McPhee will be a free hit at the Dockers

Ben Somerford Roar Guru

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    Essendon's Adam McPhee leaves the field after the AFL Round 21 match between the Fremantle Dockers and the Essendon Bombers at Subiaco. Slattery Images

    Essendon's Adam McPhee leaves the field after the AFL Round 21 match between the Fremantle Dockers and the Essendon Bombers at Subiaco. Slattery Images

    At first glance it’s tempting to agree with the chorus of criticism from the likes of AFL commentator Dwayne Russell and Herald Sun journo Craig Hutchison directed at Fremantle’s decision to recruit Essendon’s Adam McPhee.

    McPhee is expected to join the Dockers on a three-year deal in the pre-season draft, becoming the fourth Essendon player to head to Freo since ex-Bombers man Mark Harvey took over as coach in 2007.

    But at 27-years-old the 2004 All-Australian and Essendon Best & Fairest winner hasn’t been at his best in the last few years although he still remains a good AFL player.

    And ironically McPhee actually began his AFL career at Fremantle before heading to Melbourne only to return west well into his twenties, much like Peter Bell and Heath Black have before.

    Add to that with Freo’s inglorious recruitment history and the fact that they’re supposed to be following a youth policy right now, and it seems signing up McPhee is a bad call.

    Earlier this week, Hutchison was scathing in his assessment of the move writing, “The hard, cold, brutal truth for Fremantle is that Gold Coast, now, is closer to a premiership than the flailing Dockers.

    “And the three-year offer to Adam McPhee does little but remind us all just how bad the Dockers have been built.”

    Basically, it seems the Dockers are making the same old mistakes again.

    Indeed, jumping to that conclusion is easy to do because the Dockers have a history of dodgy recruiting policies and failing to follow through with plans.

    But that assumption is based on history rather than what is happening now and Fremantle insist recruiting a 27-year-old like McPhee is part of their ‘youth policy’.

    Fremantle assistant coach Chris Bond explained this week, “The plan was made in 2008 what we wanted to do. We got 14 new players last year in the national and rookie draft.

    “We will take eight players in the national and rookie drafts this year. And we have said all along if there was a chance to get a player in the pre-season draft – and hopefully Adam McPhee falls our way – we are getting him for a free hit.”

    There’s no doubt Fremantle have firmly promoted youth since that decision in 2008, with the club becoming the first since the Brisbane Lions in 2005 (who were re-building after their golden era) to have 11 debutants in one season.

    And they enjoyed some good success with that policy in 2009, with debutants Stephen Hill, Nic Suban, Hayden Ballentyne and Greg Broughton all looking capable of enjoying long AFL careers.

    And doing the sums on Bond’s previous quote, considering their turnover in the last two seasons, the Dockers could field a whole 22-man side of first or second-year players in 2010.

    But blindly throwing youngsters into the pressure cooker of AFL footy isn’t ideal. For every success, there’s a failure, and exposing some of the strugglers to loss after loss can burn them for ever.

    Indeed, there’s more to developing a good footballer than just blind faith and that’s where McPhee’s recruitment comes into it.

    This is a very young side who could do with an experienced player or two.

    We shouldn’t forget McPhee is a pretty good AFL player who will help the Dockers stay competitive whilst they blood the youngsters. Avoiding demoralizing, weekly losses is important for young sides.

    And players like McPhee have a role to play in development by setting the standard and leading by example and with experienced types well and truly outnumbered nowadays at Fremantle, the recruit will be handy in this facet.

    The Dockers will hope to replicate Hawthorn’s 2008 Premiership success after their concerted youth policy in the preceding years, but it shouldn’t be ignored that the Hawks struggled in 2009 when experienced players like Trent Croad and Shane Crawford were absent.

    Hutchison does point out McPhee’s arrival will mean whenever he plays one youngster will have to miss out, but in a weak, youthful side such as the Dockers, opportunities will be fairly readily available anyway for the rookies.

