After Fremantle fell off the face of the earth in 2016, Ross Lyon promised to ‘restump’, ‘rewire’ and ‘replumb’ following the end of a successful era which saw a Grand Final appearance but no flag.
Twelve months on, ‘Ross the Rebuilder’ has the plans and is assembling the frame, but still has a lot of hard work ahead of him.
While the Dockers sit mid-table with a 6-6 record at the bye, their third-worst league percentage of 78.5% suggests that they probably aren’t a finals contender in 2017.
Their year has been quite the rollercoaster ride, with upset wins over the Bulldogs, Richmond and Melbourne mixed in with beltings by Port Adelaide, Adelaide and Brisbane.
After some early season hidings, Lyon correctly dropped a swathe of older players including Zac Dawson, Nick Suban, Jonathon Griffin and Danyle Pearce which briefly reinvigorated his side.
Lachie Weller, Connor Blakely, Darcy Tucker and Ed Langdon have all provided hope for what is still the third-oldest list in the AFL. Lachie Neale and Michael Walters have been outstanding, as has veteran Aaron Sandilands, who has agreed to play a 17th season in 2018.
Their off-season recruits get a big tick. Brad Hill looks to be relishing playing at home, former Bulldog Joel Hamling looks to be a long-term full back, while Cam McCarthy and Shane Kersten have been solid.
Nat Fyfe has been good, without being great. Revealed to be playing through injury, Dockers fans will be hoping that the former Brownlow Medalist can get through his niggles and return to his best soon.
With one of the best coaches in the AFL at the helm and signed until 2020, Fremantle clearly have a long-term plan and are slowly filling the gaps on their list.
‘Ross the Rebuilder’, can he fix it? Yes, but patience will be required.