The Dockers are on track to field eight Aboriginal players for the first time in AFL history – breaking the previous record of seven held by themselves (2003) and Port Adelaide (2015).
A hamstring injury to Aaron Sandilands opened the door for Fremantle to achieve the new record mark, with Jon Griffin named as his replacement.
Barring any late injury setbacks or unexpected axings, Griffin will join Michael Walters, Stephen Hill, Brad Hill, Michael Johnson, Brady Grey, Danyle Pearce, and Joel Hamling as Indigenous Dockers players selected for the match.
The number could have been nine if Harley Bennell hadn’t been beset by calf problems over the past 18 months.
Dockers coach Ross Lyon said he was proud of Fremantle’s large Indigenous group, and said the round helped recognise the role football has played in promoting equality.
“We understand there’s the challenges of the past, and that footy’s been a vehicle to break down prejudices and give opportunity and equality,” Lyon said.
“It’s been a great vehicle for that, and continues to be. It was really one of the first movers in society.”
Lyon said as part of the week, his player group would learn more about Indigenous history.
Aboriginal elder Richard Walley and 1997 Doig medallist Dale Kickett teamed up to design Fremantle’s new Indigenous jumper.
The boys might have something special planned for Indigenous round 🕺>> https://t.co/rbqkIwBFjx #foreverfreo pic.twitter.com/Zzd9OhmQNN
— Fremantle Dockers (@freodockers) May 23, 2017
Lyon said Walley had addressed the group upon presenting the new jersey.
“His overriding message is it’s an Australian jumper,” Lyon said.
“It’s one of the vehicles where really black and white come together … where everyone was equal.
“It’s celebrating the game as a vehicle for equality.”
The loss of Sandilands is a huge blow to Fremantle’s hopes of causing a boilover.
The 211cm ruckman has been in hot form this season, and the pressure will be on Griffin to provide a solid platform for the team’s midfield to attack from.
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