FREMANTLE coach Trent Cooper is paying little attention to external expectations, but says the Dockers have no excuses not to improve after an ideal preparation for season three of the NAB AFL Women's competition.
Cooper will lead Fremantle into battle for the first time against the Demons at Casey Fields in Melbourne's outer south-east on Sunday after taking over from inaugural coach Michelle Cowan.
The first-year mentor has promised a more attacking and skillful brand as the Dockers aim to climb up the ladder following consecutive seventh-placed finishes.
"Couldn't have been happier with how pre-season has gone and where we're at," Cooper told womens.afl.
"There will be no excuses from our end from how our preparation has gone."
The Dockers were overlooked as flag contenders in a survey of AFLW captains this week.
However, club great and former AFLW assistant coach Paul Hasleby turned up the heat by declaring on 6PR it would be a "massive fail" for the team not to qualify for a preliminary final.
There are four finals berths up for grabs in the expanded 10-team competition in 2019, with the top two sides in each new conference squaring off in preliminary finals.
"That's our aim (to play finals)," Cooper said.
"Every Victorian scribe has got us coming last, and then you get the opposite (here) where the pressure is on to play finals.
"It's really hard to know where everyone else is at. We are really confident we've improved a lot over the off-season.
"We just want to make sure we've improved and give a better account of ourselves than what we have in the first two years and we'll see how far that takes us."
The Dockers will unveil six debutants against the Demons, headlined by inaugural marquee signing Kiara Bowers.
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Cooper cautioned against expecting too much from Bowers, who has missed the first two seasons after a third knee reconstruction, but expects her teammates to walk taller with the star midfielder in the side.
"She's ready to go. It's been a long, slow build-up," Cooper said.
"We've had a plan to have her right for round one. She's done everything to the minute and our high-performance and medical staff have done a really good job.
"Kiara is a real no-fuss person. She won't want to make anything of it … but the other girls are that excited to be running out with her."
The mercury is set to soar to 39 degrees in Melbourne on Sunday and Cooper believes the extreme heat for the 3.05pm (AEDT) start could work to Freo's advantage after training all summer in Perth.
"To go away and win, then have four of our last six games at home would be huge," he said.
"They've (Demons) only missed out on (both) Grand Finals by percentage, so they've been a bit stiff.
"Everyone's written them off because (pregnant) Daisy (Pearce) isn't there – I'll be honest I'm glad she's not playing – but they've still got a strong list, that's for sure."