Fremantle AFL coach Ross Lyon says he and his player group will be feeling the pressure in their battle for fourth spot against Port Adelaide in Perth.
The AFL finals are yet to kick off, but Fremantle’s premiership hopes will effectively go on the line this Saturday when they take on Port Adelaide in an epic battle for fourth spot.
Under the finals format, no team has won the premiership from outside the top four; a statistic not lost on Dockers coach Ross Lyon as he attempts to end the club’s 20-year premiership drought.
The winner of Saturday’s match at Patersons Stadium will finish fourth and earn the double finals chance that goes with it.
The loser will end up fifth and be thrust into a sudden-death elimination final.
Although Fremantle will start as warm favourites against the Power, they will have to overcome several significant hurdles to taste victory.
Star Dockers trio Nat Fyfe (suspended), Michael Barlow (thumb) and Luke McPharlin (calf) have already been ruled out, while skipper Matthew Pavlich (quad) is no certainty to play.
A six-day break combined with the inconvenience of a trip back from Brisbane are other factors Fremantle will need to overcome.
The Dockers have lost five of their six matches this season following a six-day break, but Lyon isn’t too concerned ahead of his team’s latest test.
“I’ve got a strong philosophy that the past is irrelevant,” Lyon said on Wednesday.
“When two coins come up, the past result doesn’t count, does it?
“It’s what you do today and tomorrow that counts.”
A slice of history counting in Fremantle’s favour is their recent record against Port Adelaide in Perth.
The Power haven’t beaten the Dockers at Patersons Stadium since 2008, with their average losing margin over that four-game stretch a worrying 53 points.
Pavlich was a late withdrawal from last week’s win over Brisbane after feeling tightness in his quad during the warm-up.
The 32-year-old will be put through his paces at the club’s main training session on Thursday before a final call is made on his availability.
“He’s got to tick all those KPIs,” Lyon said.
“He’s moving in the right direction, but he’s got to train tomorrow. If he doesn’t train tomorrow, he doesn’t play.”
If Fremantle finish fourth, they are likely to play Sydney in an away qualifying final.
The Dockers beat Geelong in a similar scenario last year before falling to the Hawks in the grand final.
Fremantle hope to go one step better this year, but Lyon knows they will need to get past the Power first.
“There’s plenty of anxiety and stress for both coaching panels and both playing groups,” Lyon said.
“It’s going to be those that handle it the best that come out on top.”