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Monday, June 18, 2018

Bullish Dockers a chance to gatecrash the top eight, says Connor Blakely

Emerging midfielder Connor Blakely says Fremantle are every chance of gatecrashing the top eight and securing a surprise finals berth after resurrecting their season with successive victories heading into the mid-year bye.
The Dockers backed up a gritty performance in the home win over Adelaide by smashing hapless Carlton by 57 points at Etihad Stadium on Saturday and now head into the break with a 6-7 record.
They will be favourites against lowly Brisbane when they resume at Optus Stadium on Sunday week.
Star forward Michael Walters will return from suspension to bolster the side, while Bradley Hill (knee) and Alex Pearce (broken thumb) are some chance to be available.
But doubts remain over when Harley Bennell could return to senior level after he damaged his right wrist playing for Peel on Saturday. The latest setback came just two weeks after Bennell took himself out of a game with calf tightness.
Fremantle are 12th, a win and a significant chunk of percentage behind eighth-placed North Melbourne, who have a game in hand.
They face five top-eight sides in their final nine matches on the run home, but must travel only three times for games against Melbourne (in Darwin), Essendon (Etihad Stadium) and Geelong (GMHBA Stadium).
Blakely was bullish about Fremantle’s ability to challenge sides above them after “stripping back” their focuses to improve their ball use and team defence.
“Any team can beat anyone,” Blakely said.
“The competition is so tight and we don’t usually talk about it (finals) or mention anything about it.
“But I think if we keep going the way we’re going at the moment and we’re able to increase our consistency — especially with the young group where you’re going to have a bit of inconsistency — and if we focus on the things we wanted to work on at the start of the year, keep it really simple and all the young guys keep performing and the leaders keep leading the way they are, then I think the finals thing will take care of itself.”
The emergence of Rising Star nominee Brennan Cox in attack, as well as fit-again big man Michael Apeness and mature-age draftee Scott Jones, has helped fill a hole left by injured key forward Matt Taberner and given Fremantle confidence to be bolder in their ball movement.
Cox and Apeness each took three contested marks in the 15.13 (103) to 6.10 (46) win over Carlton.
The Dockers took 21 grabs inside the forward 50m, which played a significant role in their ability to rack up their highest score away from home for 14 months.
“We want to take the one-on-ones when we can,” Blakely said.
“When we see those big guys down there, we can’t be afraid to go in and take territory because we can’t just keep moving the ball laterally.
“That’s something that we’ve definitely done and we know that when we don’t do it, we get hurt by it.”