Fremantle Dockers defender Alex Pearce says club will aim to limit COVID exposure and keep players available
Fremantle leadership group member Alex Pearce says the club is refusing to accept it is inevitable the players will go down with COVID-19 this season, and labelled management of the virus as the story of the 2022 AFL season.
Pearce was one of a big contingent of interstate Dockers forced to give up their usual Christmas trip home to see family, remaining in Perth through the recent three-week training break amid border closures as COVID spread in other States.
The WA clubs are potentially at a disadvantage to the rest of the competition given the State’s delayed timeline with border policies, with every other State now classified as extreme risk as COVID spreads and most rival clubs dealing with outbreaks.
While pre-season training at Fremantle and West Coast has been uninterrupted with WA largely COVID-free, the Dockers and Eagles could lose more players to positive results during the season.
“I don’t really buy into the acceptance that we’ll get it,” Pearce said.
“The best case-scenario (is) we make the most of the freedoms here, and then when COVID starts to seep in our protocols hold up and we can avoid it and if any little outbreaks happen we can limit it.
“It’s going to be really interesting. It’s going to be the story of the season I think – to see how clubs manage.
“I still think the best thing to do is to just avoid it and not get it and not have to worry about the health risks that come with it. That might be wishful thinking, but we’re going to do our best to limit our exposure and make sure that as many players are available for every game this season.”
The key defender acknowledged eastern states clubs could be advantaged but believed living under strict protocols could help manage the risk.
“We can obviously see what it’s doing to the Big Bash and sports all around the world – players missing due to COVID,” Pearce said.
“But I think for us, when COVID inevitably does get into WA and we have to deal with it and we have to start travelling interstate, we’re just going to have to be careful with what we do and where we go.
“I think it’s going to be a real competitive advantage for teams that can keep players on the park, because it’s inevitable that there’s going to be games during the season when players will have COVID and teams will be understrength.”
Pearce, who was recruited from Tasmania, said star midfielder Andrew Brayshaw hosted an “orphan Christmas” for the interstate players.
The injury-cursed 26-year-old said he was feeling stronger after playing 10 games last season and hoped to team up with fellow defender Joel Hamling this season.
The unlucky pair have played only 30 games together since Hamling joined the Dockers five years ago.
“We’re really good mates and we’ve spent a lot of time together over the years, so it’s something that will be really special if we can put a full year together,” Pearce said.
“I’ve always been able to come back and have confidence in my body that I’ll be able to get through and that everything will hold up. But now that confidence is backed up by the last six months of training.
“Now during a session and I’m running, by the end of the session I’m not as tired. I’m a bit stronger, I recover a little bit better.
“It’s given me some new-found confidence I guess that when the season comes, I’ll be in probably the best shape that I’ve been for a while.”
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