There was something irresistible about the 2013 version of the Fremantle Dockers. The thing I admired most about them and the way they went about their business was their “anywhere, anytime” mantra.

As a non-Freo supporter, it was something that resonated with me, and I have to admit, I have watched their fantastic win over Geelong at whatever they’re calling Kardinia Park these days, a few times over the years. It is a mantra I am surprised more teams have not adopted and used to quantify their performances on the road.

There was a bit of that about the Dockers in this one – playing on the road against a team that had performed well above expectations in 2021, they refused to succumb to what looked like an Adelaide team that would come home hard after hitting the front halfway through the last quarter.

A lesser team would have wilted under the pressure, and a year or so ago, this Fremantle outfit most likely would have rolled over as well.

But not today.

Buoyed by the attack on the footy of Lachie Schultz and some solid work from Blake Acres, James Aish and their captain in the clinches, Fremantle powered home to pick up their best win of the young season, and move into the top eight… at least for the time being.

The Crows had their chances, and looked exceptionally good at points, but credit must be given to a Fremantle outfit that stayed in the contest until dealing some lethal blows to the staggering Adelaide outfit in the last quarter.

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

 

 

THE GOOD

 

BACK IN THE DEFENSIVE SWING

Last season, Luke Ryan was the inaugural winner of The Mongrel Punt’s Defensive Player of the Year Award. In a season like no other (sounds like I am trying to sell a book, right Ash Browne?), Ryan was charged with holding together a Fremantle defence with the footy equivalent of sticky tape and clag.

And he did a bang-up job of it.

With both Alex Pearce and Joel Hamling sticking to the 2020 script in 2021, Ryan has had the challenge thrown down to him again, and this week, he responded.

Some may call his match-up on Shane McAdam the gift he needed to get going, but there was no need for gifts in this game as Ryan controlled the defensive 50 with the calmness and composure we become accustomed to last season.

He comprehensively won his individual match-up and was a beast throughout the game, racking up 12 intercepts to go along with his 11 rebound fifty possessions.

A few weeks back, when Freo had their annual dearth of defenders due to injury, I speculated that this may not be the worst thing to happen to the Dockers, When it occurred last season, yes they were under extreme pressure, but it brought out the best in both Luke Ryan and Brennan Cox, as well as blokes like Ethan Hughes and Taylin Duman. It gave the Dockers options moving forward, and we saw that come to fruition today.

Ryan gt good help from Hughes, Cox and Griffin Logue (who should get a lot of credit for clamping down on Tex Walker… though Walker did seem to be carrying a calf niggle), as he provide an incredible rebound option for the Dockers.

For those that follow our weekly Defensive Player of the Year Award at The Mongrel, you know Ryan will feature heavily this week. He’s back… and it’s not like he ever really left.

 

I DO LIKE MUNDY(S)

When David Mundy hangs up the boots sometime in the next six or seven years, if there is not a glut of clubs vying for his services as a coach, then I’ll go and jump in the lake. Maybe I’ll purify myself in the waters of Lake Minnetonka or something.

If you want to player to learn how to deliver the footy inside fifty, get him to watch Mundy perform the task. He does it in such a manner that it makes things easy for the forward, and as much as teams hack the footy inside fifty at times, Mundy does it so well that he makes the rest of these professionals look like amateurs.

He is an intelligent player – a footballer’s footballer, as my Dad used to say. He knows where to kick it and how to kick it, aiming for the best position on the field to ensure his forward has the chance to clunk a mark. He doesn’t overkick it, doesn’t try to kill the footy, and doesn’t try to do too much – he just sees the leading forward and says “oh, there you are – here’s the footy.”

The only thing he could do better for his forwards is park their cars for them when they arrive at the ground. Perhaps a few of the forwards should be doing that for him.

Add to Mundy’s class an element of brutish power and you have a midfielder that can do it all. One of his six clearances was the best contested clearance I have seen all season. He fought through a standing tackle with such aggression, and released to Blake Acres to create a shot at goal. It left me shaking my head at how he possesses both the power and finesse in perfect balance.

Many teams struggle with that final kick inside 50, but Fremantle have a gem in Mundy, and if they can keep him healthy and on the park, you can see his presence being the difference between a Freo team playing finals, and a Freo team sitting between ninth and 11th position.

 

FYFE BURSTS TO LIFE

You could be forgiven for thinking the game of Nat Fyfe was well below his best, and really, if you thought that, you could even be correct – his best is close to THE best, after all.

