Failing Fremantle are even worse than they seem

Cameron Rose Columnist

By Cameron Rose, Cameron Rose is a Roar Expert

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    Round 12 was another weekend of upset results, one that arguably provided more questions than answers. Something definitive however, was clarified at the Gabba on Saturday afternoon.

    In case there was any doubt, Brisbane put to bed any thought or contention that Fremantle were a legitimate top eight side.

    The Dockers had been a sheep in wolves clothing up until Round 9, a bottom four team masquerading as a potential finalist thanks to their 6-3 win-loss record and fifth place on the ladder, even though their percentage was a tick over 90, which ranked 14th.

    The problem was, three of Fremantle’s six wins had been by less than a goal, over Melbourne, North and Richmond, each coming with the last goal of the day. Each of these matches could easily have gone the other way, but to be fair to the Dockers they probably did deserve to win at least one or even two of them.

    The last three rounds have seen Freo’s true colours come to the surface.

    First, it was losing by the even 100 points to Adelaide in Adelaide, followed by a 20-point defeat at home to a Collingwood line-up with barely a fit man to call upon late in the game, and then came Saturday’s humiliation in Brisbane, a 57-point loss that felt like more while watching it.

    Lachie Neale Fremantle Dockers AFL 2017

    (AAP Image/Tony McDonough)

    The Dockers now sit in 10th, with a reasonable chance they’ll fall to 12th while having the bye next week. A percentage of 78 is the third worst in the competition thanks to the combination of close wins and savage defeats.

    Once again, it’s scoring, that old chestnut, that is at the heart of Fremantle’s problems. Only Carlton, they of the defence-first game-plan as Brendon Bolton builds his team from the ground up, has scored less per game than Ross Lyon’s men.

    The Dockers midfield doesn’t exactly drown their forward-line with opportunities, but the lack of finishing class is a problem.

    Cam McCarthy, Shane Kersten and Matthew Taberner all have individual capabilities, but have long periods of games where they have no impact. Hayden Ballantyne hasn’t played a game through injury but is on the way out anyway, and the class of Michael Walters has been needed through the midfield.

    David Mundy and Lachie Neale have stepped up to fill a hole inside 50 when they can through rotations, and have provided clinical finishing at important times, but they can’t be everywhere.

    Nat Fyfe appeared to be rested forward more on the weekend as his body looks to be battling. Weight was given to this theory with his contested possession count of only five against Brisbane. You have to go back to Round 20, 2010 to find a match where he had less.


    (AAP Image/Julian Smith)

    Fyfe has been the subject of much discussion this season, as befitting a Brownlow medallist that is out of contract at the end of the year. The fact he only played five matches in 2016, and is coming off severe injury, has added to the intrigue.

    Comparing the straight numbers from Fyfe’s 2017 to his combined 2014-15 zenith, and there is a clear drop-off. Disposals are down, contested possessions are down, clearances are down. His clanger count is up.

    But while the numbers suggest a drop-off, they are not as significant as the naked eye. He is lacking that explosive, ball-tearing, you’ll-have-to-shoot-me-to-stop-me animal momentum through the ball, through the man and through stoppages that was his trademark.

    Frankly, Fyfe’s standard was so high, that he can’t help but fail in comparison to himself, especially coming off a broken leg. The bye has come at the right time for him, and hopefully we see him return to his very best in the second half of the season.

    Fremantle are scoring 15 points less than the competition average, and conceding a goal more. The backline is full of jobbers who do what they can.

    When comparing their numbers to the average of teams currently in the top eight, the Dockers are four goals short in attack, and two goals off the pace in defence. That’s six goals a game behind in total.

    In short, they are nowhere near the standard required to be a finals contender.

    Fremantle are not about 2017, and can not be. The fans may not like it, but they simply aren’t good enough. They have to be looking towards 2018, 2019 and beyond.

    Lachie Weller, Connor Blakely and Ed Langdon are three 21-year-olds that look the brightest prospects. Cam McCarthy is only 22. Brad Hill is 23, Lachie Neale has just turned 24. We need to see some more names added to that list of ten year players aged in their early 20s, that a grand final team can be built around.

