Sunday footy made its way to primetime USA on a mainstream channel for the first time in history and what a fantastic game to use! 17th and 18th on the ladder – absolutely scintillating. Ironically, the game was easier to watch in California than it was in Perth who had to put up with a three-hour delay.

Fremantle, who may be the most in-form winless side in sporting history went up against Adelaide – the guys you definitely don’t want to organise your end of season trip.

The Dockers came into this game winning almost every quarter they’d played, but in every game a two to five minute lapse of concentration saw the opposition teams pile on four, five or even six goals to take the game away from them. A consistant four-quarter performance would see the Dockers with their first win under Justin Longmuir. Adelaide have been a rabble, but put in an improved performance against the wayward Lions the week before to give themselves hope of a first win in 2020. It’s the battle of the young guns and I’m actually intrigued to see what happens.

 

A first win was on offer, and you could not fault the effort from either side early, but you could fault almost everything else.

Fremantle’s end to end work was fantastic, with three goals to open the game. Sturt was up and about early with the first goal, with Bewley, Hill and Young making up for the missing Fyfe. Adelaide early were reminiscent of their opposition in early years, in a game which would’ve made Ross Lyon proud. Their defence, for the most part, was solid and their clearance work was good, but they were let down horribly inside 50 with turnovers costing them the other way and Lachie Murphy missing all three of their very easy shots at goal.

Adelaide’s goal kicking woes continued in the second, with rookie Crow McHenry missing an easy shot from a lucky reversal of an advantage call. Adelaide, in every other facet, were much improved, managing repeat entries and putting genuine pressure on the Dockers’ depleted defence. Adelaide’s good work was regularly undone not always by their young guys, but their experienced players making simple mistakes and causing turnovers. The Crows’ defensive set ups past half forward were lacking as Freo’s new kick and mark game style could finally be put on show. The Dockers’ new focus on skill was finally allowed to be demonstrated and when Lobb scored in the 9th minute of the quarter, the game felt as though it was genuinely slipping away from the Crows, despite only a four goal deficit, and it was really just Talia down back who kept the Dockers from building a large half time lead. Finally, with a minute to go, Poholke stood up to kick their first goal.

By half time, the Crouch brothers and Laird had huge possession numbers – all around 17 each, with none of the Dockers hitting ten. However, watching the game it felt as though the Dockers had all the numbers. In reality, the possessions gained by Adelaide had little impact on the game and they moved the ball so slowly that it wasn’t difficult for Freo to transition the other way.

Freo did themselves no favours by falling into old habits and banging the ball long to a group of three talls who seemed to contest against each other as much as their opponents. With the space to move and the quick turnovers they were given, the Dockers needed to work harder to separate forward and create a number of options to go to. There’s safety in numbers, but there’s also limitations. Without Fyfe, all eyes were on Walters to help lift the Dockers, but by half time he had one touch (albeit it a goal). Cerra, Aish and Brayshaw were all attempting to fill the void left by their two stars.

The first half was a game between the arcs. The Crows lamented missed chances and poor skills inside 50 and the Dockers walked off happy with the lead, but knowing they needed to control the ball more to give themselves a better chance at scoring – with Freo fans hoping that the second quarter was their bad quarter.

The third quarter was complete frustration. Walters moved into the middle and Freo should have had an early goal if not for a dropped mark to Taberner. That was about it for the Dockers, though. The game became quite predictable. The Dockers would win the ball down back, usually thanks for the ever-improving Logue and Ryan, but then turn the ball over exiting 50. The Crows dominated possession and the quarter and created more repeated entries, but their nips in front of goal refused to go away. It’s almost as if the Crows took goal kicking lessons from Brisbane in their loss the week prior! Conca left the field with a hamstring, adding to Freo’s ever growing list of injured Docker defenders.

For the Crows though, the effort was ruined. They dominated play for ten minutes but a quick transition the other way resulted in an easy goal to Rory Lobb, which gave the Dockers some more breathing space. That breathing space was short lived, as the Crows woke up and kicked an instant reply from a simple clearance, something that has been plaguing the Dockers all season. A bit of umpire’s luck through an unpaid throw and the Crows had a second goal in a minute and suddenly the game looked like it was running away from the Dockers.

