It’s Ross Lyon’s way or no play

Dan Lonergan Columnist

By Dan Lonergan, Dan Lonergan is a Roar Expert

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16 Have your say

    Ross Lyon’s status as one of the AFL’s best coaches continues to grow. Yes, I know it’s only round one, but his Fremantle Dockers were very impressive, especially in the second half, in dismantling the West Coast Eagles in their season opener on the weekend.

    The Eagles were the favourites and one of the pre-season fancies to win the flag.

    It’s far too early to jump off them as they were missing key players in Nick Natianui, Daniel Kerr And Matt Rosa, and lost star forward Mark Lecras to another injury (this time a broken arm after missing all of 2012 with a knee reconstruction) but the Dockers made them look second rate, particularly after half time.

    Fremantle are in Ross Lyon territory: in the zone and all on the same page. They were fanatical in their attack on the ball and the man.

    As is part of Lyon’s mantra they were outstanding with their pressure both in attack and in defence, forcing the Eagles into numerous skill errors.

    They were not at full strength either, missing probably their most important player in Aaron Sandilands.

    Jonathon Griffin proved to be an able replacement, keeping one of the competition’s best ruckmen, Dean Cox, in check.

    Lyon loves his role players and Griffin is one of those. Much like the Sydney Swans he also relishes the challenge of taking on players from other clubs and making them better. Griffin is one of those, having started his career with Adelaide.

    Fullback Zac Dawson is another. It’s the second time Lyon has reignited Dawson after the pair joined forces at St Kilda, following Dawson’s delisting from Hawthorn.

    Former Port Adelaide midfielder, Danyle Pearce has joined the Dockers this season and showed in one game that he has bought into Lyon’s way.

    He has always been a fine outside runner but he also provided pressure and played his role like other Lyon favourites Matt DeBoer, Clancee Pearce, one of the most improved players in the competition, Tendai Mzungu and Michael Johnson.

    Pearce and Johnson had been at the Dockers for a while before Lyon arrived but were marking time. Lyon has certainly made them vital components of the team in just one season.

    The coach was honest with Pearce, who had been on the rookie list for a few years, saying he needed to lose some weight off his backside and work harder if he wanted to make it.

    Clancee certainly has and is now close to one of the first picked.

    Johnson was struggling off the field as well as on, but Lyon got him back on track and he is now of three tall defenders in an excellent defence which is fast becoming one of the best in the league.

    Small forward Michael Walters is another who was told at the start of last year that he wasn’t fit enough to play. He was told it was up to him to present himself in a proper fashion otherwise his career could have been over before it started.

    Luckily, the Swan Districts recruit wanted in, and by the second half of the season made the team and was causing havoc on the forward line.

    He is now the X factor up front alongside Hayden Ballantyne, another Ross Lyon disciple of the highest order, Chris Mayne, who was runner up in the best and fairest last year and of course the pea in the pod, Matthew Pavlich.

    The Dockers’ greatest player so far took some time to adjust to Lyon’s coaching and game plan, but come the second half of the season it all fitted beautifully.

    Scoring goals, especially during Lyon’s most successful days at the Saints, was never his strongest suit, but this Fremantle forward line looks more potent by the minute, although another tall forward would be handy.

    The Dockers have never made the finals two seasons in a row.

    They certainly have the right coach to make that happen and his demanding ways and intensity will see him do everything in his power to ensure that happens.

    Saturday was a great start.

    Dan Lonergan
    Dan Lonergan

    Dan Lonergan is one Australia's most respected and versatile commentators. In more than 16 years on ABC Grandstand he has covered AFL footy (including four Grand Finals), cricket, tennis, and three Olympic Games, including London 2012 where he commentated 16 sports.

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    The Crowd Says (16)

    • Roar Guru

      March 26th 2013 @ 8:33am
      TomC said | March 26th 2013 @ 8:33am | ! Report

      Agree with all of that. Fremantle’s defensive pressure was relentless all around the ground on Saturday. I’ve been concerned about whether this list has the ability to step up and be a top four team, but the defining aspect of this team isn’t silky skills but tough defending.

      The other thing that really stood out for me was how easily the Dockers adjusted once it became clear that Pavlich was struggling. I’ve always felt they relied on him too heavily. Obviously not.

