Fremantle should be headed for some in-season retirements if coach Ross Lyon is to truly launch his declared four-year revitalisation of an ailing playing list.
The besieged coach revealed intentions to inject youth from his under siege group immediately after Sunday’s embarrassing 89-point thumping from a born-again Port Adelaide in Adelaide.
It should ring deafening warning bells to out-of-sorts key defender Zac Dawson, ageing winger Danyle Pearce and nuggety utility Nick Suban.
Even highly popular key defender Michael Johnson will be under siege as Lyon and club powerbrokers swing into crisis mode in a bid to eradicate an alarming slide with team performances and attempt a rapid revival.
After 211 games Johnson, a serviceable veteran, should be a serious candidate to hang up his well-travelled boots after a disastrous start from Freo, with the 2013 runners-up and 2015 minor premiers lamenting at the bottom of the AFL ladder after successive thrashings from Geelong and Port.
Johnson was restricted to just four appearances last season as the big defender battled to overcome a nasty hamstring injury that required surgery.
Johnson, 32, Dawson, Pearce and Suban have been faithful servants to Lyon through a near-premiership winning campaign from 2012-15.
One obstacle with any early move from Pearce to step down after nothing his 250th game in Sunday’s clash against his old club is his absurd contract security.
The often-maligned midfielder, who turns 31 on Friday, signed an agreement last year through until the end of 2018.
At almost 26 and with 146 senior Dockers games under his belt, Suban still has time on his side.
But the type of roles the gritty utility plays in Lyon’s highly defensive game styles need refinement and are now more logically suited to younger and developing Dockers.
It’s well over time for a massive introduction of youth with clear confirmation that the changes will be nurtured and tolerated for well into the remainder of an already failed 2017 season.
Lyon controversially elected to start his warhorses with the league’s third oldest and third most games played average while trumpeting that a four-year rebuilding project is in full swing at Fremantle.
Loyalty to his aged warriors at the expense of a young brigade of Dockers to establish a foundation to planned future sustained success has backfired on Lyon.
Heading into his sixth season with the Dockers, Lyon has also failed to generate any apparent newfound playing style to stay in touch with a substantially swifter AFL game featuring high octane movement and scoring as a priority.
New ways now must be paved for an injection of younger talent with hopes they can regenerate flagging hopes of a return to finals anytime soon.
Promising recent draft picks Griffin Logue and Harley Balic as well as key forward Matt Taberner are non-negotiable call-ups to be educated in the harsh realities of an AFL playing cauldron as cornerstones in Fremantle’s long term plans.
Logue turns 19 this month and as the Dockers prized first pick at number eight in last November’s draft, he must be thrown into the firing line in a sweeping change in selection and development philosophy.
He is a raw and emerging big bodied, running defender.
Playing Logue to learn a craft of guarding key opposition forwards as well as using an innate athletic running capability to initiate Dockers attacking moves from backward of midfield is better development than perseverance with a lumbering Dawson in the dim twilight of his 166-game career.
Perennial fringe-dwellers Hayden Crozier and Tom Sheridan as well as key position defender Sam Collins must be re-tried and given extensive periods to confirm any significant value for long term retention in a rejuvenation or cast aside as new draftees are targeted in November.
Hopes of a return to finals calculations as the game continually evolves into a fast and furious heavy possessions and swift movement into scoring zones rest with a serious injection of youth.
Whatever Dockers recruiting specialists have perceived with recent draft inclusions must be examined on the big stage of AFL conflict for the remainder of this season to demonstrate if they are indeed the best suited to carry Fremantle’s future hopes for success and promise.
Lyon has seemed reluctant to swing his developing youngsters into his senior team with loyalty to the servants that bravely battled attrition and buffetings in his heavily defence-oriented game style through the Dockers’ four successive finals campaigns.
Reality hit in a shellacking from a slick Port when Lyon sent repeat offenders of poor foot disposal into battle for a second successive week.
There is now no logical future in continuing with servants that do not have long term value in any ambitious rebuilding project that Lyon says will take as much as four years.
The players that might be there as a four-year plan bears finals fruits should be blooded, taught and moulded from now.
Retirements will make that room.
There’s probably limited value in retaining some of the tried and tolerated foot soldiers sitting back at alignment unit Peel Thunder to assist fast-tracking project Dockers on Lyon’s senior list.
But, staying to be teachers at Peel is the only way Dawson, Pearce, Suban and company should be viewed for the remainder of what is shaping as an arduous and emotionally-draining 2017.
Any revitalisation is in desperate need of patience and nurturing with a senior list in serious transition from almost achieving an ultimate success to any eventual return to finals.
Lyon also goes on urgent notice to confirm he can actually revitalise a playing list at the conclusion of a serious premiership tilt with a far more mature group.
The four-times AFL Grand Finalist coach has not earned a reputation for developing a playing list from foundations.
He inherited a vastly mature and experienced St Kilda back in 2007 and refined a gifted list into genuine title contenders and again fine-tuned Fremantle into flag candidates after taking over in 2012 from former Essendon hard nut Mark Harvey.
Lyon’s Saints brigade included superstars in the ilk of dual Brownlow medallist Robert Harvey, Nick Riewoldt, Luke Ball, Fraser Gehrig and Brendon Goddard.
His takeover at Fremantle presented Dockers champion Matthew Pavlich, Luke McPharlin, Aaron Sandilands, Stephen Hill and an emerging gun Nat Fyfe.
That audacious shot at the title is ruthlessly over with Lyon confronted with a hefty and apparently long rejuvenation.
A savage assessment of failing service probably should have been initiated mid-way through last season when from minor premiers in 2015 to serious flag candidates to start last year before a dramatic tumble to losing the opening nine engagements of the home-and-away campaign.
As a matter of urgency and even if it’s a directive from chief executive and board of management level, the development program needs to happen now.
Up to six changes should be on the cards in Fremantle’s clash with a fast and slick moving reigning premiers Western Bulldogs in Perth on Saturday night.