Hooker relishing do-or-die battle as Freo eyes finals

STAR Fremantle midfielder Dana Hooker says the excitement at being on the verge of a maiden NAB AFL Women's finals campaign overrides any anxiety to perform heading into a do-or-die contest against North Melbourne.

The Dockers sit third in Conference A and will host the second-placed Roos, who have also won five games but have a better percentage, in a thrilling regular-season climax at Fremantle Oval on Saturday.

The Dockers kept their finals dream alive with a dominant second half in Geelong, and have been playing on the edge in the stronger of the two conferences since losing to top team Adelaide in round four.

Facing a virtual elimination final, Hooker is confident the pressure won't get to her teammates.

"No, I don't think so. I think it's more excitement than anything," she said.

"This is the first time we've been in this position … to make finals and we're playing some really good football and we've jelled well as a team this year.

"It will be a great atmosphere and it's really difficult for travelling teams to come and play us a Fremantle Oval."

If results fall their way, the Dockers could still host a final, but securing a sixth victory is the major focus.

Fremantle finished seventh (of eight teams) in the competition's opening two seasons under Michelle Cowan but has flourished in 2019.

New coach Trent Cooper has released the handbrake and implemented a more attacking style, while high performance manager Kate Starre has kept Freo's best players on the park after Cowan's best-laid plans were wrecked by injuries.

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The long-awaited return of tackling machine Kiara Bowers from her third knee reconstruction has buoyed the group, and the 27-year-old sits second in the AFLCA AFLW Champion Player of the Year award.

"She's a fantastic player. To have her back, particularly after the journey she's had over the last few years, is really special," Hooker said.

"She brings something out on the field with her tackling pressure and the way she attacks the footy. She certainly sets the tone every week for us. It's so great having her there."

After exploring a move to the Western Bulldogs at the end of last season, Hooker has again been a critical part of Fremantle's engine room.

The club's inaugural best and fairest and a 2018 All Australian leads the Dockers for disposals (17.7 per game) and is motivated after being a finals onlooker.

"The first year I found it the hardest watching the (Grand Final) and not being part of it," Hooker said.

"It's taken us three seasons to get to this form and where we are now, and really appreciative of that journey we've been on to get here.

"We're as good a chance as any other team in the competition."

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