'Sandi' effect rubs off on Dockers' new ruck duo

FREMANTLE'S new-look ruck duo is learning off club great Aaron Sandilands to fast-track its progress for the upcoming AFLW season.

Sandilands – who played 271 games for the Dockers before retiring at the end of 2019 – is now a part-time ruck coach and is working closely with youngster Mim Strom and Irish recruit Aine (pronounced 'On-ya') Tighe.

The ruck has been a weakness for the Dockers in their first three seasons, finishing last in hitouts every year, but coach Trent Cooper believes that is about to change.

Fremantle coach Trent Cooper

"We're pretty confident the ruck is going to work out," Cooper told womens.afl.

"(Aine) is blowing up our GPS with her workrate at training.

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"Her and Mim are doing one-on-one sessions with Aaron Sandilands every week to bring them up to speed and they're lapping that up.

"We can see the improvement right in front of our eyes and we're really excited about what those two can do."

Strom starred for WA at the 2019 under-18 national championships, but was considered a long-term prospect before impressing the coaches over the summer.

"We drafted Mim more as a long-term prospect, a 10-year player, but she's already showing in her training that she can definitely play (in 2020) and give us something in the middle," Cooper said.

The Dockers have 11 new faces on their list, having lost several players to expansion club West Coast, including All-Australian midfielder Dana Hooker.

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Cooper said the result would be a more even spread in the midfield.

"You don't really cover (Hooker) with one player," Cooper said.

"We'll share the load a lot more now and it'll actually make us harder to play against without that one player who's been leading the possessions."

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The strength of the Dockers is their forward line.

Exciting WA draftee Roxanne Roux and Irishwoman Kate Flood join a potent attack featuring All-Australian Gemma Houghton, Gabby O'Sullivan and Sabreena Duffy.

"Last year, it was touted that that would be our weakness, but we changed quite a few things and it was actually our strength," Cooper said.

"Our forward line is extremely dangerous.

"We think it will be hard for opposition teams to match up on because we don't see a weak link down there and they work really well together."

In his second year in charge, Cooper is looking to build on what the side achieved last season in reaching the preliminary finals.

Adding versatility is one of his main aims.

"Last year was different because we had to come in with a whole new game plan, get everyone on the same page and make sure we were jelling as well as we could," he said.

"This year, there's a different feel to it because everybody already is on that same page.

"We didn't have any versatility last year and that was by design, I wanted everybody to try to master one position.

"This year, the players know the game plan well enough that we can be a bit more versatile, so we're working on that in the pre-season."