The AFL’s great west hype
Matthew Pavlich and Michael Walters of the Dockers celebrate (Photo: Michael Willson/AFL Media)
Despite the mixed reviews I received from my last article, I am about to do it again. This time I write it after my beloved Fremantle Dockers’ round two match against the Western Bulldogs.
This time I will let my allegiance shine through – although I must add that I write it at 3.00am again.
It was quite comical hearing the noise coming from Victoria before round one of the home and away season concerning West Coast’s prospects in 2013.
It was more comical to hear people outside of Fremantle’s ever-optimistic fan base claiming that Fremantle are now a chance of the flag, after the Eagles’ second-half capitulation in the round one derby.
Before proceeding with this article, it must be said that West Coast have obviously set the bench mark for West Australian AFL teams.
Three flags since 1987 is some feat. Fremantle have yet to win any sort of recognition or accolades in an AFL history spanning some 18 years.
Is it any coincidence that as a club, outwardly at least, we celebrate a derby win over our much more successful older brother?
Why would we not rate our mettle as a legitimate WA AFL franchise against another WA team who has had so much success, when we do manage to beat them?
They are obviously the benchmark for a Western Australian AFL club. So why should Fremantle not celebrate small victories, when we have yet to taste the ultimate success?
This brings us back to the heart of the matter. Keeping in mind that the majority of AFL captains tipped West Coast as legitimate flag contenders for the 2013 season, it is interesting to note, after round one, how quickly the pundits fell off the Eagles as flag favourites and installed the Dockers as a more favoured flag prospect.
Although it is only one game. Leading into round two, some facts must come to bare. Fremantle are now into their second year with Ross Lyon as coach (their first as a non-rookie).
Lyon, after his second year as senior coach of the Saints lead the his team to the finals.
He managed this in his first at Fremantle, and in doing so managed to equal the best ever home and away result the club has seen.
The prospects of year two in his tenure of Fremantle only look better.
It must be said that Ross now has more to work with than the six or so out-and-out stars that saw the Saints undefeated in 2009 until the last match in September and one point shy of ultimate success in 2010.
What he does with fringe players is amazing. If he took St Kilda to consecutive grand finals with a few stars to round out an otherwise seemingly average list.
What is in store for the Dockers in the here and now? The likes of David Mundy, Michael Barlow (both now fully fit and firing), Nathnan Fyfe, Stephen Hill and newly recruited Danyle Pearce in the midfield.
They’re backed up by the once de-listed Clancee Pearce, Matt de Boer, who is an unheralded champion of the vogue term ‘defensive forward’, who can also play in play in the centre, coupled with Ryan Crowley, arguably the game’s best stopper and Jonathan Griffen, Fremantle now have a midfield that can rival any team.
When the sometimes erratic but occasionally brilliant Tendai Mzungu is added that equates to 10 players who can break a game open.
So with all this in mind Fremantle faced an injury ravaged West Coast midfield, missing stars, Rossa, Natanui, Kerr and new recruit Wellingham.
It took until game day for the odds to drop in Fremantle’s favour. This was astonishing, granted it took the Dockers the better part of three quarters to establish dominance on the score board and around the ground, eventually the midfield took control, making the Eagles look anything but flag contenders.
The fact that Matthew Pavlich did not kick a major, Chris Mayne was relatively quiet and Hayden Ballantyne was tagged out of an influential role by Adam Selwood did not impact on the result.
There where too many other contributors and West Coast had no answer for Hills 1st half dominance nor Danyle Pearce’s second-half run and carry.
It must be said that his role and influence will only allow allow Hill to grow into the player he has alluded to in the past and allow him him to live up to the fact he was drafted so early.
All said and done it is now interesting to see that the Fremantle faithful are quietly confident, yet the mainstream media are trumpeting them as a force to be reckoned with come September.
What a difference a year makes.