Blakely back for Fremantle in AFL

Forgotten midfielder Connor Blakely will play his first match of the AFL season when Fremantle host Collingwood at Optus Stadium on Sunday.

The 24-year-old on-baller will replace Darcy Tucker, who has had surgery on his injured hamstring and won’t play again this season.

Tucker’s extended absence is yet another blow as the Dockers count the cost of a growing injury tally.

About one-third of their best 22 players are out of action, including excitement machine Michael Walters, who is sidelined this week with a minor hamstring strain.

But captain Nat Fyfe is on track to play against Collingwood after three weeks off with a hamstring injury and Blakely’s return from the wilderness gives the Dockers another midfield option.

“We’re really keen to give Connor a go,” coach Justin Longmuir said.

“We lost a couple of midfielders out of the weekend and he’ll get his opportunity on-ball where he’s been training and where he can play to his strengths and execute his role.

“He deserves his opportunity.”

Blakely spent time across half-back under former Fremantle coach Ross Lyon but is seen by Longmuir as a long-term midfield option.

He has played 50 games in five seasons but was unable to force his way into the injury-hit Dockers line-up in the first eight matches this year.

“He’s a better player than what he was eight weeks ago and that’s on the back of his dedication to getting the most out of everything that he’s doing,” Longmuir said.

“We’ve been training him as a midfielder all year so we expect him to, when it’s his turn, hunt and pressure and help negate a strong Collingwood midfield.

“We expect him to play his role in offence and defence and the only thing that’s been holding him back is an opportunity, so he gets that this week.”

Longmuir said Fremantle will continue to back in Sean Darcy as the young ruckman prepares for a battle with Collingwood star Brodie Grundy.

It means hulking 22-year-old Lloyd Meek will have to wait at least another week for his debut.

Brennan Cox could return from a hip complaint this week to bolster a defence missing injured key talls Alex Pearce, Joel Hamling and Griffin Logue.

Longmuir said Rory Lobb could be thrown into defence as a back-up option if Cox isn’t passed fit.





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