The Big Questions – 2024 Fremantle Season Preview

There is really no nice way of describing the 2023 Fremantle Dockers season. It was a letdown – kick in the pants to those supporters who got their hopes up after seeing their team start to channel some real mongrel in 2022.

I had high hopes for the Dockers, even with a few players packing up their bags and jumping ship. To me, several of them were superfluous to needs, but it did impact depth and that can be a problem. In the wash-up, the side really missed Blake Acres, who elevated his game on the wing at Freo and, after an ordinary start at Carlton, became an integral piece of their finals puzzle. Griffin Logue went to North Melbourne and had moments before doing his knee, and Rory Lobb went to the Western Bulldogs, who learnt first-hand what it was like to deal with the RolLOBBcoaster. I woudn’t have been too disappointed to see him leave.

What was probably lost on many was how much the team lost with the retirement of David Mundy. Despite the team having other stars, his absence, and the leadership his presence provided, left a huge chasm in the side. It is a testament to his stature at the club – players, and people like him do not grow on trees.

The signs were bad for Freo from Round One. Against an undermanned Saints team, they fell into the trap of waiting for the opposition to make a mistake. And they waited. And they waited.

That, in itself, was the mistake. They stopped the pressure that made them successful in 2022. They changed what got them to the dance. And by the time they made the necessary adjustments, supporters were already wondering what changes could be made for the 2024 season.

It was a lost season for the Dockers, who are far better than their 14th place finish indicates. Now, we get to see what the team and Justin Longmuir have learnt from a painful season.


It’s that time of year, already.

The break after Christmas and New Year is over. The holidays are finished for AFL players, and the hard stuff starts now. Yes, the teams had been training for well over a month prior to Christmas, but as we head into 2024, the ante is upped and the intensity increases.

This is where premierships are won and lost. This is where improvements are made and lists come together. New faces, new colours, old heads with renewed passion… so much feeds into the making of a contender. And as the days tick down toward to the intra-club clashes, practice games, and eventually the real stuff, questions are raised about each team and how they’re going to perform in 2024.

We don’t do things by halves here, at The Mongrel Punt. When we do a season preview, we go all out to make sure it is the best, most comprehensive coverage you’ll receive. We pride ourselves on it. If you are going to read one season preview for your team, or any team, this series provides it.

The way it works is as follows.

Each club has a minimum of 15 questions asked about the upcoming season, their coaches, their players, and their expectations. The answers are not glossed over. We dive deep on each and every one – some singular answers would normally be long enough for an entire column. The first five questions/answers are free for you to consume. The next 10-14 for each club are for our members, including a special appearance from Mrs Mongrel to throw her two cents in the mix.

Isn’t it a bit early for a season preview? Well, I suppose, but do you know how long it takes to write seven thousand words? That’s 18 x 7,000… gets out the calculator… that’s 126,000 words. The average novel is about 85,000 words, so buckle the hell up with these previews.

Also, if there are any issues that arise after the publication of the preview, they will be covered in standalone articles to act as additions to this preview.

You will not read a deeper season preview than this – I guarantee it. This is where we start the run to the new season and believe me – nobody does it better than The Mongrel.





I might be one of the few who think the Freo forward line will be functional without too much help in 2024. Of course, I have been accused of being delusional on many fronts over the years, but on this one, I don’t mind what they provide.

Of course, you’d love to have a fit Matt Taberner play close to an entire season, but the last time he did that was the shortened 2020 season so I won’t hold my breath. We have an entire section on him below, so I won’t dive in too much, here.

Instead, let’s look at the players that Fremantle will be deploying inside 50 and what they are capable of?

Jye Amiss is the diamond. I’ve made the comparison before and I’ll make it again – he has the same ability to find the right place at the right time as Jack Riewoldt. His leading patterns are fantastic and he demands the footy when he leads straight at the ball carrier. Believe it or not, these types of players are now rare – it used to be a staple for key forwards to just know how and when to lead, but it is a lost art.

Amiss has rediscovered it.

With 41 goals in 2023, he was the shining light in a season that was pretty dark up forward for Freo.

Josh Treacy is now 21 and is starting to get some stamina to go with his big frame. I love the way he crashes packs as it opens up opportunities for his little guys. Of course, Freo are one down in that department, now. More on that later.

