Fremantle ruckman Aaron Sandilands will extend his decorated career for at least one more AFL season, but the Dockers hope it won’t be long before emerging big man Sean Darcy becomes the club’s No.1 ruckman.
Sandilands was one of Fremantle’s best players this season before being cut down by a hamstring injury three weeks ago.
The 211cm-ruckman averaged 45.7 hitouts and 14.6 hitouts to advantage per game across the first nine rounds – a league best in both categories.
Sandilands remains at the peak of his powers.
But at 34 years of age, it’s likely 2018 will be his final hurrah.
Jon Griffin has hardly set the world alight when filling in for Sandilands, while the future of fellow ruckman Zac Clarke looks bleak because of an ongoing knee injury.
Darcy looms as the most likely man to fill Sandilands’ giant shoes once the 253-game veteran retires.
At 201cm and 111kg, Darcy has drawn comparisons to GWS ruckman Shane Mumford.
The 19-year-old is yet to break through for an AFL game, but he’s closing in on a senior debut following a series of impressive WAFL performances.
Darcy has averaged 45 hitouts over his past two games, and he showed his goalkicking potential with a bag of four goals last month.
The No.38 pick from last year’s national draft was already signed up to Fremantle until the end of 2018.
But the club consider him so vital to their future ruck stocks, they’ve now added another two years onto his existing contract, tying him to Fremantle until at least 2020.
Sandilands’ absence for the past three weeks has coincided with Fremantle’s slide from finals calculations.
The Dockers (6-6) have lost to Adelaide (100 points), Collingwood (20), and Brisbane (57) over that stretch, ensuring for a rather sombre bye week.
But Sandilands is expected to return for the June 25 clash with Geelong at Simonds Stadium.
Despite the recent hamstring setback, Sandilands is confident his body can hold up for another AFL season.
“It was an easy decision as I continue to love playing the game and I still feel like I can contribute to the side,” Sandilands said.