FREMANTLE coach Ross Lyon knows the Collingwood forward line, led by in-form spearhead Travis Cloke will provide a huge test for his under-manned Dockers’ defence this week.
Fremantle threw everything at recruiting Cloke before he re-signed with the Magpies in 2012, and now the Dockers are focused on trying to shut him down this Thursday night.
The Dockers are without key defenders Michael Johnson (hamstring), Alex Silvagni (hamstring) and Zac Dawson (hand) meaning Luke McPharlin will get first crack at Cloke with fourth-gamer Alex Pearce the next option.
Both teams come into the contest fresh after a week off, with Fremantle sitting atop the AFL ladder with a 10-1 record, while Collingwood is fourth at 8-3.
Fremantle have pulled a surprise at selection dropping creative half-back Tendai Mzungu after just his second game of 2015 along with struggling forward Matt Taberner. Matt de Boer returns after strong WAFL form with Peel Thunder and Chris Mayne returns from illness.
Collingwood have made just the one change with small forward Jarryd Blair returning to replace Ben Kennedy, with Jarrod Witts left to contest the ruck against Aaron Sandilands, in the absence of Brodie Grundy.
Lyon is not taking for granted that the Dockers will return to their best, particularly with Cloke in a forward-line that also features Jamie Elliott and Jesse White.
“They’re obviously consistent with their effort, they put good pressure on the opposition and I think they’ve got a really strong blend,” Lyon said.
They’ve got tall forwards, Cloke’s a power forward and the world wanted him, didn’t they, and you can see why. He’s a great player really,” Lyon said.
“And then (Dane) Swan and (Scott) Pendlebury have been proven over a long period of time to be two of the best mids in the competition and they’ve got a lot of bounce.
“We strike them confident in form and with a lot of belief. So it’s a big challenge.”
Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley is looking forward to finding out if his team can challenge the top teams in the AFL this season on Thursday.
The Dockers won their opening nine matches before a hiccup at home to Richmond and then beat Gold Coast prior to their bye. The Magpies are looking good but they have only beaten one team inside the top eight, GWS.
“It’s a great challenge for us and for anyone when they come up against Freo, especially travelling over that way,” Buckley said.
“We’re refreshed from the bye, so are they and we feel like we are playing some pretty good footy ourselves,” Buckley said.
“We’re looking forward to that next opportunity against the next opponent, it just happens to be Fremantle away and I reckon you do find out a little bit about your footy and how it stacks up when you play the best teams. We get a test this week.”