    • March 26th 2013 @ 9:26am
      me, I like football said | March 26th 2013 @ 9:26am | ! Report

      “It’s only round two” ?????

      I must of drank more than I thought.

    • Columnist

      March 26th 2013 @ 10:11am
      Cameron Rose said | March 26th 2013 @ 10:11am | ! Report

      Having put Freo into my top four at the start of the year, it was pleasing to see them play that level of quality football, and it was no surprise.

      Aaron Sandilands is in no way close to being Fremantle’s most important player though, and I’m sick of this myth being perpetuated. People go on as if taking him out leaves a gaping hole that can’t be replaced, when in fact he is simply a very good ruckman who gets replaced by a good ruckman. Yes, Freo obviously loses a little bit when he’s not there, but not much more than that, it’s been well documented that his hit-out dominance doesn’t always relate to Fremantle winning the clearances.

      When St Kilda were at their best in 2009, they actually played an attractive brand of football, as Fremantle did on Saturday night. It’s easy to forget that they averaged 100 points a match in the home-and-away rounds, ranked top four in the comp.

      Lyon preaches team defence ahead of all else and, as Dan points out, he is exceptional at getting the best out of moderately performed players, as well as getting previously inconsistent players with a high level of talent to produce every week.

    • March 26th 2013 @ 10:25am
      Chaos said | March 26th 2013 @ 10:25am | ! Report

      It’s going to be hard to beat Fremantle at Subiaco if they dominate the centre clearances like they against WCE. Let’s see how they go against a better midfield before we start inked them in the top four.

      • March 26th 2013 @ 10:46am
        Nathan of Perth said | March 26th 2013 @ 10:46am | ! Report

        They’re top four, barring injury.

        Ink it.

        I don’t like it, but I don’t like the Ebola virus either and that hasn’t stopped it from being real.

    • March 26th 2013 @ 10:47am
      Brendan said | March 26th 2013 @ 10:47am | ! Report

      Interesting results in round one not only did the Dockers beat cross town rivals the Eagles but Adelaide’s performance suggests they might not be a shoe in for a top four spot obviously opening up a position from last year.Fremantle should be very happy about there start to the season not only a win at home but backing up with a game against the doggies at Etihad, certainly a winnable game.Dan you along with other columnists such as Cameron have tipped Freo to make the top four IMO we should wait till about round 7 to make such predictions.Certainly the Dockers have got off to a good start and there draw is favourable to a finals finsh but if you go back to the early rounds last year Carlton were Premiership favourites and didn’t make the finals likewise Essendon won there first five odd games and didn’t see September action either.

      • March 26th 2013 @ 10:56am
        Nathan of Perth said | March 26th 2013 @ 10:56am | ! Report

        On the plus side, the Eagles are no longer any form of Premiership favourite, so that takes some of the pressure off!

      • March 26th 2013 @ 11:21am
        Macca said | March 26th 2013 @ 11:21am | ! Report

        Brendan – At one stage Essendon were 8-1 and went 3-10 from there.

        • March 26th 2013 @ 11:37am
          Brendan said | March 26th 2013 @ 11:37am | ! Report

          Thats amazing Macca had forgotten they won so many games early on .In a way it defeats my argument about assessing teams after seven rounds.Lets hope this season is so even that we dont know the make up of the eight or top four till the final rounds.Nathan of Perth the Eagles had a few out so i wouldn’t jump to any conclusions yet .

    • March 26th 2013 @ 6:13pm
      joe said | March 26th 2013 @ 6:13pm | ! Report

      Eagles were ambushed by the Dockers ,great game of footbal to watch especially if your a docker supporter, early days yet , the best of eagles yet to come, yet the diockers were at their best, Ross out coached John. Go Dockers.

      • March 27th 2013 @ 2:57pm
        johno said | March 27th 2013 @ 2:57pm | ! Report

        Not sure about the Dockers being at their best in this game, they were relatively sloppy with poor disposals in the first half. The third quarter however will make a lot of teams start to worry. Reminiscent of Geelongs ability over the past 5/6 years to play 15 minutes of brilliant football that ends the contest.

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