There was a point in this game where you could almost predict what was going to happen.

As we started the third quarter, the Dockers were kicking with the wind, and as so many teams do, they started bombing long to contests inside 50. Time and time again, Freo mids went long, and were repelled. No one lowered their eyes, no one honoured leads, and as a result, forwards stopped leading.

On the flip side, the Pies worked the ball methodically into the breeze. They hit targets, continued to make space, and they rewarded the hard work of their forwards by honouring their leads. Now this happened directly after half time – do you think this was at all addressed during the break? Do you think Ross Lyon wanted to see whether one of Matt Taberner, Jesse Hogan or Brennan Cox could put his stamp on the game with some deep contested marking? You’d hope he was experimenting with it, because in that ten minute period of futility, the Dockers ruined their chances, and fell into some really poor habits going forward.

Yes, it was a JLT game, and in effect meaningless, but winning can be habitual, and having a good patch here or there doesn’t win you games. Kicking long and hoping no longer wins games. Make no mistake, the Dockers were in this game up to their eyeballs, even as late as the last quarter, but poor execution of what may or may not have been a poor game plan meant that their forwards had little hope.

You can’t rely on the wind to win games for you. Simply put, that’s just dumb.

Here’s some other things that jumped out at me.

Much has been written about the Collingwood midfield and its plethora of talent. They were without Treloar, Adams and Sier today, but they still had the old engines running beautifully. Scott Pendlebury had the most clearances for the Pies, and was as balanced and in control as he’s ever been. He deferred when he had to, got others involved, and generally made others around him look a step slow.

There’s a big part of me that expects Pendles to take a secondary role this year once the midfield cavalry arrives, but he was well and truly in the driver’s seat tonight.

Then you had Sidebottom just cruising around like he absolutely smelled! Why wouldn’t anyone go near this bloke? He has really developed into a quick-thinking leader, and I actually thought this may be the year  he stepped into the Collingwood captaincy. Now, I think they’ll probably bypass him and go for a younger bloke when Pendles decides he’s had enough.

Just the lazy 46 hitouts for Brodie Grundy today, and I wonder how many of them came against Scott Jones? It looked to me as though Grundy started licking his lips when he saw Jones as his match up around the ground.

At one point in the second quarter, I was thinking that Freo were doing a good job in limiting Grundy’s ability to have effective hit outs, and then within a couple of minutes, he’d found Sidebottom, Beams and Pendlebury with consecutive ruck taps.

They were all against Jones.

Rory Lobb was solid against Grundy, inasmuch as he worked hard around the ground as well, and provided a good option in the air. Grundy had 15 touches, and Lobb had 20 for the match but when they were matched up directly, I had them sitting about equal. To me, that’s a win for Freo.

However, Grundy’s dominance against Jones was another good indicator that a good ruckman will monster a less-talented back up more so in 2019. If anyone reading knows how to access the stat to see how effective Grundy was against each of the fremantle bigs, hit me up.

Jesse Hogan – well, what can you say based on this effort? At least he didn’t get injured? It can only get better from here?  He’ll be better for the run?

It’d be hard to get any worse.

He didn’t look like it at all at any stage of the game. He couldn’t get near a marking contest. He couldn’t get near a ground ball. He finished with six touches and two marks in a forward 50 crammed with talls, and a team who refused to kick to his advantage. So whose fault is all this?

Does Hogan have a case to point the finger at a gameplan that simply failed to give him a chance to have an impact? Yep, you’re damn right he does.

Does Ross Lyon have a case to pull Hogan aside and tell him that his half-arsed approach to attack the ball is unacceptable? Yeah, he has every right.

Do Freo supporters have the right to ask what the hell is going on when you have three – four when Lobb drifts down there – forwards who just seem to get in each other’s way? If I followed the Dockers, I’d be asking, because if that is what constitutes a game plan, you may want to send Ross back to the drawing board to come up with something a little better. It worked early, and Cox reaped the benefit with three goals.

Then Nathan Buckley had a player drop back to clog things up.

And that was it. Plan thwarted, and you’re stuck with all these big blokes who can’t take a mark.

Well, if it was an experiment, let’s hope a lesson was learned.

Speaking of lessons, Joel Hamling learned a valuable one today about allowing Jaidyn Stephenson goal-side. Teams would be well-served in making sure there is a loose defender back behind wherever Stephenson plonks himself in the forward half. With limited touches, he burned the Pies on three occasions, and threatened to do it a few more times.

