Fremantle might take a significant step towards a succession plan for life after champion Matthew Pavlich by playing hulking teenage forward Michael Apeness alongside their skipper when Pavlich returns from illness against Greater Western Sydney at Paterson Stadium on Sunday.
Dockers coach Ross Lyon yesterday indicated that Apeness, who had five possessions in two-and-a-half quarters in his AFL debut against Melbourne in Darwin last Saturday, was likely to stay in the team.
And Lyon also spoke of the balancing act the Dockers faced in 2015 given Pavlich's decision to play on.
On the plus side, his form warranted continuing and he provided a mentoring role to Apeness, Scott Gumbleton and Matt Taberner. But it also made spots in the team harder to come by for players who might be ready for an AFL opportunity.
With that in mind and with a mind to increasing the height in Fremantle's forward line, Lyon was keen for Apeness, 200cm and 101kg, to get more opportunities.
"He should play again this weekend. We are pretty keen to keep him going," Lyon said.
"I thought he was really good in tough conditions. I thought he competed really strongly.
"It is a bit of what we are after. He is an exciting young talent. It is not going to be a smooth ride for him the whole time. It has never been tougher in the AFL being a power forward and particularly a young one, so we are excited by him.
"He is a bit of a beast, he competes and we are looking for that in our front half. I don't worry if they don't take too many marks as long as they don't get outmarked. If the ball is brought to ground you are pretty happy as a coach.
"Last week he was outnumbered a bit and he brought it to ground and he brings Ballantyne and those blokes into the game.
"We are not a super-tall front half. Matthew is 191-192cm, Mayne is 188cm. Clarke is our tallest when he is there at 200cm, so we could do with some more height."
Lyon said Pavlich continuing could mean two things for the Dockers.
"It can be good because he can help mentor and grow them but he can also get in the way potentially can't he? The only way you can improve is play. Matthew's form has entitled him to go on," Lyon said.
"We do know that young talls take a long time.
"He can help protect them a little bit and carry the load but it could be that it is hard to fit them all in when maybe they deserve it. That will be the challenge going forward."
Lyon has declared Michael Johnson a "likely" starter against the Giants provided he gets through training this week.
"If it goes according to plan he should be playing this week but we have got to get through today and Friday," Lyon said.
"He hasn't played for, I think, this would be his fifth week.
"He is a valued leader around the place, a general down there and a pretty good player. We are keen to get him up and going."