The Eagles tuned up for Round 1 with a 25-point win over Melbourne in their final JLT Series match, while an Ed Langdon goal after the siren saw Fremantle beat Collingwood in a thrilling final preseason hit out.
Meanwhile both clubs packed their WAFL feeder sides full of AFL players on the weekend in a bid to get everyone fit and firing to start the season.
With the start of the 2017 AFL season just around the corner, players are desperate to prove they deserve an opportunity for Round 1 and there were some standout performances throughout the preseason.
Adam Simpson and Ross Lyon have some tough decisions to make on what is the ideal mix to start the year.
Here’s our take on who we believe is in line to start for the Dockers and Eagles in their season openers. Fremantle Dockers
Predicted round one starting lineup (vs Geelong at Domain Stadium)
B: Lee Spurr, Joel Hamling, Zac Dawson
HB: Garrick Ibbotson, Michael Johnson, Stephen Hill
C: Bradley Hill, Lachie Neale, Danyle Pearce
HF: Lachie Weller, Shane Kersten, Ed Langdon
FF: Michael Walters, Cam McCarthy, Jon Griffin
R: Aaron Sandilands, Nat Fyfe, David Mundy
I/C: Connor Blakely, Cam Sutcliffe, Tom Sheridan, Darcy Tucker
Knocking on the door
???Injury listHarley Bennell (Calf, 5-7 weeks)Michael Apeness (Knee, 6-8 weeks)Hayden Ballantyne (Hamstring, 8-10 weeks)Zac Clarke (Knee, 3-4 months)Alex Pearce (Fractured leg, 3-4 months)
Senior list: Nick Suban, Sam Collins, Ethan Hughes, Brennan Cox, Griffin Logue, Luke Ryan.
Rookie list: Brady Grey, Josh Deluca-Cardillo, Taylin Duman, Ryan Nyhuis, Luke Strnadica, Matthew Uebergang.
Ed Langdon should take the spot vacated by Hayden Ballantyne. Photo: Getty Images
Hayden Ballantyne’s hamstring injury creates a gaping hole in Fremantle’s forward structure.
Not only must the Dockers now cover for his trademark pressure they so heavily rely on, they also need to find a goal-scorer, and it’s slim pickings when you glance at their roster.
But hope remains and, as the Dockers enter what coach Ross Lyon has labelled a four-year rebuild, what better time than to test some of their youth?
We’re predicting Ballantyne’s loss will be Ed Langdon’s gain and he will line up on a half forward flank, while fellow youngster Lachie Weller could find himself standing opposite him for his natural goal scoring ability.
The mix of youth and experience in Fremantle’s forward line mimics the rest of the team sheet.
It’s now imperative the Dockers get games into their younger players, but it’s also hard to see Ross Lyon picking rookies over seasoned players.
Alex Pearce’s bum leg makes the backline fairly clear cut and while many Fremantle fans might want Zac Dawson replaced with new draftee Griffin Logue or Sam Collins, the veteran played every JLT Community Series game and performed well enough.
The return of Nat Fyfe and Aaron Sandilands highlights what is hoping to be a resurgent Dockers midfield, while new recruits Joel Hamling, Brad Hill, Shane Kersten and Cam McCarthy are all likely inclusions for round one.
Bradley Hill looms as a key player for the Dockers in 2017. Photo: Getty Images.
Key new face
The Dockers will have plenty of new faces in 2017 but, we’re tipping Hawks premiership midfielder Bradley Hill to have the most impact of any player recruited to the club.
Hill is a proven player with three premierships next to his name, and has spent a lot of time developing in one of the most successful football programs ever.
Cam McCarthy could prove to be more valuable for the Dockers if he can kick more than 35 goals, however the former Giant could find the going tough if he’s matched up against the opposition’s best defender every week which seems likely.
