium, made their AFL debuts in the same season, 2003. But their careers have headed in directions as different as their heights this season.
The 211cm Sandilands seems on track for a third All-Australian jumper, whereas the 176cm Schammer is fighting for survival after playing just one AFL game for a total of 125.
Sandilands said Barlow, who will miss the rest of the season after breaking a leg against Port Adelaide last Saturday, would be a huge loss for the Dockers, but he claimed they had the players to cover.
"It gives another midfielder an opportunity," Sandilands said. "It is a big loss to lose Micky but whoever the coaching staff decide to play in the midfield will have a great opportunity and I think we are starting to get a bit of depth in the midfield.
"Byron has been in great form this year for Claremont and has only played one game for us this year. If he gets an opportunity I reckon he would take the chance."
Schammer had 29 possessions for Claremont against South Fremantle in the WAFL last Saturday.
He had 15 possessions against St Kilda in round 12 in his one AFL hit-out of the season so far.
Another contender, Nick Suban, had 16 touches for the Tigers. He is averaging 13 possessions a game in seven AFL matches this season.
Sandilands, considered one of the main reasons the Dockers have surged up the ladder, claimed it was too soon to declare this his best AFL season.
"We are only halfway through the season so it is pretty hard to judge," he said. "That is something you have to look back on at the end of the year."
His first game, against Adelaide in round one 2003, stood out as a highlight.
"It was Wayne Carey's first game for Adelaide so the Adelaide fans were swinging from the rafters and I think they got us by seven or eight goals," he said.
It had taken him more time to feel like he belonged in AFL football and declared midfield coach Barry Mitchell a big influence.
"After a few years in the system, I think you sort of learn the game and you become more comfortable in the game," he said. "I just think it took a lot of time to get to that point.
"Barry has been sensational. It is his second year at the club and I have a really good relationship with him. He has brought a lot to my game."
Sandilands dismissed concerns that his big workload would wear him down, saying the midfield break and Kepler Bradley's form had been timely for him.
"The medical staff and fitness staff are on top of everything," he said. "If you do pull up a bit sore after a game or feel a bit flat, they reduce your load throughout the week at this point in time, I feel really good."