Luke Jackson carries enormous expectations on his shoulders, and if he is plonked into the goal square and asked to carry the forward line, they are likely to get too heavy for him. He is at his best when he can use his athleticism, work up and the ground and work his opponent over. So many seem to get hung up on how many goals he kicks, but that is far too simplistic a way to accurately assess his influence on what happens inside 50. Though he finished with 22 goals in 2023, you’d like to see him hit 30+ without sacrificing too much of what makes him special. Not too much to ask, is it?

“Hey Luke – we love what you’re doing. Now, if you could just do more of it, that’d be great.”

See… easy! 🙂

I’m a big believer that players need 12 months to adjust to new surrounds/teammates/coaches. This is the year we see what he is capable of.

Michael Walters turned back the clock just a little in 2023 and finished with 33 goals – his best return since his All-Australian year in 2019. He has received little credit for the way he worked, but deserves plenty.

And then there is Nat Fyfe, who remains a wild card in just about every way. I am still not sold on him as a forward of any sort. He has no real history of success as a goal kicker, but with his body failing him, the options for Freo seem limited. Ideally, a 60/40 split between midfield/forward would be great. However, it may well end up reversed if he is sore.

And that brings me to the bloke I reckon could be the key to how successful the Dockers are once the ball hits the deck. At 27 years old, I reckon it is his time to shine.



I rate Sam Switkowski incredibly highly.

He has every single attribute I want in a small forward, but has often deferred to others inside 50. It’s time he gets a little selfish.

Swit is a great tackler inside fifty – he was second at the club behind Lachie Schultz in 2023, and will need to elevate his pressure in 2024 to give the Dockers a chance. As a matter of fact, he’ll need to elevate all aspects of his game to replace the hole left by Schultz. As much as I hate to admit it, losing Schultz hurt – it hurt bad, but Switkowski has the capacity to cover that shortfall. No more deferring. No more taking a back seat. He needs to drive this baby and set an example.

So, what does that look like? Let’s explore.

Swit has hovered around 14 touches per game in each of the last two years, but the concern coming into 2024 is that he has never averaged a goal per game. He’ll fight and scrap, but he has not been able to reap the benefits of the hard work. That has to change.

Whilst you’d take 14-15 touches from him again if he was largely going to stay at home as a forward, he will likely cruise up through the middle and has to make sure his opponent doesn’t sag off to make life more difficult for those left inside 50. 17 touches per game and an increase in his best inside 50 numbers (just 2.9 per game) is required.

The tackles inside 50 need to leap up a level, as well. He is no longer part of a duo and now has to shoulder a lot of the responsibility. Between him and Schultz, they averaged 2.78 per game. Switkowski needs to absorb that loss and be up near two per game. The league leaders in 2023 were around this mark – Kysaiah Pickett, Toby Bedford. This is the ballpark for him. He IS good enough to do it.

I am a big believer in teams making improvements on the back of three or four guys stepping it up a notch. Freo have several who can do this, but in this area of the ground, Sam Switkowski is the main player capable of elevating his performance and creating havoc.

The other is Michael Frederick, who I’ll get to a bit later on.



Damn straight he does, and he fits right in with the Darcy/Serong/Brayshaw combination to help make them one of the best in the league.

After an injury-plagued beginning to his career, Hayden Young has put it all together over the last couple of seasons, making the move away from being a talented prospect to becoming one of the league’s bright stars across half-back in 2022, and then as one that could swing into the middle occasionally in 2023.

2024 is the year he cements his spot in that midfield rotation.

Whilst Serong and Brayshaw win their fair share of the footy – hell, both guys have been at, or close enough to 30 touches per game over the last couple of years, they’re no beasts. They’re not going to bully anyone, or barge their way into traffic and hold their place over the footy. Not often enough, anyway.

Hayden Young is no giant, but at 189 centimetres, he is a little bit bigger and will end up a little bit stronger over the footy than his soon-to-be midfield teammates. His body is now standing up to the rigours of the AFL system and the Dockers will need him in the guts more now that Nat Fyfe’s body has proven unreliable and Will Brodie has fallen off a cliff.

In 2023, Young attended no centre bounces in the first half of the season. In fact, he didn’t move into the middle until he dipped his toe in the water in Round 14. Following that, it was from Round 20 onwards that we saw him enter the fray, attending almost three-quarters of centre bounces. In that time, he averaged 4.4 clearances and importantly, 7.4 tackles.

That tackling number would have landed him at seventh in the league if we applied it over the 2023 season. Serong has plenty of mongrel (4.95 tackles) but Young is the one who will do the tidy up work and ensure the ball stays locked in when his teammates don’t win the clearance.

So, what would we be looking for from Young in 2024?

