Midfielder Nat Fyfe believes Fremantle will enter Saturday night's elimination final against Geelong at the MCG significantly better prepared for high-stakes football than when they last made the top eight, in 2010.
The Dockers had five teenagers and 13 finals debutants when they beat Hawthorn in an elimination final at Patersons Stadium two years ago. Though they won that match by five goals, the youngsters had no answer to Geelong at the MCG the next weekend and were trounced by 69 points.
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The 2012 version which belted Melbourne on Saturday night included only six players who haven't played a final and only one teenager.
Coach Ross Lyon is a veteran of 11 finals as coach at St Kilda, including three grand finals.
Defender Zac Dawson played in all of those grand finals.
Geelong, premiers three times in the past five years, have been installed as $1.30 favourites.
But Fremantle, at $3.55, will head into the finals full of confidence after a barnstorming finish to the home-and-away season.
The Dockers are one of the form teams of the competition, winning eight of their past nine games, and beat the Cats in their only clash this year, by four points in Perth in round one.
And they have no reason to fear a trip to Melbourne, having won four of their five games there this year, including a season-turning victory over Richmond at the MCG in round 11.
In 2010, Fremantle entered the finals with just one win in their previous four matches.
"We limped into that final a little bit," Fyfe said. "The difference this year is we're at full strength. We've been building our form over the last eight or nine weeks. We are really confident. We've all really grown and the game plan really stands up.
"It's proven to work over the last eight or nine weeks. We are hardened and we're well drilled. You've got to beat the best to get all the way there. This is a fantastic challenge for us and we'll embrace it.
"I'm quite lucky. It's two finals series in my first three years."
Finals seemed a long way away for Fyfe when he had shoulder surgery after the round-five loss to Carlton at Patersons Stadium. The Dockers struggled for the next two months, winning just three of their eight games. But a stunning turnaround enabled the team to secure a finals berth with a week to spare, and then climb to seventh.
Fyfe has averaged 26 possessions in his five matches back since the operation and amassed 30 against Melbourne.
"It's still been a long season. I had the 12 weeks off but for eight of those weeks I was in high-intensity training," he said."I still feel the pinch of games, but maybe I'm a bit fresher than other guys, which may give me a bit of an edge going into finals."
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