How many blokes in the league run down Brad Hill? A handful? Ten? Whatever the number, count Stephenson amongst them.

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Whilst on Hill, it was great to see him running about unimpeded. He had 28 touches to lead the Dockers, and looked dangerous with ball in hand (of course, no one would lead to him, though). With Mundy (and Fyfe when he gets back) providing the grunt work, Hill running on the outside in full flight would warm the hearts of Freo fans. Now, if they could just get his brother right…

Hill had eight inside 50s and three direct goal assists on the night, but if he stays healthy, it will be as the season starts to grind that Hill’s running power will come to the fore. His tank is massive, and when others’ legs start to fail them, Hill is still running.

Whilst Dayne Beams’ return got the fanfare, Jamie Elliott has snuck under the guard of many. He was very good in the first half of this one, and really served notice that, despite the Pies being stacked with mid-sized and small players that can kick goals, he is far from a spent force.

Andrew Brayshaw showed plenty today, mainly in the first and last quarters. I don’t quite know where he got to in the middle of the game, but with eight touches in the first, and plenty of it in the last, his presence was needed in the middle more often.

It’s probably unfair to expect more of him just yet – he was just starting to play well before the “Gaff incident” and he’ll only get better, but I look at what his brother is doing at Melbourne and think… that could be you next, Andrew. I’m sure Docker fans would be rapt with that.

Jordan Roughead at full back – not bad. He hampered almost all attempts to mark deep, and took nine grabs himself. The way he, Tom Langdon and Darcy Moore were able to kill off Docker forward forays indicated that with time to grow together, the Pies could be really onto something in the back half.

It was a relatively quiet day for Adam Cerra, but he’s returned looking in great shape. He’s starting to look very solid, and could really start standing in tackles and breaking them this season. A couple of times today, he reminded me of Daniel Kerr.

Matt Taberner took two marks today. I counted three he dropped without any direct pressure.

Taylin Duman, please look where you’re kicking before you throw it on the boot and hope. Stats tell me you went at 60% efficiency. The eye-test tells me that every time you kicked over 30 metres, you didn’t hit a target.

Decent debut for Isaac Quaynor, who seemed to be a target for Hayden Ballantine’s aggression. He looks to be a solid player, but wasted it a little when he got the chance. Put it down to nerves, I guess. I preferred the game of Rupert Wills, who has six games to his name and just looks a bit untidy… like a dishevelled homeless dude kind of untidy. Hopefully some of the better-paid Collingwood players give him some of their spare change.

Gavin Brown’s boys (a sitcom in the making?) both had good moments, as did Ben Crocker and James Aish. This Collingwood team has an embarrassment of riches.

Loved the way Alex Pearce started the game. With three intercept marks in the first five minutes, he was on record pace… or what I like to call McGovern pace. He tapered right off (I think he finished with just six for the game, but he gave Fremantle an avenue to go back into attack in the first quarter as they assumed control.

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I haven’t heard a commentator go as hard on (tee hee – hard on) a player so early in the season as Gary Lyon went on Brandon Matera today. The thing is, it is entirely justified.

I had a note here I jotted down earlier in the game – it read “Brandon Matera is the difference between winning and losing games. If he plays to his potential, Freo are so much more dangerous. If he doesn’t, you don’t have to worry about him too much because he ain’t gonna chase you and earn a kick the hard way.”

Now, I am not being an arrogant prick, quoting myself, but there is only one bloke that can change that perception, and that’s Matera. There’s obvious talent there, and he gets to the right spots, but stupid mistakes and lack of defensive pressure are probably the reasons Ballantyne was retained for this season. You can’t trust Matera to put in when things aren’t going well. You can always trust that Ballantyne will give you his heart and soul.

Now Ballantyne just needs to start hitting targets occasionally. He went at 25% today.

Does Trav Varcoe have the best, most consistent hands in “front and centre” situations in the game? He so rarely fumbles, and he is at the stage now where he may not get a heap of it, but when he does get it, he hurts you.

Good to see Darcy Tucker laying so many tackles. His 19 touches were good, but the way he attacked the body of his opponents was excellent. He had a game-high 13 tackles today. The next best for Freo had four. A bit of defensive work to do there, huh?

So the Pies travel and win, and the Dockers fail to have anything resembling a forward structure. That about sums up the final game of JLT1.




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