    Fremantle are further away from contending for a premiership than any other team in the league, with the exception of probably Hawthorn. But, the Hawks have four recent flags in the bank. The Dockers have none.

    Dockers coach Ross Lyon looking glum

    (AAP Image/Tony McDonough)

    Freo have a first-round pick in this year’s draft, but nothing in the second round. That pick needs to be a high one, and it needs to be a good one. A bottom four finish would see that first round pick, and then something around pick 40, as their next selection.

    The Dockers don’t have many tradeable commodities to try and get some higher picks. Nat Fyfe is obviously one, if they wanted to be outrageously bold. Michael Walters is really the only other player that could fetch a high draft yield. Both are Western Australia boys though, which makes things harder.

    The rest of the list are either too old, too young, or no good. It’s a tough spot to be in.

    Fremantle are not a good football team. They may only have a couple of wins left in them this season, and it would be in their best interests for this to be the case. Can they build into something good by next decade? That remains to be seen, and is anyone’s guess.

    Cameron Rose
    Cameron Rose

    Cameron Rose is a born and bred Melbournian, raised on a regime of AFL, cricket and horse racing. He likes people who agree with him but loves those that don't, for there's nothing better than a roaring debate. He tweets from @camtherose.

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    The Crowd Says (214)

    • June 13th 2017 @ 6:55am
      Swannies said | June 13th 2017 @ 6:55am | ! Report

      They are becoming to look like the North of 2016 who fooled everyone that they were a good football team in the first half of the season. But they won’t fall as hard as North will.

      • Columnist

        June 13th 2017 @ 9:03am
        Cameron Rose said | June 13th 2017 @ 9:03am | ! Report

        North were at least half-decent. Fremantle don’t even qualify for that.

        • Roar Guru

          June 13th 2017 @ 2:09pm
          Dalgety Carrington said | June 13th 2017 @ 2:09pm | ! Report

          I sense some round 8 bitterness still acrid in the mouth.

      • June 13th 2017 @ 12:41pm
        WesternRoo said | June 13th 2017 @ 12:41pm | ! Report

        Swannies, just once I would like to hear the reason behind your inexplicable hatred of North Melbourne ? Just about everything you post is badmouthing the club, it’s players and it’s direction.

      • Editor

        June 13th 2017 @ 1:06pm
        Josh Elliott said | June 13th 2017 @ 1:06pm | ! Report

        From North being the Freo of 2016 to Freo being the North of 2017. What a time to be alive.

    • June 13th 2017 @ 8:11am
      Milo said | June 13th 2017 @ 8:11am | ! Report

      Good enough to beat Richmond who really didn’t deserve to win if you look at the entire four quarters. Hoperfully that can be reversed over there shortly. But aren’t the expectations a little higher than any other team from a similar position? They’ve already won two more games than the entire 2016 season and a lot of their younger brigade as mentioned are surely better for the games they’ve got in.

      Fyfe will only improve, he’s 26 at season’s end and has quite a few good seasons left in him. I wonder if he and the team would be better off without his captaincy? But its hard to know without a standout obvious alternate – at least from afar

      All up I don’t think the Dockers’ future is quite as bleak as that.

      • Columnist

        June 13th 2017 @ 9:05am
        Cameron Rose said | June 13th 2017 @ 9:05am | ! Report

        Easily Richmond’s worst performance of the season. Would have been highway robbery if the Tiges had stolen that one, given how they were outplayed across the first three quarters.

        Yeah, no doubting the hurdles Fyfe has overcome, he looks like he needs the break though.

        • June 13th 2017 @ 12:21pm
          John Singleton said | June 13th 2017 @ 12:21pm | ! Report

          What is the point about Richmond Lions beat who Carlton beat who get with times Freo are pretenders Coached bye a dud with Old and overated player’s bar one. But I suppose that has something to do with Richmond please.

          • June 13th 2017 @ 12:32pm
            Slane said | June 13th 2017 @ 12:32pm | ! Report

            Bit early to be on the turps isn’t it?

          • June 13th 2017 @ 12:36pm
            Milo said | June 13th 2017 @ 12:36pm | ! Report

            Very profound.

