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Futures at Fremantle hang in limbo as the ‘F’ word keeps on changing

The upset win on the weekend by the Fremantle Dockers against a faltering top-of-the-table Geelong has given the purple army hope of September action in 2019.

The Dockers now sit one game and percentage out of the top eight with only three remaining games in the home-and-away season – St Kilda (away), Essendon at Optus Stadium and then Port Adelaide in round 23 at Adelaide Oval.

Ross Lyon's quest for a premiership at Fremantle has suffered from injury setbacks but chances have come.

Ross Lyon's quest for a premiership at Fremantle has suffered from injury setbacks but chances have come.

Fremantle will probably need to win at least two of them – and well – and hope other results go their way.

It will be difficult but the victory against the Cats at least puts the Dockers back in the main game.

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But what if the Fremantle Dockers once again miss a finals series?

Under coach Ross Lyon, the Dockers made their maiden AFL grand final in 2013, where inaccurate kicking for goal against a legendary Hawthorn outfit cost them a first flag. Fremantle also finished the minor season in 2015 atop the league ladder.

Were certainly aiming for a premiership and you dont shy away from that. Particularly by the end of this tenure, Ill have no excuse to not have achieved that because were fully resourced, fully supported and … I can make short-term and long-term decisions to get us where we want to be.

Ross Lyon after his contract was extended in March 2016

However, from round one 2016 to last weekend against the Cats, the win-loss record for Lyons Dockers is 29 wins and 56 losses.

From 17 victories (and minor premiers) in 2015 they slumped to 16th with four wins in 12 months.

They have since recorded eight wins for 14th position in both the 2017 and 2018 seasons and it remains to be seen if 2019 ends up much better.

Back in March 2016, despite having nearly two years to run on his existing contract, Fremantle's CEO Steve Rosich and the board ratified a three-year extension for Lyon, locking him in until 2020.

At the time, Lyon said: "Were certainly aiming for a premiership and you dont shy away from that. Particularly by the end of this tenure, Ill have no excuse to not have achieved that because were fully resourced, fully supported and Ive certainly got a timeframe where I can make short-term and long-term decisions to get us where we want to be."

Three consecutive seasons missing finals (and probably again this year) is certainly not where the Dockers and their supporters "want to be" and Lyon's comments may come back to haunt him.

This season Freo won six of their first 11 games before the bye but only three from seven since, continuing a worrying trend of late-season fade-outs under Lyon.

It remains to be seen if Saturday's impressive win against Geelong halts that trend.

After another poor season at Fremantle, club CEO Steve Rosich could be the odd man out at the Dockers.

After another poor season at Fremantle, club CEO Steve Rosich could be the odd man out at the Dockers.

In 2016, the first year of the so-called "rebuild", the Dockers recorded just one win from their last nine matches. In 2017 they lost six of their last seven – including two defeats by more than 100 points – and last year managed just two victories in their last nine.

That's just four wins from 25 during the backend of rigourous AFL seasons.

Lyon has recently sought to minimise the importance of winning when assessing his KPIs but back in 2017 he said during an interview: "My job's to coach Fremantle to win."

While the weekend's upset has brought renewed optimism for some Dockers supporters, it doesnt hide the fact it has been another tough season on the field.

The final verdict on 2019 should be held until the conclusion of the round 23 clash with Port Power at Adelaide Oval, which has not been a good hunting ground for Fremantle.

Off the field, there has been repeated speculation and rumours in the media and around the trapsof backroom tension down at Dockerland, particularly between Rosich and new football operations manager and club icon Peter Bell.

In seeking to quash the talk, the Fremantle board last week approved an extension on Bell's contract until the end of 2022. Rosich said he and Bell were "on the same page".

Bell has also refuted claims of tension between the pair. He recently approached and offered former University of Western Australian law graduate and current Adelaide Crows list analyst Binuk Kodituwakku the role of list manager at the Dockers despite only late last year hiring Mark Micallef for the role, having coaxed him from the Gold Coast's recruiting unit.

Concerns have been expressed by some industry insiders about the performance of Micallef.

Peter Bell started and finished his career with Fremantle and is now in the thick of it as football operations boss._

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