Was it a game of two halves? Or was it a game of two quarters and a half in dispute?

A game of five eighths, perhaps?

This game looked completely over at two points. After the first quarter, it seemed as though the Saints would cruise to a win. A seven goal first quarter saw St Kilda run all over a disorganised and sloppy Freo and at that stage, it looked like the Saints were a cut above.

Fast forward to around nine minutes remaining in the last quarter and a gutsy Fremantle had not only fought their way back, but forged a 19 point lead.

From there it was the Saints fighting back, rediscovering a desperation we had not seen since the quarter time siren to level the scores. They played all or nothing footy and gave it one hell of a shot.

It left them open on the rebound, and a Lachie Schultz goal deep into red time gave the Dockers a fantastic victory.

Here’s The Mongrel’s good, bad and ugly.

 

THE GOOD

 

EXCEPT FOR ONE MOMENT, MICHAEL WALTERS

What a shame Michael Walters gave away that 50 metre penalty in the late stages of the game – his efforts in the last quarter were herculean other than that.

If we’re looking for a watch winning performance for the Dockers, at a point when their other match winner was hobbled at full forward, look no further than Walters.

Actually, I should say “except for two moments” as I’d forgotten him kicking the wrong way to start the game.

Anyway, I thought Walters was huge in the last quarter. He looked hurt, ran back with the flight of the footy without any fear whatsoever and really lifted the Dockers when they needed someone to do it.

He had four clearances in the last quarter alone and ran himself into the ground for this team. If you go back and watch this game again, which I am sure many Freo fans will do, focus on Walters in the last quarter. He is desperate and unrelenting in his pursuit of the footy and when the pressure is at its highest, he rises to the occasion.

But do me a favour? Forget the bit where he gives away the 50 metre penalty. Or at least fast forward it.

Oh, and I didn’t see him duck once for the record. A great sign.

 

THE SERGEANT

You’ve gotta love what Lachie Schultz brings to this Freo team. He is energetic, sneaky (very underrated quality) and never, ever fails to provide a contest. he has the makings of Hayden Ballantyne-light

He is the sort of player that has moments where you think he could do all things, and then he has moments where he looks as though he can’t do anything. Enigmatic is a good word to describe him. Freo have a few players with these qualities.

After completely fluffing a shot in the third quarter, the weight of the world was on his shoulders as he marked the delivery from Bailey Banfield with a minute to go in the game.

He went back, took in the big breaths, steadied himself and handed Freo the game. In the process, he kept their season alive.

I loved watching him in the pre-season and it is wonderful to see him have this kind of moment in the big time. Here’s to many more.

 

SHOWING PLENTY – ANDREW BRAYSHAW

That’s the second week in a row that Andrew Brayshaw has stood up when it counted. It’s a great sign of things to come.

His third quarter was pivotal in the context of the game, picking up eight touches as the pressure was turned up. That he ran at 100% efficiency in that period only added to his impact.

Brayshaw is starting to look like the player Freo were hoping for when they drafted him at number two in 2017. I suppose the question as to whether they will keep him will start to surface in the next year or so. He is contracted until the end of 2021 and whilst I am hopeful he is not one of those “I want to go home” kind of players, Freo should be proactive and start making moves to make him feel as though he should stay.

And what would those moves be? Just one move, really – secure his brother from Melbourne.

Angus Brayshaw simply doesn’t fit there at the moment, and given the way he’s playing, I’m not sure Freo would have to give up too much. If it means having two Brayshaws on the team, the whole may end up being worth a lot more than the sum of its parts.

Sound a bit crazy? I’ve been accused of worse, but if player retention is a problem, it might be time Freo got on the front foot and made it worth Brayshaw’s while to stay

 

TABERNER V CARLISLE

I love a good one-on-one match up, and around quarter time, I thought that Jake Carlisle was one of the best players on the ground. He was calm, in control and looked to be in charge of his encounter with Matt Taberner.