Hill’s speed and ability to hit the scoreboard should see him slot easily into Fremantle’s side this season – just so long as he doesn’t forget to take an allergy tablet before stepping into the ice baths. West Coast Eagles
Round one starting lineup (vs North Melbourne at Etihad)
B: Brad Sheppard, Eric Mackenzie, Tom Barrass
HB: Shannon Hurn, Jeremy McGovern, Sharrod Wellingham
C: Andrew Gaff, Matt Priddis, Lewis Jetta
HF: Jamie Cripps, Jack Darling, Chris Masten
FF: Drew Petrie, Josh Kennedy, Mark LeCras
R: Nathan Vardy, Sam Mitchell, Luke Shuey
I/C: Elliot Yeo, Jackson Nelson, Dom Sheed, Josh Hill
Knocking on the door
Injury listMatthew Allen (Hamstring, TBC)Willie Rioli (Hamstring, 6 weeks)Jake Waterman (Foot, 8-10 weeks)Scott Lycett (Shoulder, 10-12 weeks)Simon Tunbridge (Knee, 3-4 months)Nic Naitanui (Knee, 4-5 months)
Senior list: Mark Hutchings, Tom Cole, Kurt Mutimer, Luke Partington, Malcolm Karpany, Tom Lamb, Josh Rotham, Daniel Venables.
Rookies: Simon Tunbridge (injured), Fraser McInness, Francis Watson, Tarir Bayok, Paddy Brophy, Thomas Gorter.
Ex-Cat Nathan Vardy looks set to lead West Coast’s ruck line. Photo: Getty Images
Sam Butler, the ageless veteran of West Coast’s defence, is unlucky to miss out in Round 1 but if Ben Brown gets up for North then the Kangaroos will probably field three talls in attack and will also have Goldstein resting forward.
This is likely to see the Eagles go with three talls of the own in Jeremy McGovern, Tom Barrass and former club champion Eric Mackenzie who seems to have moved ahead of Will Schofield for a key defender spot.
With Hurn, Wellingham and utility Brad Sheppard automatic inclusions in the Eagles back six, there’s just the one small defender spot up for grabs and it appears Jackson Nelson has edged out Butler for that spot despite the latter’s 28 touches for East Perth on Saturday.
Liam Duggan, Jack Redden and Mark Hutchings also find themselves on the outer with West Coast’s midfield depth having improved significantly due to Sam Mitchell’s arrival. Mitchell, Matt Priddis, Andrew Gaff and Luke Shuey are all but locked into the Eagles starting team while the pace of Lewis Jetta and Elliot Yeo get them a gig to compliment that quartet.
That leaves Dom Sheed, Chris Masten, Duggan, Redden and Hutchings fighting for a spot. Sheed had an injury-affected year in 2016 but when fit looks a key part of the Eagles midfield puzzle while Masten’s experience and incumbency sees him take the final spot.
Meanwhile Nathan Vardy’s uninterrupted preseason and Drew Petrie’s ability to impact the game as a forward and in the ruck mean the two Eagles’ offseason recruits are likely to get first crack at the ruck spot ahead of Jonathan Giles whose preseason was disrupted by a thumb injury.
Jamie Cripps and Josh Hill get a game as defensive small forwards, however both could be looking over their shoulder once Willie Rioli returns from a hamstring injury, as the electric 2016 draftee appeared on course to make an early debut before his untimely setback.
Sam Mitchell’s kicking skills will be an asset for the Eagles in 2017. Photo: Getty Images.
Key new face
Long term injuries to Nic Naitanui and Scott Lycett mean former Geelong big man Nathan Vardy and North Melbourne legend Drew Petrie will have a vital role to play in determining how the Eagles go this year.
However, there’s no going past fellow recruit Sam Mitchell as the man most likely to make an impact this year for the Eagles with the champion midfielder named by his peers as the 20th best player in the competition.
A Brownlow Medal. Four premierships. Five best and fairests. Three All-Australian selections and even the Rising Star way back in 2003. There’s not much Sam Mitchell hasn’t done and his experience and kicking skills will be a huge asset for the club in 2017.
Mitchell showed in the preseason that he hasn’t lost any of his ability, despite turning 35 this season, with the former Hawk racking up 28 and 39 possessions in his two JLT Series outings.
Eagles and Hawks fans will still be kicking themselves in disbelief when he runs out for West Coast in Round 1, wondering just how the club was able to pick him up in exchange for Pick 88 in the trade period.
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.