The Dockers would like to sell fans on seeing Harley Bennell in action regularly next year. But it’s no given… Photo: Paul Kane After a self-confessed 14 surgeries in his seven-year career, will Nat Fyfe stay health in 2017.
Nanjing Night Net

If Nat Fyfe stays fit. If Brad Hill comes west and is the somewhere near to the player he is at Hawthorn. If Cam McCarthy gets his act together. If Harley Bennell makes it onto the park. If 34-year-old Aaron Sandilands and 32-year-old Michael Johnson can remain healthy.

There are an awful lot of “ifs” there. But these are the premises on which the Dockers and Ross Lyon will try to sell 2017 to members and fans, after a truly horrible season to date.

In the past 10 days, Fremantle had Peter Sumich marched out the door, Nathan Fyfe reveal he’d explore free agency options, Hayden Ballantyne’s management talk to the club about a trade, club president Steve Harris leave two months ahead of his scheduled departure date and players acting as witches hats during a 72-point thumping at home from the Crows.

My information is still that Fyfe stays but the rest is pretty dire. How dire?

Well, I think you can say that Fremantle hasn’t had a more tumultuous week since Damian Drum was sacked and replaced by Ben Allan, nine games into 2001.

If all the Dockers “ifs” (a third of a side) come to fruition, then they get a pass mark for reaching the top eight…and are potentially even better than that.

If they don’t, then it’s easy to see the natives getting restless, because Fremantle is trying to walk the tightest tightrope of them all: the one where you stay in contention but somehow rebuild at the same time.

The Swans are the obvious masters of this. Come September they will play finals for the 14th time in 16 seasons, with flags seven years apart (2005 and 2012) and another one potentially in play this year. But Sydney has the major advantage, through coaching changes and different generations of players, of everyone being on the same page.

I hate the word “culture” and won’t use it. What I will say is that the Dockers aren’t even leafing through the same book right now.

You can start with Lyon’s own admission (at least twice now!) that Fremantle didn’t get fit enough during the pre-season. How in the world that happens when you’re forking out hundreds of thousands of dollars to strength and conditioning staff is beyond me but it wouldn’t want to happen again.

I maintain the captaincy is an issue. David Mundy is a good player but no leader and other options need to be explored there.

There’s no way I’m buying Lyon’s suggestion that players thought he was being easier on them than previous years or Harris’ assertion that the coach isn’t difficult to deal with. That’s straight-out PR spin if I ever heard it.

That said, if you look at Ballantyne’s situation, I reckon Lyon and Freo are right to stand their ground. There is only so much you can take of the tail trying to wag the dog.

Recruiting-wise, Sydney has a habit of successful recycling (anyone think Josh Kennedy wouldn’t get a game for Hawthorn these days?) and crafty drafting (Dan Hannebery and Luke Parker in the second round). Fremantle has Jack Anthony, Colin Sylvia and the uncertainty around Bennell, plus the jury being out on Matt Taberner and Michael Apeness, the latter of whom had four handballs and no marks against Adelaide and hardly looked like the successor to Matthew Pavlich.

I’ve never been a fan of five-year contracts for players and I’m still not sold on them for coaches either. At best, Lyon’s off-season deal until 2020 works out brilliantly for both parties, but looks especially good for the club if the Dockers surge back into contention in the next two years. At its worst, well…Ross is still getting paid and Fremantle has some human resources work to do.

For now though, both parties have some more immediate tasks at hand.

The Dockers failed dismally to rise for the occasion for Pavlich’s 350th game against Sydney but get another chance to honour the former captain in more befitting style against the Western Bulldogs on Sunday week.

Given the Dogs’ own challenges with injuries, Fremantle has to at least be competitive in Pav’s final game.

Because at some stage, you sense, the Freo crowd is going to start letting Lyon and co know when the efforts aren’t up to scratch.

Goat of the week:Things that make you go hmmmmmmmm:This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.