Dockers back in mids to match it with Sydney’s stars

Justin Chadwick |

Sydney’s Isaac Heeney (left) and Fremantle’s Andrew Brayshaw (right) are set for battle at the SCG.
Sydney’s Isaac Heeney (left) and Fremantle’s Andrew Brayshaw (right) are set for battle at the SCG.

Andrew Brayshaw and Caleb Serong are being backed to become attacking weapons as Fremantle brace for a test of their AFL premiership credentials in Saturday’s clash with Sydney at the SCG.

The Swans are the competition’s benchmarks in a glut of different areas – one of them being their potency from the midfield.

Chad Warner (24 goals), Isaac Heeney (21) and Errol Gulden (10) have combined for a whopping 55 majors this season, helping lift the Swans to a 10-game winning streak.

In comparison, Fremantle’s famed midfield quartet of Brayshaw (four), Serong (two), Nat Fyfe (three) and Hayden Young (eight) have combined for just 17 goals in 2024.

That tally was much smaller before last week, but three goals to Young and one each to Serong and Brayshaw in the 20-point win over Gold Coast  boosted the figure.

Young is by far Fremantle’s best attacking midfield weapon, while Fyfe is their best contested marker and would have kicked more goals if not for his wayward kicking (3.5).

Brayshaw’s inaccuracy (4.9) has also become an issue, and there is huge pressure on both him and Serong to lift their attacking output.

Sydney's Brodie Grundy (left) and Fremantle's Caleb Serong (right).
Sydney’s Brodie Grundy (left) and Fremantle’s Caleb Serong (right) will be key players at the SCG. (Richard Wainwright/AAP PHOTOS)

Ruckman Sean Darcy believes the duo are on the cusp of achieving that goal, especially with Fremantle now playing an extra midfielder to allow them to spend longer stints up forward.

“The boys work their arses off, they train really hard,” Darcy said.

“Their goalkicking routine is really good, their forward craft is really good, and they also want the ball.

“So of course they can do it. That’s the next step in the midfield, kicking goals and being attacking and aggressive.”

Fremantle’s best football this season has been scintillating, as evidenced by their 92-point win over Melbourne in Alice Springs.

But their worst has been downright shoddy, as highlighted by a 37-point loss to lowly West Coast and a 67-point mauling at the hands of the Western Bulldogs.

After Fremantle’s heavy loss to the Bulldogs a fortnight ago, coach Justin Longmuir accused his team’s midfielders of playing for stats.

It was harsh public criticism, but a deserved clip.

“It’s honest. That’s what we want to be,” Darcy said.

“What he said in the media was probably a little bit of a calm-down of what we were saying to each other in the Monday review.”

Fremantle enter their toughest match of the year without skipper Alex Pearce, who will miss the next three to four weeks with a fractured left forearm.

Josh Draper has been named as his replacement, and he will join last week’s debutant Hugh Davies in an inexperienced defence.

Darcy’s ruck battle against the in-form Brodie Grundy shapes as crucial to the result.

Grundy is thriving at Sydney on the back of his doomed one-year stint at Melbourne, but Darcy is also in hot form after tallying 12 clearances, 39 hit-outs, one goal and 20 possessions against Gold Coast.