Fremantle's greatest western derby performer has offered a radical solution to the club's stoppage woes: Aaron Sandilands should spend less time in the ruck and more time in attack to make the Dockers less predictable.
Four-times Ross Glendinning medallist Paul Hasleby, now coach at South Fremantle, does not blame Sandilands for the Dockers' clearance problems. He said Sandilands had always been an accurate palmer of the ball when he had played with him.
But he believes Fremantle's stoppage problems stem from rivals being able to plan completely on Sandilands winning the ruck knocks.
"I reckon it could be time to ruck someone like Jonathon Griffin a lot more," Hasleby said.
"With Sandi rucking the vast majority of the games, virtually all of the opposition's planning goes into him.
"At ground level, Fremantle's opponents are virtually manning up 100 per cent. Then it is just a matter of them forcing an initial turnover when the ball hits the ground.
"Fremantle players roving to Sandi are in attacking positions and are caught offside by the turnover and then opponents just run away with it.
"Oppositions just go in with a defensive mindset straight away."
Making the outcome of the hit-out less predictable could enable Fremantle's midfielders to go from being "hunted to being hunters", Hasleby said.
Fremantle's stoppages have been a concern exacerbated by a shoulder injury to Nat Fyfe in round three against Brisbane, which has robbed them of their best clearance player.
The fact that primary midfielders David Mundy and Michael Barlow had interrupted pre-seasons has compounded the problem. The Dockers have been beaten at stoppages in four of the past five games but have still managed to win against St Kilda, Gold Coast and Port Adelaide.
But the problem hit home hard against Hawthorn in Launceston last Saturday when a 51-25 ruck dominance by Sandilands and Zac Clarke somehow reversed into a 48-24 victory around stoppages for the Hawks.
Hasleby stopped short of declaring that all three of Fremantle's ruck specialists - Sandilands, Griffin and Clarke - should play in the one team.
"I am not sure about all three of them but I do think they just need to mix things up a little bit," he said.
"There could also be some benefit to throwing Aaron down to full- forward for a while and seeing what happens there."
The Dockers are yet to play all three big men in the one team.
They have always preferred Clarke as an understudy to Sandilands but have gone to Griffin to lead the ruck when Sandilands has been unavailable.
Sandilands' value as a marking forward has been spoken of but rarely explored. The 211cm giant has never kicked more than 13 goals in a year but has played almost exclusively on the ball in most of his 175 games. He has managed two goals in a game eight times.
Meanwhile, several Fremantle players appear to be racing time to be fit for Sunday's western derby, with Lachie Neale (ankle) and Adam McPhee (calf muscle) training away from the main group at a session yesterday morning, while veteran defender Antoni Grover, who is on the comeback trail from a knee problem, appeared to hurt a hamstring. Skipper Matthew Pavlich did not train and defender Luke McPharlin left the track early, but both are expected to be fit.Clancee Pearce (concussion) completed the session.
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