Fremantle will be aiming to secure a home preliminary final when they take on Sydney in Saturday’s qualifying final at ANZ Stadium.
Splashing the cash failed to fix Fremantle’s forward-line conundrum, but a bargain buy appears to have done the trick.
For the best part of a decade Fremantle have been on the lookout for another key forward to provide Matthew Pavlich with a perfect partner in crime in attack.
Former Magpie Chris Tarrant arrived as a bona fide forward, but struggled so badly in the role he was sent back to defence.
Luckily for Tarrant, the switch was such a success he was able to revive his career before moving back to Collingwood.
More recently, Jack Anthony proved to be an expensive flop, while the gamble on Scott Gumbleton appears doomed due to more injury woes for the ex-Bomber.
In between Anthony and Gumbleton, Fremantle’s attempt to lure the likes of Jack Riewoldt, Harry Taylor, Travis Cloke, Jesse White and Mitch Clark west on big-money deals all fell flat.
But the Dockers have unveiled a new ace up their sleeve in recent weeks – former rookie Matt Taberner.
Taberner was snapped up by Fremantle with pick No.11 in the 2013 rookie draft, and the 21-year-old Victorian has showcased his potential in recent weeks.
The 197cm forward tallied 22 possessions and kicked a goal against Brisbane a fortnight ago, while he put in a pivotal first-half display against Port Adelaide last week to help Fremantle secure fourth spot and a vital double chances.
Taberner’s athleticism and marking ability takes the pressure off Pavlich, who for so long has been forced to battle as the sole key forward in attack.
And with goalsneaks Hayden Ballantyne, Michael Walters and Chris Mayne all able to cause havoc up forward, Fremantle hope they now possess the attacking mix capable of taking them all the way to this year’s flag.
Taberner has only played 11 AFL games, but coach Ross Lyon is confident he’ll be able to stand up under the heat of finals football, starting with Saturday’s qualifying final against Sydney at ANZ Stadium.
“He’s got enormous work ethic, so he’s been able to harness his talents,” Lyon said.
“It’s really good for us. He probably should have been in a bit earlier to be fair.”
The Dockers will welcome back star midfielder Nat Fyfe from suspension this week, while the Swans are set to be boosted by the returns of Lance Franklin (knee), Josh Kennedy (hamstring), Ben McGlynn (calf) and Mike Pyke (illness).