In return, Freo got the ball and proceeded to do the worst thing you can possibly do in a forward line – handball. Why teams handball in the forward 50 when they can just kick in around the corner at goal is something I’ll never understand (surely a behind is better than a turnover 40m out). Anyway, I digress. As usual when this strategy is employed, it resulted in a goal to the other team and Adelaide managed to level the scores.

The game was terrible from a skills and quality perspective, but as Adelaide crept closer and levelled the scores, in the last few minutes of the quarter, the pressure lifted, the crowd came into it and an after the siren behind to Mundy provided a launch pad to turn this torrid affair into a frantic final quarter.

The final quarter started Freo’s way. Mundy lifted with a good clearance, and knowing the Americans were watching, Sean Darcy provided a (pretty poor) attempt at an NFL punt, managing to find Taberner. Taberner, a famously unreliable shot at goal, split the middle and Freo’s (or rather, my) confidence grew just a bit. The intensity remained high for the quarter. A poster to the Crows allowed Walters, via the aerial route, to extend the lead back beyond two goals. Freo continued to pepper the goals and it looked like that would be all she wrote, but a 50 to Adelaide gave them the chance to really bring the game back into contention. Standard to the script, the shot missed and that was, in fact, all she wrote.

A late goal to Tucker and Freo claimed their first win, 34-54.

It wasn’t a classically great affair, but the game was highly entertaining if a bit frustrating at times. You can’t fault the effort from both sides, but you can certainly fault the execution.

 

What I’ve learnt:

  • Freo lack the killer instinct. With the game theirs in the second quarter, they failed to capitalise only scoring the one goal and then allowing a late goal against. At this stage, they should have been 6 or 7 goals in front.
  • Freo’s ball use is too slow at times. Their improvement in ball movement is obvious: Their skills are higher, and they look to go forward at all costs, but with good control. However, at times, they can be too slow which allows defenders to get back. Knowing when to pull the trigger is the next step in their game plan development.
  • Adelaide can play well – they just don’t want to. At times, Adelaide looked very good. They moved the ball well and looked anything a competitive side. But too often they moved the ball laterally when they didn’t need to, looked disinterested in defence and were shocking in front of goal.
  • Sturt will be a good player. The livewire forward didn’t have a huge impact on the game, but his energy and intensity around the ball was exciting. He kicked the first goal of the game and flew for what have been just about mark of the decade. Certainly one to watch.
  • The Crows rely on too few who do too little. Laird and the Crouch bothers are good players – but they’re not that good. Adelaide are capable, but they need a better spread from more players.
  • Freo are sadly missing their most important player- Alex Pearce. All season he’s been out, and when he’s out the Fremantle defence can’t control the game. Technically a young player, Pearce is a great general down back and many of their lapses could be put to him not being there. As for their best player Fyfe? Well, yeah, he’d have been pretty handy, too.
  • Walters ducks way too much. We’ve known this for years, but unlike certain other players, he can’t draw a free kick from it. Gotta get it out of his game.
  • Freo’s tall forward line could be dominate. The three talls of Tabener, Hogan and Lobb are all athletic, good runners, strong, reliable marks and contribute in different ways. If they can get the mix right, and the right supply, they may be unstoppable.
  • 0-5 is not all doom and gloom for either club. Adelaide have been dreadful this season and Freo been inconsistent within games. But today, both clubs provided plenty of good highlights that their fans will find promising for the future. Adelaide probably isn’t as bad as you might suggest and Fremantle, if anything, just don’t have a great ability to find a win.
  • Logue should be a midfielder. The 192cm defender is incredibly athletic and has a huge frame. He’s developed into a good defender, but his size in the middle would be very beneficial to Fremantle’s clearance difficulties.
  • Where’s Tex? I have no idea what Tex’s role in the team is anymore. He was no presence up forward, and was unseen across the middle. If he’s a high CHF he needs to link better and if he’s a deep FF then why aren’t they kicking it to him? Might be a handy trade at the end of the year, because he would still have value but looks completely lost.
  • As usual, the umpiring was guess-work and I have to assume I just don’t know the rules anymore, but it wasn’t just one Crocker who had a shocker

 

Best players:

Mundy (25d, 7cl); M Crouch (28d, 5t, 4cl); B Crouch (28d); Laird (25); Brayshaw (23); Logue; Walters; Lobb; Frampton.