Defence best for O Brien: Malaxos

Former Docker Brock O'Brien will be recast as a defender for East Fremantle as the club starts its quest to return to the finals in 2014.

The 25-year-old has been named on a half-back flank in his return for the Sharks as they host premiers West Perth at East Fremantle Oval this afternoon.

It will be a far different role to the one O'Brien filled in his first two seasons at the WAFL club when he was transformed into a specialist forward.

The Pinjarra product was the club's leading goal-kicker in 2011 and 2012, booting 95 goals.

But East Fremantle coach Steve Malaxos said the returning O'Brien would play as a defender this season, the role for which he was originally drafted by Fremantle.

"His AFL games were as a defender," Malaxos said.

"When we first recruited him, we did it as a small defender. But in the very first game against Claremont we were well down at half-time and we put Brock in the forward line and he kicked five in the second half.

"He played in the forward line the next week and we won and he kicked some goals again.

"So he ended up just staying as a forward. Circumstances and his performances led to it.

"Following his sabbatical last year, we had a discussion. He felt he could best contribute by playing in defence and also through the midfield.

"That's where he's trained and played all pre-season."

O'Brien stepped away from East Fremantle midway through last season after a spate of hamstring injuries to return to country club Pinjarra while he weighed up his future in the WAFL.

The setback had come after similar injury woes during four seasons on Fremantle's list, where he played just three matches from 2007 to 2010.

Malaxos said the Sharks believed they had enough firepower up forward without O'Brien.

De-listed Geelong rookie Cameron Eardley and fellow recruit Danny Chartres will play their first league matches for East Fremantle against the Falcons.

The season opener will be a major early test for the Sharks. An honest Malaxos said getting the premiers first-up was less than ideal.

West Perth will field 18 of their 22 players from last year's grand final win.

Kody Manning is serving a three-week suspension and Jason Salecic, Mark Hutchings and Josh Mellington have left the club.

"He felt he could best contribute by playing in defence and also through the midfield.""East Fremantle coach *Steve Malaxos *on Brock O'Brien

The West Australian

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