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Watch out for Freo: Harley
Watch out for Freo: Harley

Geelong premiership captain Tom Harley has played down Fremantle's lacklustre effort in their NAB Challenge opener, declaring they are still one of the teams to beat for the 2014 flag.

The Dockers have named a near full-strength squad for their pre-season clash with the Western Bulldogs at Etihad Stadium tonight and will be looking for a significant lift after an 84-point loss to West Coast last Tuesday.

High-profile recruit Colin Sylvia was omitted from the squad yesterday after a head knock at training but Ryan Crowley, Chris Mayne, Nick Suban and Clancee Pearce are additions to the side which capitulated to the Eagles in a display far removed from the high-pressure football they have become known for under coach Ross Lyon.

The Bulldogs also added class to the team which beat St Kilda last Wednesday, with Shaun Higgins and Tom Williams named for their first games of 2014.

Fremantle will play one more practice game, against the Eagles at Patersons Stadium on March 6, before the opening match of the home-and-away season against Collingwood the following week.

The Dockers remain flag favourites with a number of bookmakers. TAB fixed odds has them at $4.25 ahead of premiers Hawthorn ($4.65), while Sportingbet have them both at $4.75.

TABCorp has taken one bet of $24,500 on the Dockers to win the premiership at $5.

Harley, who captained the Cats to premierships in 2007 and 2009, said the pre-season competition was traditionally a struggle for sides that played in the previous year's grand final. Regardless, he expected to see a much better effort from the Dockers tonight.

He said they were entitled to be at the forefront of premiership favouritism.

"Absolutely without a doubt," he said. "I don't necessarily subscribe to 'you've got to lose one to win one' but it certainly doesn't hurt to have lost one.

"If you're a Fremantle player and you don't have that gut-wrenching feeling about losing the grand final the year before, you shouldn't be playing and I'm sure all the players who played on that last Saturday would be feeling that way."

Harley said the desire to make amends for a losing grand final was something players didn't discuss openly but history suggested it played a big part the following season.

"Geelong lost to Hawthorn in 2008 then won in 2009, St Kilda lost to Geelong in 2009 and drew the following grand final when they were four goals down at three-quarter time against Collingwood and Hawthorn lost to Sydney in 2012 and won in 2013, West Coast and Sydney back in 2005 and 2006," he said.

"There's too many instances of that to suggest it's not worth something. When the whips are cracking at the end of the year, when it comes to preliminary finals or grand finals, it's worth something and that something can be quite significant."

"I don't necessarily subscribe to 'you've got to lose one to win one' but it … doesn't hurt ..." " *Tom Harley *