But the way Fyfe went about his business in the last quarter was a thing of beauty. His contested work (seven of his nine touches in the contest) and combative nature were huge in Fremantle regaining the lead and running away with the game.

He was directly involved in goals to both Mundy and Aish in the second half as his ability to find space and get the ball to the right spots at the right time helped elevate his team.

Fyfe os one of the rarest of breeds. Great overhead, strong in the contest and with terrific vision, he can control a game from the outset or come to life when required. With his nine last quarter touches and his tenacity on full display, his leadership in the clinches gave Freo an advantage that Adelaide simply could not match.

 

THE FUTURE LEADER

I’m not sure what you guys thought of his game, but I loved the work of Tom Doedee in this one.

His first quarter was exactly the kind of work you want to see from your leader, and left no doubt in my mind that he is everything the Crows could ask for as a future leader of this team. They didn’t just allow him to captain the team in Rory Sloane’s absence this year and last by accident, you know?

Whilst I am sure a few will focus on the massive smother he made WITH HIS FACE in the first quarter, we should not lose focus of the two other smothers he made, both of which saved scoring chances for the Crows. As the Dockers threw down the challenge early in the game, Doedee responded like a leader should, hurling his body into the contest to prevent any sort of advantage to his opponents.

It was Doedee taking the intercept grab and kicking back inside fifty to set up the Tex Walker hanger in the first quarter, as well, as he collected ten one-percenters for the game and seven intercepts.

Playing largely on Rory Lobb,Doedee had 22 disposals and limited the big man to just 11 touches.

Much has been made of the Adelaide rebirth in 2021, but there is much growth yet to come from this group, and at one stage in the near future, they will be doing that under the tutelage of their young defender as he ascends to the captaincy of this club.

 

THE O’BRIEN LIFT, AND THE DARCY COUNTERPUNCH

Is Reilly O’Brien one of the fittest rucks in the game at the moment?

It certainly seems so, as he saves his best form for late in games. Matched up against Sean Darcy, O’Brien really started to ramp things up as things got tight in the last quarter, and it looked as though his presence may f=drag the Crows over the line.

He started to get his hands on the footy at stoppages and worked hard to bring his teamates into the game.

Sean Darcy had to do something.

And so he did.

Not to be outdone by his opponent, Darcy pushed hard forward and found himself on the end of a Griffin Logue pass (which came after a contested intercept mark against Tex Walker) and went back to slot a goal from 55 metres like he was kicking the footy around in the backyard. It effectively iced the game for the Dockers and would have given Darcy a huge lift, knowing he had a huge say in the dying stages of the game.

Darcy matched the output of the Crows’ ruckman around the ground all day and looks to be progressing nicely. If he can stay on the park over the next… oh, 18 or so weeks, maybe Freo have the right pieces in place for a finals run. I’d love to see it!

 

BRAYSHAW-THING

It is hard not to be impressed with Andrew Brayshaw.

Whether it is running on the outside, or burrowing in and winning his own footy, Brayshaw is getting a wonderful apprenticeship under the guidance of two of the best inside/outside men in the game. With Fyfe and Mundy absorbing plenty of the heat, Brayshaw’s game was thr icing on the cake for the Freo crew.

He won a couple of very important contests in the second half as his attack on the ground ball was relentless. He gathered 33 disposals to lead all players, collected seven clearances and pumped the Dockers inside 50 six times.

At 21 years old, both Brayshaw and Caleb Serrong are the future of this midfield. They are capable of becoming the best one-two punch in the league at the current rate, and with such fantastic mentors in the middle, we are seeing Freo building the future of their team the right way.

Brayshaw now has over 60 games to his name already and appears on the verge of a brilliant season. He showed plenty of signs in 2020, but had an ordinary couple of games in Rounds Three and Four.

The rot stopped in this one, with Brayshaw starring for the Dockers, matching his career-high total for disposals in the process.

 

THE BAD

 

THE TEX CALF

It may be a little over-dramatic, but was this the game changer?

Walker has been excellent this season, and started the game like a muscular greyhound. However, as the first half closed, he seemed a lot less mobile, and the attack on the footy and man seemed a little less intense as the game progressed.

Hang on a second – I just want to iterate that Tex is not in here as “the bad” – not at all. It is more that the circumstance was bad – as in bad for the Crows, bad for their supporters, and really – bad for footy fans in general.

