Fremantle Dockers defender Nathan Wilson included for his first game of the season as Liam Henry misses

Headshot of Braden Quartermaine
Braden QuartermaineThe West Australian
Nathan Wilson will play for Fremantle for the first time this season.
Camera IconNathan Wilson will play for Fremantle for the first time this season. Credit: Daniel Carson/AFL Photos

Forgotten Fremantle defender Nathan Wilson has been recalled for his first game of the season – and 150th of his career – in a surprise selection move as the Dockers shake things up following the loss to Carlton.

Wilson, 29, played 18 games last season but was squeezed out of the defence this year amid a fit backline group and the addition of Jordan Clark from Geelong.

Both Wilson and veteran forward Michael Walters were named in the starting 18 to face Port Adelaide at Optus Stadium on Sunday, with Liam Henry (hamstring) the only player confirmed as out. The untimely setback for Henry comes after he had 15 touches and kicked a goal in one of his most promising senior outings last weekend.

Connor Blakely, Sam Sturt and Mitch Crowden were added to an eight-man bench, with Wilson’s inclusion likely to dislodge Ethan Hughes or Brandon Walker. Walters trained strongly on Thursday morning following a calf injury.

Fremantle coach Justin Longmuir has labelled the Dockers’ weak midfield effort against the Blues an aberration, but warned Port Adelaide would provide another stern engine room test.

The 12th-placed Power have gone on a 7-2 run since their 0-5 start and are one of only two clubs Longmuir is yet to defeat as coach along with the Western Bulldogs.

Longmuir said there would be no change to the regular centre square mix after a 14-5 centre clearance hammering from Carlton led to a lopsided 64-40 inside-50 count in the 31-point loss.

Liam Henry will miss Fremantle’s clash with Port Adelaide.
Camera IconLiam Henry will miss Fremantle’s clash with Port Adelaide. Credit: Michael Willson/AFL Photos

“It’s a blip on the radar as far as I’m concerned and I back them wholeheartedly to bounce back,” Longmuir said.

“We’ll keep putting the same guys through there. I don’t think it’s a trend. Three games ago we beat Brisbane and we beat Hawthorn before the bye.

“There’s no need to be too drastic with what we change in there. We just need to get back to playing to our strengths and back to playing our brand and I’m pretty sure we can turn it around quickly.

“If we don’t get our contest work right against Port, they’ve got a lot of speed and they can get you on the outside and you can really allow their ball movement to get a hold of you with the way they play.”

Fremantle defender Michael Frederick could miss the chance to take on his twin brother Martin, as the Power prepare to regain several players.

The Power lost Riley Bonner (cheekbone) and dropped Sam Mayes, naming potential inclusions Darcy Byrne-Jones, Tom Clurey, Robbie Gray, Orazio Fantasia and Jase Burgoyne in their extended squad. Port defender Martin Frederick was named on an eight-man bench.

Longmuir said captain Nat Fyfe was “going well” physically after being held to 11 disposals in his second match of the season, following a long-term layoff with major shoulder and back injuries.

SPT AFL Fremantle training at Cockburn. Nat Fyfe.
Camera IconNat Fyfe is ‘going well’ physically after his second game back for Fremantle. Credit: Iain Gillespie/The West Australian

“He’s still got a few things he’s having to manage and that will be the same probably for the rest of his career. But physically he’s going OK,” he said.

“He’s disappointed with his game on the weekend, as were a number of our players. And not just our midfielders. A number of our players had down games.

“So that was the most disappointing thing. There was something in our preparation we didn’t get right. We need to bounce back.”

The Dockers, fourth with a 10-4 record, are locked in a desperate battle for a prized top-four finish. There is just one game separating second-placed Geelong and seventh-placed Collingwood with eight rounds remaining.

Fremantle will likely need three more wins to secure their first finals appearance since 2015.

“It’s a new pressure for us and something that we can only control by playing our footy really consistently,” Longmuir said.

“So that’s what we need to keep our focus doing. The ladder will look after itself if we get our footy right.

“I understand all the interest in it, and it is a fascinating season, it’s really tight for spots on the ladder. But we can only control it by getting the processes right so that’s where our focus lies.”

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