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Mark Duffield: Freo mix good, bad with ugly
Stephen Hill. Pic: Iain Gillespie/WA News

As Fremantle ponder how to turn a 6-5, 11th placing at the halfway point of the season into a finals berth, their honest but dour midfield is a good place to start.

Having a dominant Aaron Sandilands did not solve the problem - and they won't have him for 10 weeks anyway.

They looked to address the issue three weeks ago when Matt de Boer was shifted to the midfield, but while de Boer offers them muscle and grunt around the stoppages, the Dockers also need a boost in run, spread and ball use away from stoppages.

Fremantle have been highly competitive in four of five trips away from home with three wins and a narrow loss to Sydney.

But they have been disappointing at home, with six matches producing three wins and an upcoming game against Essendon which is far from a sure thing.

Midfields are important everywhere but never more than at Patersons Stadium where teams which spread quickly can hand players time and space to use the ball to devastating effect.

That was what happened in losses to Carlton, West Coast and Adelaide - all skilled teams with the ability to not only win effective clearances, but also to "get you" on the spread.

This is not a new problem for the Dockers, who had a dour engine room for much of last season. David Mundy's lack of a pre-season and an injury to Nat Fyfe that will sideline him until round 18 has just exacerbated the problem.

The Dockers have lost the clearances in five of the seven games Fyfe has missed, winning them by one in the other two. They have lost the inside 50s in five of those seven matches as well - getting smashed by West Coast and Hawthorn.

Fremantle's best midfielders have been tagger Ryan Crowley and a heavily tagged Stephen Hill. Opposition coaches tag Hill automatically and dare the rest of the Dockers' midfield to hurt them.

A successful return by Anthony Morabito would help. Better form from Mundy and Michael Barlow would help, too. Mundy is slowly getting there. Barlow is the club's hardest working mid and its most prolific ball winner but needs to make his touches hurt more.

Coach Ross Lyon has been criticised for the way Fremantle's football has looked, but the Dockers would not look half as ugly with a quicker, more polished midfield.

Elsewhere they look OK.

Michael Johnson and Luke McPharlin are in grand form in defence and Matthew Pavlich and Chris Mayne have worked hard in attack. Their forward line is better with Hayden Ballantyne there after Lyon tried to use him to inject the pace and life he wanted midfield.

The Dockers are still in the hunt for finals but they need to take care of their home ground advantage and that is very much about getting a better result out of their midfield.