Look, he doesn’t need to win a heap of the footy. As touched on above, Brayshaw and Serong can do that in their sleep. No, what he needs to do is the little things that make life a little easier for those guys. The blocking, the coverage of their men when they go ball-hunting, and the clean up duty when the ball spills his way. If he can continue the rate of tackling he commenced in the midfield last year, it might be just what the Fremantle Doctor ordered.



Nathan O’Driscoll has shown some promise on one wing, and looked particularly good in 2022 before an injury-interrupted 2023 season brought him back to earth. Playing just ten games, he lacked the burst of pace, and those long-striding sustained runs he demonstrated the year before.

Assuming he has a good preseason and rebuilds a strong fitness base, he looks to be a lock for me on one side of the ground. The other side presents a bit of a problem, especially after the exodus of Blake Acres one year and Liam Henry the next. Losing one specialist wingman is one thing… losing both hurts like hell.

James Aish may be an option on the other wing, as he has played the role to some degree of success in recent seasons, but I see him as a better driver in heavy traffic than I do as a driver on the open road. Besides, I would not be surprised to see him adopt a bit more of a defensive role (see below).

What that leaves us is a young man who sat on the Gold Coast list all 2023 knowing he wasn’t going to get a game. How did he know? Because he knew he was out of there following the season and he wasn’t the only one who knew – the Suns knew it, as well.

He played 23 games across three years prior to the 2023 season, with his best footy coming in 2021, where he was given the licence to run and gun on the wing for the Suns. This resulted in back-to-back 30+ disposal games.

The Dockers have a mixed recent history when it comes to snatching former Gold Coast players. Will Brodie burst out of the box and was one of Freo’s best in 2022, but he was a fair way removed from that in 2023. Then there was Josh Corbett, who moved over and played five games in 2023 before injuring his hip. He will now miss the entire 2024 season.

Despite not sighting him in 2023, I like what I have seen from Sharp and think he could have the capacity to surprise. I am not talking about tearing games open and giving the Doig Medal a shake, but he is a hard two-way runner who didn’t get the chance to strut his stuff with the Suns. He was evidently unhappy and should have been traded a year before.

This is his second lease on life, and if he is able to hold down the wing role and make it work, the Dockers may just have two keepers in the position after losing two in two seasons. It’d be a nice outcome.



Oooh, two questions at once.

There were a lot of people who came hard for Alex Pearce last season. It was almost as though they smelled a little bit of blood in the water and decided they were sharks, all of a sudden. It was the usual suspects, but for a change, their criticisms had a bit of merit.

Pearce didn’t have a stellar year – that much was clear. He started out poorly and though he did improve, the dye was cast on the way his 2023 was perceived. It was poor timing since he was in his first year as skipper of the team. As the Dockers faltered, people started looking for someone to blame. As captain, that someone was Alex Pearce.

The truth of the matter is that he had plenty of mates that were not exactly standing tall, but when you accept the role as figurehead f the team, you take the bad with the good. In 2023, there was more of the former than the latter.

Given his own performance on the field, he does owe the team one. He is a much better player than we saw in 2023, and a quick trip down memory lane to his 2022 season is Exhibit-A in that argument. Pearce is a powerful unit – one of the few who can genuinely hold his own against the true power forwards of the competition. Sure, he may have had a couple get away from him in 2023, but I have witnessed many great defenders game – Silvagni, Scarlett, Fletcher, Dench, Glass, Rutten  – all have their colours lowered at one point or another. I am backing him to bounce back.

In terms of whether or not the club should have re-appointed him, absolutely they should have. The Dockers were right to do so. Pearce deserves another chance to lead this team and prove that last season was an anomaly for both him and the group. One thing the last two off-seasons have demonstrated is that the team requires stability at the moment, and having a captain back up for another year provides exactly that. Change for change’s sake at this point would have been like Freo shooting themselves in the foot. They’ve done enough of that over the years – I’m glad they left their gun in the holster this time.

With many speculating that Pearce will eventually hand the reins of the club over to one of their bright young midfield stars, his role now is to provide solid, steady leadership – nothing flashy, which is great because apart from those lustrous locks, there is not much flashy about him. He also has to give Freo a powerful presence in defence – something he has achieved previously. The former got a nice shot in the arm when Sean Darcy recommitted to the team.


This concludes the free section of our preview. The next two-thirds are for our members.


As mentioned above, the first five questions are free – the next 10-12 are for our members. I believe my work is worth twenty-five cents per day. If you don’t, that’s fine. You’re welcome to join and keep reading