Clarke suddenly in frame for Dockers
Zac Clarke. Pic: Getty Images

Fremantle ruckman Aaron Sandilands is adamant injured teammate Zac Clarke can have an impact if selected to play against Collingwood in round one.

Clarke has been in rehabilitation after injuring a knee during the Christmas-New Year break.

The 23-year-old emerged as a stronger possibility for round one when Scott Gumbleton injured his right hamstring in the Dockers' NAB Challenge win over the Western Bulldogs on Wednesday night.

Gumbleton will be unavailable for the March 14 season opener against the Magpies and with ruck pair Jon Griffin and Kepler Bradley recovering from knee reconstructions, the Dockers have limited tall options.

Clarke played career-best football when Sandilands, Bradley and Griffin were unavailable for prolonged periods last year.

But Sandilands said the former junior basketballer was the type of player who could slot straight back into the team.

"Zac's a great athlete," Sandilands said.

"He's training really hard at the moment and getting his body right. I've got no doubt that when he gets back and gets his opportunity he'll come in and play a role.

"You'd prefer not to come back in without match fitness, but the way the guys work in rehab now, they come back in great condition.

"They do a lot of touch as well.

"I'm pretty sure with Zac's running ability, when he gets the chance, he'll be fine."

The Dockers have a tough start to the year, the Collingwood clash followed by games against Gold Coast, Hawthorn, Essendon and Sydney.

Sandilands showed he was ready for the challenge of leading his team's following division when he returned to his imposing best against the Bulldogs and their All-Australian ruckman from last year, Will Minson.

His ruck work, marking and ground-level contests were a highlight and helped launch Fremantle's fight-back.

"He looks in pretty good nick," coach Ross Lyon said.

"He looked lively and had some really good ground balls. They were smacking us in the ground ball in the first half and he was leading the ground balls which isn't a great sign.

"Great credit to him, but it was probably a strong indicator that the mids needed to lift."

Having played only 10 matches last year, Sandilands looms as a major influence in 2014.

He said last year's injuries had forced the club to look at several options and now Fremantle had plenty of depth in the ruck.

"Jack Hannath's been playing and he can fill a role in the ruck and up forward," Sandilands said.

"It's great that Zac and Kep and Griff are all on the comeback trail at the moment. It's great that we've got a bit of depth there."

The West Australian

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