Walker’s career renaissance has been one of the better stories of the season; perhaps the best story of the season to date. The way he has been able to turn the clock back and provide the focal point for this Crows outfit has been remarkable, and I kind of feel we’ll all be a little robbed If we don’t get to see more of it.

He managed to finish with a couple of goals, two goal assists and ten score involvements, so he remained involved in the game, but that involvement was limited by what looked like, hopefully, just a bit of a calf niggle.

Here’s to Tex being up and about for my Hawks next we… err, actually, maybe he should have a week off to rest. That calf looked pretty bad.

 

HELLO? IS ELLIOTT AVAILABLE?

You’d have to think that Billy Frampton’s time in the seniors, or at least this tour of duty, might be coming to an end, after another disappointing outing.

Frampton was starved for opportunity by a stingy Freo defence, and with 0.1 to his name for a team that desperately needed help for Tex Walker, I think we all realise he’ll be headed back to the SANFL to make way for Himmelberg to have a crack.

When Frampton did get an opportunity, his kicking at goal left a lot to be desired, and whilst that happens to even the best of players, Frampton failed to produce in any facet of the game to offset it.

He was deployed down back early in the piece, and picked up four of his first five touches in the back half of the ground before going forward and contributing… not much.

We could also look at the game of Darcy Fogarty, of we’re talking about limited impact. He had ten touches, despite spending long periods in the middle og the ground, but there were periods where his attack on the contest, and the man, were important. We cannot say the same for Frampton.

He’ll be in the SANFL next week, and if Fog isn’t careful, he may well join him pretty soon.

 

 

THE UGLY

 

PLAYING LIKE A STATE LEAGUE FOOTBALLER

Shane McAdam was a bit of a revelation last year, becoming a real livewire up forward late in the season as the Crows rallied following their poor start. However, his work in this game reeked of a player that was looking for the easy footy, and playing on an experienced star defender, that was never, ever going to happen.

I covered off Luke Ryan’s game in the section above and sang his praises there – he gave Shan McAdam an absolute bath in this one. McAdam’s positioning was terrible, constantly trying to get out the back and allowing Ryan – one of the best intercept marks, not only on the Dockers, but in the entire league, an uninterrupted run at the footy.

The result?

McAdam had four touches for the game and Ryan was close to best on the park.

When things are not going your way, as a forward the best thing you can do is halve contests. Ryan was a clear winner in his contests with McAdam, and looked as though he destroyed his confidence in the process. McAdam needs to work harder to make sure he doesn’t win contests, but just breaks even and give his fellow forwards a chance to come in and help. This was the game of a selfish state league player, looking for the easy ball to hit the scoreboard.

There is nothing wrong with that when your team is up and about, but with Tex a little hobbled, and Frampton looking just as bad as McAdam, the Crows could have used a bit of forward pressure from McAdam to turn the tide.

Instead, they got a minimal amount of anything from McAdam, who will have a bit of a crap time watching the review of this game early in the week.

 

SOME QUESTIONS

 

WILL MICHAEL WALTERS EVER WAKE UP?

Probably not.

He could be the best mid/forward in the game. He could have the type of career that Robbie Gray has had at Port Adelaide and be an absolute champion of the sport.

But he plays for free kicks way too often. Way, way, way too often.

The thing is, the umpires are now a wake up to him, and even ones he deserves are scrutinised to the point where his acting for frees, or “playing” for frees to be less damning, is actively working against him.

This probably won’t be the last time this is pointed out over the course of the year – it seems alters, despite his enormous talent and undeniable skill, is content with being the player who milks free kicks. Only it isn’t working.

What we need to see from him is more of the rundown tackles like he executed in the tense last quarter, winning the footy for Freo and finding teamates inside 50. That is where Walters shines. He has the capacity to earn the footy and make things happen without the aid of the umpires. It is about time we see more of it.

 

HOW IMPORTANT IS THE CERRA INJURY?

Well, it looks like that dreaded syndesmosis injury, which Mark Ricciuto called “sindemosa” during one of his riveting explanations, but of all the Freo young guns… and I am sorry if this sounds cold, he is the one they can most afford to lose.

Firstly, the contract – Peter Sumich is telling anyone who will listen that he is entertaining offers from Carlton. Luckily, no one listens to him, much. And even if he is talking rubbish, the fact that Cerra remains out of contract is a story that will only grow. If he is not on the park, the Freo team learns to play without him – not as bad as if Serrong or Brayshaw bit the dust.