Some of my fellow Mongrels are a little miffed by my love of Taberner, but I reckon they may have had their eyes opened a bit this afternoon. His third quarter efforts were one of the big reasons that Freo were able to start pushing for the lead.

He worked up the ground, doubled back and for once, his kicking was quite good. He kicked a goal round the corner, added another from a ripping set shot from 40 metres out close to the boundary, and he fed Nat Fyfe one of his two goals as well.

Tabs has been a bit of a tease for a long time, but if he can do what he did today over the course of the season, with the occasional big game thrown in, I reckon you’ll find he will be one of the more highly rated tall forwards in the game. He only had the two contested grabs in this one, but always looked dangerous, and whilst Carlisle wasn’t disgraced, Taberner would have been pleased to get off the chain a little after a slow start.

 

TAYLIN DUMAN

This is the best I’ve seen this bloke look. I watched him a few times last season as he and Ethan Hughes started to play a fair bit of footy. Again, they were thrust into the roles due to a litany of injuries to the Dockers’ defenders, but despite being second-stringers I thought they had games where they made good accounts of themselves.

Today, Duman stepped it up a level.

From the outside in, he was the number one defender on the field today, both collecting plenty of footy as an interceptor and bringing the ball to ground in contests.

I should quantify the above statement by saying that I am discounting the first quarter here – Freo had basically no winners at that point, but from quarter time on, he was one of their best.

 

AISH ON BUTLER

At quarter time, I questioned our resident Fremantle tragic, Matt Passmore about the move of Blake Acres to the wing and James Aish into defence.

Aish has been quite good on the wing for the Dockers, but with Acres added to the team, and the Freo defence resembling the walking wounded, Aish was required to drift back and help out in defence.

The fact that Aish spent time on Dan Butler gives an indication as to his impact back there. In the Collingwood system, Aish was often given roles like the one her performed today and he was often left without recognition. You see, the Pies’ defence is stacked – much like Freo’s would be if they weren’t being killed by injuries. As such, Aish flew under the radar.

Today, however, at least here at The Mongrel, I just want to give a bit of credit for the close checking and creativity he provided for the Dockers coming out of half back. Dan Butler has been tearing games to shreds. Today, James Aish refused to allow him to do that, which was a huge ask after the start Butler had.

 

The X-Factor Ladder After Round Five

 

THE BAD

 

BRAD HILL’S NOTHING GAME

Brad Hill was supposed to be the biggest of the St Kilda recruits this season. His run and carry, combined with his silky skills were supposed to give this team the outside run and class they had been lacking.

Well, they’re still lacking it because those qualities are exactly what Hill IS NOT providing them at the moment.

Is he injured? Does he have something preventing him from working hard? I ask this because if he doesn’t there is only one more reason that could be causing these kind of performances.

Laziness, and that is something I never thought I would mention in the same sentence with the name of Brad Hill.

I am sure we will get some sort of heat map that disproves the theory that he isn’t working hard, but they can be misleading. It is not just the ground covered – Hill could cruise around the outside of the ground all day and barely break a sweat. This is more about the burst efforts that hurt the opposition, the gut-running that made him such a highly sought-after commodity.

Not once did I see Hill grab the ball and go for a run. Not once did I see him chase down an opponent and make ground on them. Not once after quarter time did I see him do anything that visibly aided his team.

I know the phrase “unrewarded running” is a popular one at the moment to recognise those doing the hard stuff, but you know what? Unrewarded running is often unrewarded for a reason – those players are not putting themselves in dangerous spots. They’re going through the motions and whilst their GPS data may look good, when you’re not putting yourself in the position to be effective, unrewarded is all you deserve to be.

 

GERARD HEALY, SHUP THE HELL UP

I’m sick of this bloke.

I get it – he hates tackling and doesn’t like when players get pinged for holding the ball. I reckon there is a very good reason for this.

