I was genuinely excited coming into this match-up. I had the pleasure of covering a few Brisbane games last year and thoroughly enjoyed watching their development and the way they played their footy.
I was also keen to see how Fremantle responded to a bitter loss to the Bombers, in a game they probably should have won. Both teams are an interesting prospect in 2020. Could the Lions continue at their 2019 level? How will the new-look Dockers go under Justin Longmuir?
But that’s enough pre-amble. Let’s dive into the stuff that mattered…
The first half itself was a game of two halves. The Lions had the ascendancy early, Charlie Cameron was running amok, but they kept the Dockers close with some sloppy play and silly mistakes. The Dockers looked like they couldn’t get the ball into their forward half with any sort of purpose and Harris Andrews lapped it up.
However, the game shifted during the second quarter. Freo worked out you should kick the ball over the top of Andrews and Nathan Fyfe showed up like Booby Boucher at the Bourbon Bowl, racking up some key touches and slotting a couple goals. I could almost hear Chris Fagan doing his best Red Beauliue “Oh shit, he showed up”.
The second half almost followed the same script. The Lions pushed ahead and threatened to blow the game open, but the Dockers may be developing a reputation as a never-say-die team as they steeled themselves for the fight and clawed their way back into the contest. Walters and Fyfe led the way with some good support from Aish, Logue and Taberner up forward.
The Lions would hold on for the win, but Freo would lose no fans for their endeavour.
The Best Stuff:
Centre Bounce Goals
The centre bounce is one of the last parts of our game that legislates a pure football look. Players are restricted in their positioning and teams can’t load up their defence. It is my firm belief that this has now become the best part of our game. Quick goals in succession is exciting. The momentum a team can build form forcing the ball their way in a genuine 50/50 contest and causing chaos in their forward half and scrapping a goal is just sublime to watch. Freo probably had the better of the stoppages on the day, but I guess it didn’t really matter in the end.
Stars go Head-To-Head:
The contest between Neale and Fyfe was a joy to watch. As with modern midfields, they weren’t often matched up (if at all), but to see the two teams’ best players go head-to-head in terms of willing their teams to victory is what makes footy great. It’s why people still talk about the night Danger and Fyfe did the same so many years ago.
Each star had their moments, with Neale being more consistent, but Fyfe looms large every time he touches the footy. It’s almost as if his possessions are worth double. I still gave the points to Neale. His work in-and-under to win the footy when the chips were down in those last five minutes is why you watch footy. He capped off his 29 disposal (17 contested) and eight clearance performance with two goals.
I actually ended up putting Fyfe behind Walter in Freo’s best. But he was in no way disgraced. 24 disposals (13 contested) and three goals. He loomed as the biggest presence in the Dockers front half in the back end of the game.
Harris Andrews V Matt Taberner:
I love a genuine key match-up. With so little one-on-ones lasting the journey in the modern game I salivate at the opportunity to be able to directly review one player’s performance against another. Andrews was his simply impassable self, early. However, he was caught out the back a couple times by Taberner who worked hard to try and expose Andrews taking the front position. However, he just couldn’t hurt him enough to worry Andrews out of the front spot.
In probably a great summation of the match-up, midway through the third quarter, a sky ball went over the head of Andrews and fell into Taberners’ lap. Taberner looked to play on and tried to fake out Andrews and ended up spilling the ball. Andrews picked it up and fed a teammate and the Lions went down and kicked a goal through Calum Ah Chee. It was a telling moment in the match.
I actually gave the points in this match-up to Taberner (in a split decision). He didn’t put it on the scoreboard, but he beat Andrews in more than enough contests that another forward, who could kick straight, would’ve slotted five or six goals on him. This in no way tarnishes Andrews’ performance, which was a staunch as ever, but reflects the high standards he is now held to due to his outstanding consistency.
Fast Finishing Dockers:
Halfway through the last quarter, you could’ve been forgiven for turning the game off and thinking the Lions would simply hold on to the lead and play out a minimally scoring few minutes and take the four points to the bank.
Enter Michael Walters. He wasn’t alone, but he best epitomised the way that Freo just wouldn’t give up. It was a similar story to round one where the Dockers seem to have instilled this belief that they are never out of a game. It’s actually wonderful to watch. A team that always seems to believe they are one goal away from getting the game back on their terms. Walter would finish with 28 disposals, 10 score involvements and two clutch goals. I would argue he was the most important player on the ground. Providing a type of x-factor that the ever-reliable Fyfe and Neale don’t.
The Good Stuff:
You give him an inch and he takes a mile. One step off Cameron and you might as well throw your hands in the air as he is going to punish you every time. Cameron put the Dockers defenders to the sword and had four goals by early in the second quarter and was quickly establishing himself as the difference between the two sides. It must be said that the Dockers did adjust and swapped Griffin Logue onto Cameron after halftime and seemed to hold him well form that point. It pushed him down a whole category in this review.
