Fremantle Dockers, Covid outbreak, players ruled out, North Melbourne Kangaroos, grossly unfair, Gerard Whateley, Mark Robinson, AFL360

A “severely compromised” Fremantle team will be forced to play on Friday night in a move that has been labelled as “grossly unfair”.

The Dockers on Wednesday confirmed six players would be missing the clash against North Melbourne under the AFL’s health & safety protocols, with fears that number could rise.

Rory Lobb, Lloyd Meek, Blake Acres, Travis Colyer, Michael Frederick and Griffin Logue are all in isolation while the Dockers are still missing injured stars Matt Taberner and Nat Fyfe, while Sean Darcy, Neil Erasmus and Joel Hamling all need to pass fitness tests on Thursday.

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AFL360 host Gerard Whateley said he believed the Dockers had reached the “tipping point” where the clash with North Melbourne was now compromised.

“This is a mighty task for a Fremantle team that has just come through their rebuilt period,” he said.

“They are beyond tipping point I think – I think six if you were going to run a rule of thumb what tipping point is, I reckon six out of your 22 is that.

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“They are going to be a severely compromised team already that takes the field on Friday night.

“They are playing a team that is in full blown rebuild mode so it’s probably just as well. If they were facing one of the powerhouse teams, that’s compromised beyond all recognition. You’ve got your system, but once you pull so many parts out in all parts of the field … if you didn’t have (the AFL) rules … this is where you would go ‘Nup, this team is not playing’.

“We’ve gone with the rules to play.”

It’s not the first time a club has been hit hard by Covid, with cross-town rivals West Coast forced to make a record 14 changes for the Round 2 clash with, ironically, North Melbourne earlier this year.

Just last week Melbourne were forced to play without five premiership players after the group was put into isolation.

“It wasn’t fair on West Coast and this is a tipping point for Fremantle,” Whateley said.

“(The AFL’s Covid rules) have compromised one game drastically that the Eagles were in. And compromised a couple of others, but not quite as alarmingly.

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“Fremantle has set themselves such a position from which to attack from. They’ve just won the admiration for what they did at Geelong. They are about to hit a game where the circumstances are now grossly unfair and if they cough this game up because of it, it would be terrible.”

Co-host Mark Robinson said he was not as “alarmed” about Fremantle’s situation and said it would now show where the squad’s depth sat in 2022.

“I was alarmed when the Eagles made 14 changes – they’ve made six,” he said.

“I was jumping up and down saying ‘This is not right’. Fourteen? That to me was wrong.

“Six? C’mon Fremantle, what have you got? How good is your system against a young team, a developing team, a really poor performing team called North Melbourne, how good is your system against that?”

Robinson warned players on the east coast should not think the Covid issue would just hinder clubs in the west.

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“(New strains are) coming here, we’re getting more, mate. It’s been West Coast and Fremantle, they might look back on this season in 14 weeks’ time and say, ‘Thank God it happened at Round 7’. Because it might happen on the east coast at Round 17, 18, 19, 20,” he said.

“It’s going to be gloomy. The world is changing. Winter is coming.”

Fremantle coach Justin Longmuir lamented his side’s long travel period from Geelong as six players were confirmed entering the AFL’s health & safety protocols.

“It’s so unpredictable,” he said.

“(We’re) trying to make sure we limit damage and we knock it on the head in a week.

“After a good win, you tend to get more touchy-feely and closer and sing the song together.

“We sat on a bus for an hour, a plane for four hours and another bus back to the club for 45 minutes.”

Fremantle will take on North Melbourne at Optus Stadium on Friday night.

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