Pavlich pulls out of Demons clash
Pavlich pulls out of Demons clash

Fremantle will be without skipper Matthew Pavlich for tonight's clash with Melbourne in Darwin.

Pavlich withdrew from the battle this afternoon because of illness and was replaced in the Dockers line-up by Michael Apeness, who will make his AFL debut.

The veteran forward joins exciting midfielder Stephen Hill on the sidelines.

The Dockers also revealed Anthony Morabito will start as the substitute.

But Fremantle were confident the whirlwind of emotion surrounding Morabito's remarkable comeback will not distract the team from the task of recording a seventh straight victory against Melbourne.

Football manager Chris Bond predicted the sentiment around Morabito's return from three knee reconstructions would disappear once the opening siren sounded tonight at TIO Stadium.

The Dockers have improved to 10-4, but must account for the Demons if they are to remain in the hunt for a top-two finish.

"It will certainly be emotional for Anthony and I think the other players are very excited to have him in the team, but once the ball has bounced I think the emotion will go out of it," Bond said.

"Anthony will be really confident, he has done so much work to get back to where he is now.

"Everyone understands the significance of Anthony playing and we all respect it.

"But from our point of view, Anthony will know that our first priority is to get the win."

Bond said Morabito could fill a number of roles in his first AFL game since the 2010 semifinal loss to Geelong.

"He has actually been very versatile at Peel (Thunder)," he said.

"When he first came back at the start of the year he was playing in defence, he has played forward, on ball and wing so he has a variety of positions he can play."

Bond wouldn't say whether the 22-year-old was being considered as the substitute, but said there would be no issues with Clancee Pearce wearing the green vest for a third week in a row.

"It's not a concern," he said.

"I think we have a history of really working our players well, whether they play limited game time throughout."

Pearce won a reprieve yesterday after he was initially dropped from the side, with Stephen Hill withdrawn due to a minor quad strain.

Hayden Crozier is on standby for any other late withdrawals today.

"He (Hill) pulled up sore from training (on Thursday) and the scans showed it was very minor ... we're very hopeful that he can get over it and get up for next week (against Greater Western Sydney)," Bond said.

Bond was unsure how many players would wear gloves tonight to try to combat the expected slippery conditions.

Players familiarised themselves with TIO Stadium yesterday morning before completing their recovery at the Darwin Wave Pool.

Bond said Fremantle had a lot of respect for Melbourne under new coach Paul Roos and a lack of experience at the ground would not be used as an excuse.

"We just need to really concentrate on what we do and we do well and if we do that we think we'll be more than competitive, but we know it's going to be a very tough night," Bond said.

The West Australian

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