I know – I am heartless, but I am also pragmatic and I would want those who have recommitted to the club the be the healthy ones, thanks very much.

 

WHO WON THE BATTLE ON THE WINGS?

This was a great battle, and up until three quarter time, you would no doubt have the advantage swinging wildly in favour of the Crows.

Both Paul Seedsman and Lachie Sholl have been super-impressive this season, and their run of good form continued into this game. Sholl, in particular, is the type of gut-runner that teams simply cannot combat. He just works harder up and down the ground than anyone else, as evidenced by the amount of footy he gets deep inside defensive fifty.

But in the last quarter, the tables turned a bit, and the work of Blake Acres and James Aish really came to the fore. They combined for nine touches and every one of the was important. Aish’s run from half back, and his ability to get the ball going the Dockers’ way was extremely important in getting Freo over the line.

So, do you go with the tandem that produced for three straight quarters and landed consistent jabs to the chin? Or do you look at the duo that stepped things up late in the piece and landed some heavy blows?

I know the Dockers win, and I know Aish and Acres were vital late in the game, but for me, I like a good, four-quarter effort, and that is what Seedsman and Sholl provided in this one.

 

HOW GOOD CAN JIMMY ROWE BE?

I know he’s been a good story, but I think this is it for Jimmy. This is as good as you’re gonna get from him, and if you’re an Adelaide supporter, you have to either be content with that, or start thinking about who could be an upgrade on what he brings.

He provides a livewire presence inside fifty, but there are times when he just doesn’t do the right thing with the footy. His wild shot at goal in the third quarter, sailing out of bounds on the full, when a kick to the top of the square was required, and his running into trouble on the wing and selling Lachie Sholl into the same trouble with a handball speak of a bloke who just lacks that little bit of composure.

Okay… maybe I am being a little harsh. He’s 21 and has time on his side if the Crows are a patient bunch. Are you patient?

Who knows, maybe he develops that over the next year or so, and maybe you’re content with him being who he is, but to get a little more poise under pressure, the Crows would be wise to have a bit of a sniff around this off-season and see if they can pinch someone with a little more composure.

 

OTHER BITS

Whilst 31 touches for Ben Keays is a wonderful achievement for him, I am sure the Crows would have preferred the ball in the hands of Lachie Sholl or Tom Lynch a few more times. Keays’ career-high game for disposals had a little of the shine taken off by the 61% efficiency. Much like Shane McAdam, he just lacks that little bit of composure at times, but there have been plenty of players that have made a great living whilst not being fantastic kick of the footy. Maybe a few players running past or around the back for the handball could benefit the Crows going forward?

A couple of really impressive moments for Jordan Butts in this one. At 21, he looks to be the defender the Crows need to put their faith in for the next couple of years, even when he makes a mistake or has a bad game – he’s a kid… it’ll happen. He’ll welcome the return of Daniel Talia at some stage, which will allow both him and Andrew McPherson to play roles commensurate with their stages of development.

Guys, I think someone needs to have a word in the ear of Nathan Wilson and let him know that everyone can see how he goes into his shell as soon as there is any defensive attention on him. The Crows tightened up on him after his eight touches in the first quarter and he was basically a non-factor following that.

Three contested grabs and four goals from Matt Taberner and I bet you that every footy show will neglect to mention him this week. Whilst he has not set the season on fire this year, he was criminally underrated in 2020 and was every bit as deserving as Charlie Dixon in terms of recognition. Of course, it simply didn’t happen, and won’t again this year. All he can do is continue to do what he does and produce results. Eventually, it will get to the stage where peoples’ ignorance of his game will be exposed.

Really important moments from Travis Colyer in this one. Both he and Lachie Schultz were great at either end of the game. Colyer was fantastic early, with a goal and a goal assist in the first quarter, whilst Schultz’s late-game heroics were exactly what you want from a small forward.

An “almost” game from Michael Frederick in this one. He really should have punished Tom Doedee for his last quarter turnover, and really had the chance to finish with three goals. Still, all he can do is stay dangerous… it’ll come.

 

And that’ll do me – four thousand words on a team that was well worth them today.

The Dockers now get three consecutive games in WA, with North and Brisbane bookending the Derby. Is it time Freo cuts the crap and knocks over the Eagles? They’re building…

The Crows have the Hawks and Giants before the Showdown and are highly capable of going into the biggest SA game of the year with a couple more wins under their belt.

Loving this season, people… loving it.

 

 

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