Tackles were only recorded for the last four seasons of Gerard Healy’s career. Over that period, he averaged 1.4 tackles per game. He doesn’t like tackling because he didn’t lay tackles!

 

ALLERGIC TO TACKLING

Seems Gerard Healy isn’t the only bloke who doesn’t like tackling. Quite a few of the Saints don’t either.

Seven of them failed to lay one tackle in this game. Brad Hill, Dougal Howard, Jade Gresham, Hunter Clark, Ben Paton, Jack Billings and Jake Carlisle couldn’t lay one tackle between them for the whole game?

Wanna know why the Saints stopped to a walk? No defensive pressure, and blokes like Gresham, Billings and Hill should be hanging their heads in shame for such a poor defensive effort.

 

INNER CIRCLE MEMBERS – Round Five Defensive Rankings

 

THE UGLY

 

SWITCHING OFF

I wrote in the intro that there was a sense that the game was over at quarter time. The Saints were all over the Dockers and it seemed as though it was not a matter of if they’d win – it was a matter of how much they’d win by.

Fremantle were messy and seemed to lack structure. The St Kilda pressure was causing them to fumble and hack kicks to nowhere in particular. It was one dominant team having their way with another and Fremantle found themselves in a very dark hole as the siren sounded to end the first stanza.

And then what happened?

If you’re a St Kilda supporter, this is the question you’d want answered right now. The Saints stopped to a walk as the Dockers started to genuinely contest the footy at every opportunity. St Kilda went from body lining the footy and winning contests to reaching for the footy and being content in halving them.

The thing is, Freo weren’t happy to halve contests – there is no way back by halving contests.

Fyfe and Tucker started winning the footy, Sean Darcy got on top in the ruck duel with Rowan Marshall and prime movers like Jade Gresham, Seb Ross and especially Dan Butler were taken out of the game.

Fremantle took control and refused to allow St Kilda to play the game on their terms. The Saints wanted to play in cruise control and maintain their lead. The Dockers wanted to take the game off-road and were happy to crash and bash.

This happens to teams so often – they go away from what got them to the dance. St Kilda established their lead on the back of hard running and relentless pursuit of the footy. It lost the lead due to doing the exact opposite. By the time they were able to correct their errors, Fremantle had a 19 point lead and it proved to be a goal too much for St Kilda.

Never flirt with form. It is far too fleeting to take for granted.

 

THE HIT

So, I am sure by the time I’ve started writing about this, Twitter, Reddit and Facebook are overrun by comments from people wanting Ben Long to be suspended for a month of footy. It is the reactionary nature of the football fan that we now see contact and immediately start calling for the head of a player.

Not here. Not today. Not as much as everywhere else.

I’m linking the video below and I want you to have a look at it closely. Ben Long basically crunches Sean Darcy with his back. It’s not a hip and shoulder. It’s not even really a bump. It is Darcy lurching for the footy, and Long puts his body in the way to clear a path.

Is it nasty? Yeah, it is. You can see Darcy’s head snap back and the big fella was obviously concussed by the incident, but I am not sold that Long’s action was so reprehensible that he should be publicly flogged for it.

I understand fully that the AFL have to protect the players’ heads, but as much as I think Long’s action was probably unnecessary (he did step past the footy, admittedly), I’m not really sure that he has much of a case to answer. Or better put, I am not really sure that he SHOULD have too much of a case to answer.

He will, and he’ll get weeks because that is the nature of this league, but in terms of maliciousness, he could have done a lot worse.

In his defence, he didn’t really attack the oncoming player – more just moved into his path and with Darcy angling forward, other than allowing him a pathway to the footy, I’m not too sure what else he could have done. Maybe try to pick up the footy? I’m sure several of you are thinking that, and that’s fine.

Look, I reckon he’ll get weeks – settle down Freo fans; I just don’t think the action will warrant the way they’ll throw the book at him. Two weeks, but you know what – if he somehow got off, I wouldn’t at all be surprised. This is the AFL we’re talking about.

