Fremantle midfielder Darcy Tucker has been dropped in a warning his finals dream is not yet assured, as the Dockers’ fit list again puts the squeeze on.
Drafted in 2015 and having endured the club’s entire rebuild from 16th in his first season in 2016, Tucker’s 102 games are the most by any player on Fremantle’s list not to have played in a final. The 25-year-old has been named to play for Peel in the WAFL on Saturday.
Fourteen Dockers will play for the Thunder to underline their current depth and competition for spots should only heat up with captain Nat Fyfe expected back before the bye.
Tucker has played every game this season apart from a concussion interruption, prompting him to miss round four and watch round five as an unused sub.
Youngsters Neil Erasmus and Josh Treacy were also dropped as the Dockers regained important forward trio Matt Taberner, Michael Walters and Sam Switkowski for the clash with Collingwood at Optus Stadium on Sunday.
Walters will play in the Indigenous guernsey he helped design for the Sir Doug Nicholls Round fixture after emerging from COVID isolation on Thursday and being cleared to resume.
Tucker was named as an emergency with Erasmus, Brandon Walker and Lloyd Meek.
Key defender Alex Pearce was named despite again aggravating his ankle issue and will continue to be monitored.
While Fremantle have a wealth of tall defensive options, coach Justin Longmuir said Pearce wouldn’t necessarily benefit from a rest.
“If we thought it was going to be of benefit to have a week off, we would consider it,” Longmuir said.
“But that’s not what the doctors are saying. One week off might not help. He’s just going to have to manage it throughout the year.”
Collingwood made five changes to the side that was thrashed by the Western Bulldogs last round, regaining captain Scott Pendlebury alongside Jamie Elliott, Jack Ginnivan, Mason Cox and Nathan Murphy.
The Magpies lost defender Jack Madgen to a shoulder injury and dropped Aiden Begg, Caleb Poulter, Callum Brown and Oliver Henry.
Cox has been brought in for his third game of the season and will lead the ruck in an intriguing battle with Doig medallist Sean Darcy.
Magpies coach Craig McRae said the American, who will play for the first time since Brodie Grundy went down with a long-term knee injury, has earned his call-up.
“I think Mason’s been a player at VFL level that’s going ‘why aren’t you picking me?’,” McRae said.
“We love playing players that play above the level. He’s done that for the last three weeks.
“He’ll get an opportunity and Darcy’s a great ruckman for Fremantle. So it’s a good challenge for him to come back in.”
More wild weather is on the way, with up to 20mm and a possible thunderstorm forecast for Perth on Sunday afternoon.
Longmuir conceded the Dockers needed to improve their footy in the wet, but said they were better against Gold Coast last weekend than the scoreboard indicated.
“A point to prove? No. But do we need to improve in those conditions? Absolutely,” Longmuir said.
“I suppose it’s something that we don’t get to play in a lot. We’ve had poor wet-condition games in the past and those games we’ve been stuck in our back half, haven’t been able to get anything going in our front half, haven’t even been able to get the ball in our front half and keep it there.
“So we did improve on certain areas. But you shouldn’t lose when you get 65 inside 50s to 35. So we need to make more of that. A lot of that comes down to our composure with ball in hand.”
Fremantle midfielder Will Brodie said the game was a chance to bounce back.
“Whether it’s wet or not this week, we’re going to bring our best and make sure we have a big emphasis on the contest and our hunt around the ball,” Brodie said.