Fremantle will tonight test Carlton with the type of dominant, big-bodied midfield that fuelled Hawthorn's most dominant era in the 1980s and 1990s, according to Dockers great Ben Allan.

And current Fremantle midfield coach Brett Kirk said the on-ball group was not only physically adapted to the modern trends of the game, but also showed the cultural hallmarks of the Sydney team he led to the 2005 premiership.

Allan, the Dockers' inaugural captain and now board member, was part of the Hawks' 1991 premiership team which completed a remarkable run of five flags in nine seasons.

He listed Nat Fyfe and Stephen Hill as his favourite players, but said they were just part of a midfield group including David Mundy, Michael Barlow, Ryan Crowley and ruckman Aaron Sandilands that reminded him of his all-conquering Hawthorn teammates.

It brought back memories of the dominance effected by the size of imposing Hawthorn stars such as Darren Jarman, Anthony Condon and Dean Anderson.

"I just know that when you're playing against someone big and strong, it is intimidating and I think that's what we're doing to certain sides," Allan said.

"You can intimidate by two things - one is pace and the other is raw size and strength.

"They're so strong over the footy. Knocking someone off the line of the ball to get to it is a pretty difficult thing when they're 95kg and you're only a little pigmy.

"In those Hawthorn days, guys like Condon and Jarman and Dean Anderson, they were all over six foot (183cm).

"I was actually surprised when I walked into the club and saw them, they were all big blokes.

"So I guess there are some similarities in the make-up there."

But Allan said he detected no form of complacency in the Fremantle team from the periphery.

"We've still got a bit to come," he said.

"I don't think Hawthorn (round 21) or Port Adelaide (round 23) are going to lie down.

"If you're off, you're off and we've been off in the losses that we've had. There's not, as everyone knows in the competition, fait accompli.

"We're putting ourselves in a position to contend and that's all you can ask.

"I'm realistic enough to know that you've just got to keep putting yourself in the top four, do it as many times as humanly possible and hopefully all the cards lay out in the final two weeks of the year."

Kirk presided over a Swans player group that became renowned across the AFL for its bonding and uncompromising "Bloods" culture.

He said he could draw parallels between his former side and the Fremantle players he was now coaching.

It was a trait he believed had been built on surviving adversity.

"I guess probably the synergy is that there is a strong buy-in from the playing group and they're really driving the culture," Kirk said.

"There are some really strong leaders and they're the keys that I see. Those early days when Paul Roos took over (at Sydney), there is no doubt there are lots of similarities in terms of the belief in where we're going and guys driving it and really taking some ownership of it.

"Sometimes it's the challenges that make you who you are. There's no doubt some guys have been through it and they've come out the other side."

Kirk also said an important key was their thirst to continue learning and the fact that their physical and diverse make-up was perfect for the current trends in the game.

"I just see them as highly-driven and highly-competitive," he said.

"They're really sponges in terms of wanting to improve and grow and they're really starting to work as a strong unit together.

"You need a good mix through your midfield group and you need the bigger bodies, but you also need some speed and skill and someone to be able to shut down one of their best players.

"There is no doubt Fremantle have got a good mix of that."

Kirk said the Fremantle job, under his former Sydney assistant Ross Lyon, had come as something as a blessing as he had always hoped to further his career in the game outside the Swans' walls.

He said he had not spoken in depth with Roos about the vacant Melbourne assistant coaching role that will ultimately pitchfork the successful applicant into the senior position, but was making steady progress in the profession under Lyon.

"I'm working with one of the best coaches going around," Kirk said.

"It's challenging and it's stretching me, but I feel like I'm really growing. In coaching terms, I came over here pretty green, so I'm learning a lot.

"Ross has a great ability to make the complex simple and he sees the game so well.

"To be able to teach something you have to be able to do that, and the game these days, there's a lot going on.

"So to have some real clarity in the way you express how you can improve, he has that ability.

"You're always under pressure in the box and there's no doubt we get up and about in there because we're highly competitive beasts.

"So for me, it's really strong learning."

The West Australian

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