 

 

SOME QUESTIONS

 

IS A FORWARD ROLE THE FUTURE OF NAT FYFE AT FREMANTLE?

At some stage the biggest star in the history of the club will no longer be running around the middle of the ground for the Dockers. Not for a while yet, but it’ll happen at some stage. Could he transform himself into the most potent centre half forward in the game?

He was not right today – that much is apparent, but he was still able to compile 14 touches in the first half and then drift forward to take a contested grab and beat Dougal Howard in a one-on-one to kick his second. The way he attacks the ball in flight would see him become one of the premier forwards in the game in short order.

Let’s just hope he has a while before Justin Longmuir is forced to consider this.

 

SHOULD RORY LOBB BE THE NUMBER ONE RUCK?

I liked what Sean Darcy was doing prior to going off after that hit from Ben Long. At times he can come across as a bit lumbering, but for that period in the second quarter, he really started to get on top of Rowan Marshall, which I have to admit – I did not see coming.

That said, I really like seeing Rory Lobb with a 70-30 split of ruck-forward roles. His overhead marking is brilliant and even though he has somehow developed that Josh Kennedy run up, I really rate him when he can get clean air around the ground.

Whether he is the get out  of jail marking option or drifting forward and clunking marks on a mismatch, I love seeing him with a bit of freedom. But can Darcy play the forward role for the majority of the time if he does? The young fella had a couple of moments today that would suggest he can.

 

HOW GOOD COULD FREO BE WITH SOME DEFENDERS?

Hamling, Pearce, Cox, Logue, Conca… the Dockers have almost a starting back six sitting on the sidelines and several of them are game-changers.

I really rate Alex Pearce and Joel Hamling but the Dockers are again being forced to adjust to life without them. Are they a top eight side with those blokes back in the mix?

I wouldn’t bet against them. Heading back to WA, the Dockers have a chance to build on the momentum they’ve created over the last two weeks and if they can get some semblance of a solid defence back there they could really build toward the back half of the season.

 

WHO LET THE SAINTS DOWN?

I touched on Brad Hill above. He was poor.

Rowan Marshall struggled against the Lobb/Darcy combination in a game where I thought he might have been the difference. Dan Butler had his first poor game of his Saints career. And Nick Coffield was a shadow of the player he was in the St Kilda win last week.

Seb Ross was the other one. Too easily taken out of the action.

 

 

OTHER BITS

 

I thought Nathan Wilson was really poor early in the game. he should be killing teams with his powerful leg off half back but I am yet to see him look anything like he has been advertised over the last couple of years.

Really nice grab by Caleb Serong in the last quarter. I think we’re seeing enough from him to indicate that he will be a player. Good players are at their best in crucial moments.

Darcy Tucker was really important in the Freo revival. His second quarter was the kick start that the Dockers needed.

Eight of the top ten disposal winners in the third quarter were Dockers. They call this the premiership quarter, and whilst I am sure the Dockers won’t be winning the flag, the way that Freo were able to handle St Kilda in that quarter means that any talk of the Saints pulling a surprise finals run out of the fire to challenge was very premature.

 

And that’ll do me. Great win by the Dockers after staring down a potentially huge defeat at quarter time. For the Saints, some painful lessons were learnt here. Or at least you hope they were learnt.

The Dockers get the Eagles in the Derby next week – should be great see footy with an almost-proper crowd. Meanwhile, the Saints get a chance to redeem themselves against the Crows, although traveling to Adelaide to do so may make things a little more difficult.

 

Guys, if you like this, I’ve got heaps more I produce every week for members. Please consider joining to check out our Player Power Rankings weekly, Wingman Rankings and our Defensive Player of the Year award. Well worth the 40-80c per day, I reckon… but I am biased.

Want more of this kind of stuff? Join The Mongrel to get more.