    • June 13th 2017 @ 8:49am
      Don Freo said | June 13th 2017 @ 8:49am | ! Report

      You only went through the players who played against Brisbane, Cam. Try going through those about to return after the break. Freo will be on the positive half of the ledger in the second half of the season.

      • June 13th 2017 @ 9:40am
        Macca said | June 13th 2017 @ 9:40am | ! Report

        Don – Given your percentage you will have to go 7-3 to play finals – who are the 7 teams you think you will beat?

    • June 13th 2017 @ 8:57am
      Leonard said | June 13th 2017 @ 8:57am | ! Report

      The great Jack Dyer misspoke several sayings which have become classics, none more so than “good ordinary player”. Wonder what he’d’ve called Freo’s (and formerly St Kilda’s) Zac Dawson?

      Looks as if he’s Lyons’ very long-term ‘project’ (aka ‘pet’?) At least Sheedy’s ‘projects’ (often equally and utterly frustrating to Bomber fans) eventually came good by playing their parts in winning Grand Final.

      PS: some of us are old enough to recall old familiar sayings, one of which is “Not worth a zac”.

      • June 13th 2017 @ 9:02am
        Milo said | June 13th 2017 @ 9:02am | ! Report

        I can remember that. I also remember Kevin Walsh, amongst others. At footy, Walshy wasn’t even close to best at school in his year but a very smart kid who could apply himself to get the job done. Not sure Dawson does the same.

        PS nothing beats ‘Mark Lee and the octopus’ quote from Jack.

        • Columnist

          June 13th 2017 @ 9:07am
          Cameron Rose said | June 13th 2017 @ 9:07am | ! Report

          Yeah, Zac falls well short of Jack’s “good ordinary player”. Lee Spurr is the first that comes to mind to fit that description.

          • Roar Guru

            June 13th 2017 @ 3:03pm
            Steve J said | June 13th 2017 @ 3:03pm | ! Report

            I think there are plenty of good ordinary players picked up by a lot of clubs in the draft since 2010 thanks to GC and GWS

            Conca, Batchelor, Vlaustin, Ellis, Lennon, Lloyd, Miles, McIntosh, Menadue, Castagna, Lambert to name but a few

        • June 13th 2017 @ 10:46am
          Leonard said | June 13th 2017 @ 10:46am | ! Report

          Octopuses all over the world swam taller! Rumour has it that some even developed into nonopuses or decapuses! PS: the supposedly proper plural ‘octopi’ is a false Latinism; those who want classical purity would have to be ready to go Greek and call them ‘octopodes’! Now that would’ve surely generated a you-beaut Dyerism.

      • June 13th 2017 @ 11:47am
        Axle and the Guru said | June 13th 2017 @ 11:47am | ! Report

        I don’t think Jack Dyer would have been allowed to say on TV what he would think of Dawson as a player Leonard.

    • June 13th 2017 @ 9:23am
      Barnburners said | June 13th 2017 @ 9:23am | ! Report

      I’m with you on this one Cameron. Their list is currently in no-mans land.
      There will be quite a cull over the next two drafting periods. The current list of middle tier players have just not come on, stagnated or not been able to get on the park.
      Mundy, Sandilands, Dawson and Johnson will all be gone and tough decisions have to be made on top end age players Spurr, Ibbotson, Pearce, Griffin, and Suban., They have been unfortunate not being able to get games into Apeness, Clarke and Bennell . I think that Sutcliffe and Sheridan would be good players in a settled top four side, however, it is hard to establish where they are at the moment of development.
      Blakely looks a star and should they resign Fyfe the midfield group has plenty of growth and potential.
      Definitely development years for 2018 and 2019.

    • Roar Rookie

      June 13th 2017 @ 9:26am
      FreoFan said | June 13th 2017 @ 9:26am | ! Report

      The gap between our best has worst has been quite vast but I don’t think there was many Freo supporters (bar Don Freo) that said it was ‘about 2017’ for Freo. I’m not living in a fantasy land that we are currently world-beaters but I think you could write an article with the same sentiment about many of the teams in the comp after certain stages of the season. Everyone has had poor showings this year at some point. I don’t (and never did) expect us to play finals this year so please don’t speak for Freo or its fans.

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