AFLW: Fremantle return to pre-season ahead of August start without Gemma Houghton and Steph Cain

Headshot of Eliza Reilly
Eliza ReillyThe West Australian
Fremantle captain Hayley Miller is confident the Dockers can replace key outs.
Camera IconFremantle captain Hayley Miller is confident the Dockers can replace key outs. Credit: James Worsfold/via AFL Photos

Fremantle captain Hayley Miller is adamant the Dockers can remain in premiership contention this season despite losing All-Australian forward Gemma Houghton and winger Steph Cain to AFLW expansion.

Pre-season officially kicked off on Monday night ahead of August’s start date, the second AFLW season this year after the AFL and AFL Players’ Association negotiated a new time frame for the competition.

The new start date means Fremantle won’t have to wait much longer to bounce back from their preliminary final loss to eventual premiers Adelaide.

But the Dockers will have to do it without first-choice stars Houghton (Port Adelaide) and Cain (Essendon) after the pair defected in the off-season.

Fremantle have re-signed 25 players, including former captain Kara Antonio who will play on for a seventh season.

Wooden spooners West Coast hold eight of the first 10 picks in the West Australian draft but Fremantle are maintaining confidence in both their current list and ability to find diamonds in the rough despite the compromised draft.

“While we’ve had a few losses, they’re not irreplaceable,” Miller said.

“It may need things to change and certain aspects of our game plan might change but change isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

“It puts us a step behind in the draft. But good recruiters will find players and there’s the option of looking interstate.

“There is talent out there, it’s just being able to find it and also developing the talent we’ve already got.

AFLW pre-season kicked off on Monday night.
Camera IconAFLW pre-season kicked off on Monday night. Credit: James Worsfold/via AFL Photos

“I have full faith in the girls we had there last season, our young girls and the finals experience we were able to get into them.”

Miller said Fremantle’s AFLW program had leant on the club’s men’s football department to navigate the tight turnaround between seasons.

“We’re used to having six months off, getting time to de-load and then build back up on the eve of pre-season,” she said.

“We’ve been more focused on maintaining our fitness and bringing that into pre-season. We’ve had a block over the past month or so to build back into it.

“Two seasons in one year is something we haven’t had to deal with before. You don’t want to be firing the first half of the year, you want to be firing at the end.”

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