    Nevertheless it is easy to think the Dockers just never learn, but ignoring their inglorious past, there’s more to this story than meets the eye in the context of where they are and what they are losing (very little).

    The Dockers have a fresh-faced youthful list right now and adding an experienced body like McPhee will help.

    And while some critics believe McPhee won’t prove a hit at Freo, the Dockers know he is after all just a ‘free hit’.

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    The Crowd Says (18)

    • Roar Guru

      November 25th 2009 @ 7:03am
      Redb said | November 25th 2009 @ 7:03am | ! Report

      No problem with him going to McPheemantle. He is a very good contested mark but a dumb footballer who makes poor decisions.


    • November 25th 2009 @ 10:11am
      Jimmy Drama said | November 25th 2009 @ 10:11am | ! Report

      I believe McPhee will provide much needed firepower up forward. With the following as the leading goal scorers for 2009, a swing man like McPhee will add value to Freo FC.

      2008 Goals Freo
      Matthew Pavlich 28
      Luke McPharlin 20
      David Mundy 15
      Brett Peake 14
      Des Headland 13

    • November 25th 2009 @ 11:08am
      Gibbo said | November 25th 2009 @ 11:08am | ! Report

      i figured he’d play at the back and hopefully free u mcpharlin to spend more time forward.

      he’ll be a good player in a poor team – his supporting cast at the dockers will make him look better by comparison.

    • November 25th 2009 @ 11:36am
      Droo said | November 25th 2009 @ 11:36am | ! Report

      Firstly, Fremantle aren’t that weak – remember that last year they had no aspirations to finals as they are in a declared building phase. In fact, 09 went better than many expected. Freo were ravaged by injuries in 09, and I believe that tempered the youngsters who were prematurely sent into battle.

      Secondly McPhee isn’t seen as a critical component – just a bit of added experience to rub off on the real squad, and some depth in case of injury. Freo would not sacrifice any of their current players to get him; in that sense he is a ‘free hit’ who they can accommodate in their salary cap.

      Thirdly, none of the mature players that Freo have recruited through trade deals in the past few years have been disappointments. The Tarrant decision was ridiculed, yet later vaunted as one of the AFL successes of 09. Kepler Bradley (still a young man) is a secret weapon – the invisible man who makes a solid contribution without anyone noticing. Solomon is the friendly giant who mentors the pups in the hard game. Mark Johnson came as part of a bigger trade deal and wasn’t actively chased, though played his career out solidly and loyally.

      • Roar Guru

        November 26th 2009 @ 7:06am
        Redb said | November 26th 2009 @ 7:06am | ! Report

        Out of all the players Essendon hand passed to Fremantle including now Mc Phee, Dean Soloman was the only true loss.

        • December 1st 2009 @ 11:30am
          Johno said | December 1st 2009 @ 11:30am | ! Report

          Out of all the playerswho have come from Essendon to Freo – Solly, Johnson, Keplar, McPhee – The bombers only got something in return for Solly. If I were a bomber fan I’d be asking why didn’t Knights do something about getting pick 56 for Bradley or being able to recognise that McPhee was looking to head West. Somethings not right at bomberland at the moment, the treatment of Lloyd was appalling, he could easily have stayed on for another year.

    • November 25th 2009 @ 12:09pm
      ren said | November 25th 2009 @ 12:09pm | ! Report

      its a freebie- should provide a good examle in terms of work ethic on the training track to ouryoung brigade.

      the only negative for mine is the length of the contract especially when considering the haselby negotiations ear;ier tis year.

      personally i would like to see him up foward more than back, keeping mcpharlin down back. in my opinion poor kicks and decision makers should be kept ot of defense where their mistakes are more easily punished by the opposition.

    • November 25th 2009 @ 5:42pm
      Henry said | November 25th 2009 @ 5:42pm | ! Report

      Great Article. Finally a journalist who actually understands the situation.

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