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Friday, February 23, 2018

Alex Pearce’s long-awaited return gives Fremantle Dockers defence a lift

Young Fremantle defender Alex Pearce is set to play his first game for the club in 21 months after the Dockers named a strong squad to take on Adelaide in their round one JLT Community Series match at Strathalbyn on Sunday.
The Crows named prized recruit Bryce Gibbs in their 30-man squad, but left out Hugh Greenwood, Brad Crouch and Taylor Walker, who have had interrupted pre-seasons.
With close to a full-strength list to pick from, Dockers coach Ross Lyon named most of his big guns.
Key defender Joel Hamling (groin) and quality midfielder Stephen Hill (quad) will berested, but recruits Brandon Matera and Nathan Wilson were named to play.
The selection of 22-year-old Pearce, who last played for the club in round 9, 2016 when he sustained the first of two broken legs, is also significant.
The 200cm defender is regarded as critical to the Dockers’ rebuild, with Michael Johnson likely to retire at the end of 2018.
Pearce, who showed promise in 21 games before his injuries, is favoured to become Hamling’s main support in the Dockers’ tall defensive stocks.
Top draft picks Andrew Bray-shaw and Adam Cerra, lower picks Stefan Giro and Lloyd Meek and rookie Bailey Banfield were named on a 12-man bench which will be pruned today.
Brayshaw, Giro and Banfield held their own in AFLX last week, while ruckman Meek has trained impressively throughout the pre-season.
Gibbs, who left Carlton at the end of last season after 231 games, is expected to play all pre-season matches to learn Don Pyke’s game plan.
“It’s important for Bryce coming across to a slightly different style of play to get him used to playing with some of the guys. He has hardly missed a beat through pre-season ... he has pretty much done the full training and he’s been really impressive,” Pyke said.
“There’s minor variations, I think, between the teams and how they play, probably the difference in language and terminology and some of the focus areas we have as compared to Carlton.
“But it’s probably more for him building the chemistry and the link with the other players.
“We have got some guys who have played a fair bit of footy together and he hasn’t, so the more opportunities he gets to play with guys that he’s going to be playing with come the home-and-away season, the better.”