No excuses from Freo
No excuses from Freo

Fremantle remain upbeat about their chances of toppling Hawthorn in Friday night's block- buster at the MCG, despite losing key trio Michael Barlow, Nat Fyfe and Zac Dawson through injury and suspension.

The club yesterday accepted a two-match ban offered to star midfielder Fyfe for his bump on Michael Rischitelli and a one-game suspension against defender Dawson for tripping.

The Dockers then revealed key on-baller Michael Barlow had a knee injury which could sideline him for more than a month as the fall-out from last Saturday's 48-point win over Gold Coast continued.

As Fremantle licked their wounds, Hawthorn said they had not given up hope of captain Luke Hodge taking his place after he was substituted out in the third quarter of his side's thrilling win over Essendon last Friday night with a groin strain.

Hodge was described as a "test" on Hawthorn's injury list yesterday, as were premiership trio Sam Mitchell (calf), Brad Sewell (hamstring) and Ben Stratton (hamstring).

Fremantle football operations general manager Chris Bond said the club had no choice but to accept Fyfe's suspension because of the AFL's crackdown on contact to the head when bumping.

"Our advice suggested that we wouldn't be successful with it, and if we weren't successful then both Nat and Zac would have a substantial amount of carryover points that would have to continue for 12 months," Bond said.

"We're disappointed and so is Nat, but rest assured the AFL did the correct due diligence and the process was exactly right."

Further complicating matters for the Dockers is the fact Peel Thunder had the WAFL bye last weekend, meaning the three replacements on Friday night will not have played for a fortnight.

Young midfielder Lachie Neale was the substitute against Collingwood in Fremantle's season opener on March 14, while other potential inclusions Zac Clarke, Alex Silvagni and Garrick Ibbotson have played just one game of competitive football this season on their returns from injury.

But Bond insisted that would be no excuse.

"They were able to play a couple of weeks ago and then over the weekend they were able to do some substantial training," Bond said.

"It was really match-simulation training.

"The amount of the work that the guys have done when they have either come back from injury or haven't been able to play is enormous.

"We have got a lot of faith in our sports science and medical team so we're not concerned about that."

Bond was also confident of covering the loss of Fyfe and Barlow in the middle of the ground.

"We have got a history of doing it in the past," he said. "Obviously we are playing against Hawthorn, who are an exceptional team and have got great talent themselves, but none of our players will be daunted by that.

"They will be really excited by it. We have got a lot of faith in the players that will come into the team that they'll play the certain way they'll need to."

Bond said free-agency recruit Colin Sylvia had trained strongly since failing to finish his Peel debut because of a quad problem and would be considered to make his Fremantle debut.

Clancee Pearce has been a regular over the past two seasons under Ross Lyon, but struggled in Fremantle's pre- season matches and gathered just nine disposals in his only WAFL outing.

Barlow strained the lateral ligament in his left knee in the last quarter against the Suns, but was unaware of the injury until he woke up sore Sunday morning. A subsequent MRI revealed the serious damage.

The 26-year-old will wear a brace on the knee for the next two weeks, with the club hopeful it will help him return within a month.

The shift in fortunes of both sides has caused the market on the eagerly-anticipated game to fluctuate dramatically since Hawthorn opened as $1.80 favourites and the Dockers at $2 on Sunday.

TAB fixed odds betting manager Ben Pomatti said Fremantle had shortened to $1.70, forcing the Hawks to drift to $2.15, before news of the suspensions and injury filtered through to punters.

Last night, Hawthorn were $1.80 and the Dockers at $2.05.

"It will be very interesting how it progresses, especially when the Hawks name their team," Pomatti said.

"There could be a few more twists and turns yet.

"It's not overly frequent to see it swap so often during the space of 48 hours."

"We have got a lot of faith in the players that will come into the team ...""Fremantle football operations general manager *Chris Bond *

The West Australian

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