Aish seems to have fit in very well at the Dockers. Coming over from the Pies looks to have been a good move for him. Playing that outside winger role and supporting the likes of Walters and Fyfe, he had some promising moments for Freo. 25 disposals, 491 metres gained, and six score involvements is a handy contribution.
A lot of promise in the youngsters for both teams.
For Fremantle it was Young (11 disposals on debut), Bewley (16 disposals), Schultz (one goal, seven disposals) and Logue (9 disposals), who all played different roles, but each had their moments where they stood up to influence the game. My best for the lot would be Logue who shut down Charlie Cameron for the better part of the second half.
For Brisbane it was Starcevich (17 disposals), T. Berry (nine disposals on debut), and Bailey (12 disposals). I would’ve had Terry as the most promising. He showed a real contested ability for a first gamer and had a nice dash of pace as well.
The Ugly Stuff:
Jarryd Lyons’ Brain Fade.
You could argue Brisbane had the lead they deserved near the end of the first quarter. They had kicked two quick goals to pull away and had largely controlled the quarter without the necessary reward. Lachie Neale received a free kick at the centre bounce and was looking to drive them forward one more time in the final 30 seconds.
Enter Lyons, who stupidly flattens Michael Walters as he strides to take his position on the mark. It may not have warranted a free kick; that is up for debate, but there is no doubt of how stupid that action was. Walters receives the free kick, the ball goes Freo’s way and they kick a goal on the siren from the scrimmage up forward. A likely 12-point play, as it seems that goals are mostly coming from centre bounce thrusts forward before defences have adequate time to settle.
The far side of the ground was seemed to be the Bermuda triangle for both sides today. Players from both sides consistently just seemed to think they had another 5 metres of width in the ground on that side and continually put the ball out of play. I don’t blame the early perpetrators, but the players still doing it after quarter time need to have a hard look at themselves.
Hipwood Selling Candy:
I know Hipwood is mobile for his size. But trying to sell candy to arguably the best candy seller in the league in Michael Walters is not something I would recommend. As you would guess Hipwood attempted to sell, but Walters wasn’t buying and duly wrapped the big man up.
Mitch Robinson’s Obsession with his left foot:
Is Mitch Robinson a left footer? It felt like he just wanted to throw it on his left every opportunity he had. And they were often not effective at all. So many times, he could’ve taken an extra step of fed a handball, but nope Robinson wanted to throw that footy on his left, send it 40 metres down field, and have it swallowed by a Dockers player. His left foot accuracy could only match his hairstyle. He may have only had five registered clangers, and 667 metres gained, but I’d love to see the stat of how many metres Freo gained directly from some of his appalling turnovers.
Set shots for goal:
Both teams should be working on their set shots this week. Both teams could’ve won comfortably if they had simply kicked straight when it mattered (and when it was easiest).
The Rest of it:
Just good to see him get back out there. Probably a step behind at times, but I think that’s just him being rusty form not playing footy for so long (longer than just the shutdown). He will be a good acquisition for the Lions this year. You can train a player to improve their fitness but you can’t replace Birchall’s experience.
If you Don’t Mind Umpire:
I have no stake in this game, but even I had to question some umpiring decisions. I actually can’t list them all, but they definitely went both ways. My only observation would be that Freo copped a raw deal with a few calls of “touched off the boot” and Matty Taberner was robbed of a clear mark at the start of the last quarter in the goal square. It’s a bitter pill for Freo fans, but you were still so close.
McInerny – So close yet so far.
I’m a big fan of the “Big O”. He shows a lot of potential and still delivers the odd moment of brilliance. I was saying at three-quarter-time that I felt he was one big moment away form taking the game away from Fremantle. Sure enough, the moment came when he took a big pack mark near the end of the game in the forward pocket for the Lions. Unfortunately, he did not seize this moment. Spraying his shot out on the full. The potential is there, and I think he is a solid replacement for when Martin has retired.
The Lions banked the points in the end, but at what cost to their reputation? Coming off a mauling from Hawthorn in round one, who themselves were just savaged by the Cats. Blowing a solid lead and failing to convert set-shots at the end. The Lions did themselves no favours in the eyes of the independent fans watching this game.
No disrespect to Freo but they aren’t exactly premiership favourites this year. However, it must also be said, you can only beat what is put in front of you and the Lions squared the ledger, which is all you can really ask of your team coming off a loss. We’ve seen in previous years you only need to make it and hit form at the right time. The Lions’ true test comes next week against the Eagles.
Another close finish for the Dockers, and another game where they were just short. They are looking like a competitive but non-threatening team for 2020. However, it is a transition year for the Dockers. Some new blood and a new coach. They just lack the finishing touches of a more established team. I have confidence in the direction they’re heading.