Bulldogs welcome back trio from AFL, re-sign skipper

Wednesday, December 2, 2015 - 1:49 AM by Chris Pike

SOUTH Fremantle has continued to strengthen its squad for the 2016 WAFL season with the return of delisted AFL trio Blaine Johnson, Mason Shaw and Dylan Main while captain Ryan Cook has shown his faith by re-signing for a further three years.

The news comes on top of the Bulldogs signing Frankston VFL captain Shane Hockey and re-signing the likes of Ashton Hams, Blayne Wilson, Brock Higgins, Josh Pullman, Haiden Schloithe and Marlion Pickett.

Following the disappointment of missing the signature of former dual fairest and best winner, and 2005 premiership player Clint Jones, the Bulldogs are buoyed by the most recent announcements.

Johnson (Carlton), Shaw (Port Adelaide) and Main (West Coast) were all part of South Fremantle's successful South Fremantle colts program before being drafted. After finding themselves off AFL lists for 2016, they will return to the Bulldogs and all play a significant role in the team.

Johnson was drafted by Carlton in the 2013 AFL Draft following a best on ground performance in the reserves grand final win for South Fremantle of that year.

He played seven games in the AFL for the Blues, but now returns to the Bulldogs as an exciting mid-size forward option.

Shaw was drafted from the colts premiership team of 2012 to Port Adelaide after kicking five goals in the grand final. While unable to make his AFL debut at the Power, he now returns to the Bulldogs to provide a strong marking option in attack.

Main is the third of the delisted trio to return. He was picked up by West Coast after a strong colts season in 2013 and despite not playing an AFL game with the Eagles, he was showing terrific improvement in the WAFL with East Perth.

South Fremantle football operations manager David Depane is delighted to welcome the trio back to the Bulldogs.

"It is great to get our own back and we feel all three will add to our side," Depane said.

"Blaine and Mason will certainly assist in giving us more avenues to goals, whilst Dylan will add further run to our midfield brigade. All three joined training on Friday night and were delighted to be back in the red and white."

The good news is then capped off for South Fremantle with Cook signing on for another three years.

Cook arrived at the Bulldogs from Collingwood in 2011 and in five years since, he has been captain for four of them, won two fairest and best awards and runner-up twice while also representing Western Australia on four occasions.

Depane is equally pleased with the commitment shown by Cook to ensure he remains at the Bulldogs until the end of the 2018 season.

"It was also fantastic to see Cooky sign. Cooky’s commitment to the club has been outstanding over the past five years and his decision to sign for a further three years is based on him feeling that the club is on the brink of something special," Depane said.

"He feels with the young talent coming through and the guys we have recruited that the squad has a great blend of youth and experience. This teamed with the platform we built last season he feels the time is right for us to take the next step."

South Fremantle hopes the additions and re-signings will all combine to see the Bulldogs return to finals action in 2016 for the first time since 2011, in Todd Curley's second season in charge as coach.

The forward-line immediately looks more potent with the additions of Shaw and Johnson to the likes of Cory Dell'Olio, Ben Saunders and Pullman.

Main then will provide another strong runner who can play a variety of positions on the ground while retaining the experience and class of Hams, Cook, Schloithe, Wilson and Pickett will only help South Fremantle's midfield and back-line strength on top of the addition of Hockey on-ball.

With the improvement in the strength of the playing squad and the way the group has already thrown themselves into pre-season, Depane is confident the signs are pointing towards a successful 2016.

"The squad itself has presented in much better condition for this pre-season compared to last year," Depane said.

"There is a real feeling that we under achieved last season and the drive is there from the group to improve across all areas.

"The players themselves are driving the standards required to improve both individually and as a group. The skills at the sessions thus far have been excellent and the players are setting some very high expectations on skill and fitness levels."