McPharlin out of Port clash
Luke McPharlin. Picture: Anthony Pearse.

Fremantle have suffered a major blow ahead of Saturday's game against Port Adelaide at Adelaide Oval, with coach Ross Lyon ruling out key defender Luke McPharlin.

McPharlin sustained a quadriceps injury in Sunday's western derby win over West Coast, but completed the game. However, Lyon told Channel Seven the veteran would not fly to Adelaide.

The Dockers, with their season delicately poised at 4-3 ahead of crunch games against the Power and Geelong, are still sweating on the fitness of their second tall back man Zac Dawson, who was substituted out of the derby with a left ankle injury.

The sight of Dawson on crutches on Monday was cause for concern, but midfielder Michael Barlow was hopeful he'd play.

"He will put every step in place to be available," Barlow said.

"He has got plenty of runs on the board in terms of getting up for games and a big game like this one."

Midfielder Stephen Hill, who missed the derby, is a chance but no certainty to return from a hamstring injury.

The absence of McPharlin complicates Fremantle's task of closing down Port Adelaide's attack which includes Coleman Medal leader Jay Schulz (24 goals) and the dangerous Justin Westhoff.

Barlow has bracketed in-form Port Adelaide with premiership favourites Hawthorn, and warned Saturday's game against the Power represented a searching test of Fremantle's defensive mechanisms.

He said the Power in Adelaide were a "massive challenge".

"Hawthorn showed us why they are the ones being hunted and they are deservedly the premiership favourites," Barlow said.

"Even on the weekend, St Kilda really saw what Hawthorn are about, they are really relentless and a foot-to-the-throat side.

"Port Adelaide poses a massive challenge. Jay Schulz is leading the Coleman and Justin Westhoff on his day could kick 10. Chad Wingard at ground level was an All-Australian last year.

"If we are at our defensive best we can try and stop the influx entries for them and those weapons that I just alluded to."

He said the Dockers would not be intimidated by Port's reputation as the AFL's fittest team.

"We have had as good a pre- season and conditioning phase as we have had under Ross," he said.

"We went further and faster throughout our pre-season. We will back ourselves in against Port Adelaide's fitness base."

Controlling the ball could be a key to that.

"The best form of defence is offence and if we can, control the ball and restrict Port Adelaide's access to the footy because they are a real run-and-gun turnover, end-to-end link-up team," he said.

"We have got to control the football and make sure that we are using it efficiently."

He said Fremantle were still indentifying lapses in their game despite the win over the Eagles.

The West Australian

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