Sandi fired up for Freo flag push
Sandi fired up for Freo flag push

Fremantle ruck giant Aaron Sandilands is confident his ageing body can get through a gruelling finals campaign, despite a heavy workload this season.

Sandilands, 31, said he was in good shape ahead of a showdown with rising Port Adelaide star Matthew Lobbe in today's crunch clash at Patersons Stadium.

The Dockers' flag prospects will go on the line against the Power, with the winners snaring a top-four berth and the coveted double chance in the finals, which start next Friday.

The losers will finish fifth and host an elimination final. No side has ever won a flag from fifth under the current finals set-up.

Sandilands, who is contracted for next season, played a combined 37 games in 2011, 2012 and 2013, but has missed just once with a minor back issue this year - the Dockers' shock round-18 loss to St Kilda.

The three-times All-Australian didn't return from a serious hamstring injury until round 15 last season, but wielded a massive influence in the finals to help propel the Dockers into their first grand final.

He has averaged 38 hit-outs, 13 disposals and three marks a game and booted seven goals in 2014.

"I am feeling really good. The body is really good at the moment," Sandilands said.

"Touch wood, I've got through the majority of the season unscathed and I'm looking forward to getting out there on the weekend."

Sandilands said there had been a major focus on recovery this week after travelling back from Brisbane on a six-day break.

But he denied the fact the Dockers had a poor record off short turnarounds this season would be on their minds today.

"Not at all," Sandilands said.

"That's out of our control and what we can control is doing everything right and preparing to the best of our ability so that come Saturday we're ready to go.

"We know it's going to be a big game on the weekend and it's a challenge we are looking forward to."

It is the first time Sandilands has played against Lobbe after the 24-year-old missed the round-eight clash with a calf injury.

"He has been in red-hot form," Sandilands said.

"He's playing some great football at the moment so it's going to be a big challenge for Clarkey (Zac Clarke) and myself.

"We do a fair oppo (opposition) analysis anyway so we sit down and go through the tapes of previous weeks and looking at a bit of him, he's been in real good touch.

"He's very strong with his follow up and he's also strong in the contest so we know we are going to have our work cut out because he gives their midfield first use."

The Dockers and the Power split the clearances earlier this year, and Sandilands said it would be a challenge to get on top of the visitors in the middle.

He was confident they could again cover the absence of star on-baller Nat Fyfe.

Michael Barlow was named to play, despite breaking his left thumb a fortnight ago.

"They are a quality clearance side and we know we have got to be up around our best as a midfield group to get the ball into our forward line because we know how dangerous they are," Sandilands said.

"It has been a strength of ours over the last couple of years.

"Guys that have come into the side have been in really good form in the WAFL and when they get their chance they take it."

Sandilands praised his 24-year-old understudy Clarke.

"He's had a really consistent year," Sandilands said.

"I think he's taken his game to a new level.

"It's great the chemistry we're getting together and I have been really happy the way he's going."

Port Adelaide coach Ken Hinkley believes his side's top-four hopes will be dashed if it loses its cool in Fremantle's cauldron, saying the visitors needed to take calculated risks.

"We have got to be prepared to not be too safe with the ball, but you just can't go silly," Hinkley said.

"You have got to have great composure and we talk about that every week - composure is the key ingredient to decision making. And if you can get that, you're OK.

"Fremantle are incredible at taking that composure away from you."

Port made one change, recalling rookie defender Jarman Impey and omitting back man Cameron O'Shea.

Impey, 19, will be handed the big job on either of Fremantle's potential game-breaking forwards, Hayden Ballantyne or Michael Walters.

The 17-gamer held Ballantyne goalless and to just nine disposals in Port's three-goal win in round eight.

"Cam O'Shea is incredibly unlucky to go out of the side, to be fair, but Jarman Impey has got to come in and play on their smalls," Hinkley said.

"We know it's going to be a big game … and it's a challenge we are looking forward to."

with Australian Associated Press

The West Australian

Popular videos

Compare & Save

Our Picks

Compare & Save

Follow Us

More from The West