It was a must-win game for the Fremantle Dockers at the MCG – a home game, of all things, against the Carlton Football Club, but early on, it seemed as though the Blues were the only team that showed up ready to play.
They jumped out to an early four-goal advantage as the Dockers wasted the footy and the Blues capitalised on their mistakes. Had it not been for the strong defensive work of Alex Pearce on Harry McKay, the game could have been well and truly over early.
Freo rallied, and the game ebbed and flowed into the last quarter, with both teams enjoying runs where they looked like the better side… and both teams had periods where they looked as though they simply did not know how to win, as well.
There were missed opportunities, incredibly poor skill errors, and some insane one-on-one wins (hello Jacob Weitering) as the Blues finished with more composure to run out winners by 16 points.
Here’s The Mongrel’s Good, Bad and Ugly.
THE BIG WINS LATE
If you’re throwing together a mock All-Australian team and don’t have Jacob Weitering in your side, go find a mirror and have a good, long, hard look at yourself.
The bloke is a star. He is as solid as a rock, and when the Dockers were pushing hard in the last quarter, it was Weitering standing up and repelling the attack on multiple occasions. His contested mark against the towering Rory Lobb late in the piece was one of the pivotal moments of the game.
With momentum see-sawing, Weitering’s grab gave you the sense that everything was going to be okay in the end for the Blues, and if it wasn’t okay, then it wasn’t the end. The Dockers kept the faith in their big man with the telescopic arms, but Weitering was well and truly up to the task, and held Lobb to just one touch for the quarter.
With the game in the balance, he stepped to the fore.
Weitering finished with 20 disposals and nine intercepts (four in the last quarter) as his rock-solid season as one of the two pillars of the Carlton defence continued. Get him in your AA team – it might make up for the snub he copped in 2020.
PEARCE RETURNS TO FORM
When you have an opposition ruckman running at you with their eyes off the ball, to knock you over and take you out of the contest, you know you’re doing something right, and in the battle between Alex Pearce and Harry McKay, it was the Docker looking like he was going to take complete control early in the piece.
McKay finished with three goals for the game, but the work of Pearce to match McKay in the air and force the Blues to adjust, would have been a sight for sore Freo supporters’ eyes. Pearce notched the ten spoils in this game and looked more than a match for the powerful McKay in body-to-body contests, but the most gratifying thing about his performance was that there was no limping off after a contest, no injury concern, and the genuine feeling that their full back – so missed in 2019/20 – was back to the form that made him so good early in the 2019 season.
The Dockers are still missing Joel Hamling and Brennan Cox, both of whom will give them versatility in defence, and perhaps even another forward marking option (Cox), but the key to building a solid defence is the ability to lock down a key forward, and for the most part in this one, Pearce was able to do just that.
CAPPING IT OFF IN STYLE
Did we, as a footy community, undersell Sam Walsh’s goal to ice the game?
Guys, this was a spectacular snap borne of hard work and desire to stay involved in the play. Walsh’s work to firstly, keep the ball in play were ridiculously good, but unlike others who find themselves on their backside, he was quick to jump up, get a second crack at the contest and slot a great goal with a snap from an acute angle.
Over the journey, it seems there has been a never-ending procession of people offering reasons as to why we should knock Walsh. Oh, Connor Rozee is better. Oh, he wasted the footy. Oh, he doesn’t hit the scoreboard enough. And more recently, it was about his ability to fight through a tag.
Well, where are those people now?
Not only did he get the better of Caleb Serong in the first half, Walsh also hit the scoreboard in the biggest moment of the match, and given how close the contest had been to that point, his goal was not only special due to the level of difficulty – no, no, no… it was special in the contest of the game. It slammed the door shut on Freo who were desperately trying to wedge it open in any way they could.
Walsh finished with 25 touches and eight tackles in another excellent display. But yeah, someone else is better, he doesn’t hit targets, can;t kick goals and can’t handle a tag.
IS HALF A GAME GOOD ENOUGH FOR YOU?
It’s a serious question, because if you listened to the commentary for this game, you would have been convinced that Paddy Dow just put together the game of his life.
He put together the half of his life, collecting 16 touches as he worked hard at stoppages to combine with Patrick Cripps. He has six first-quarter clearances as he played like he was a bolt from the blue, and though he added five touches in the second quarter, it was as though the Dockers woke up to what was happening and started paying him some respect at stoppages.
After half time, Dow managed just six touches as his influence fell right away. Was it his tank that was the issue, or the fact he was forced to contend with a young bull by the name of Caleb Serong at centre stoppages at that point?
Serong had four clearances of his own in the third quarter as he dragged the Dockers, kicking and screaming in the case of some, back into the contest. And as he exerted his influence, that of Paddy Dow stopped to a crawl.
So, what you saw in this game were signs of what Dow can do, but you also saw how easily his influence can be curtailed. Whilst Blues fans will want to see a lot more of that first quarter effort, opposition coaches will be taking particular note of what happened after half time, and will be ready to make adjustments should Dow start to get off the chain against them in the coming weeks.
LOCKERED, STOCKERED AND ONE SMOKING MICHAEL WALTERS
I’ll get to the ghost of Michael Walters soon enough, but I want to give a big wrap to a young bloke who is learning the hard way how to play accountable footy on some very tough matchups.
Liam Stocker was given the role of nullifying Michael Walters in this game, and to say he did a good of it would be akin to stating that Joe Ganino has a slight body odour issue.
Stocker was given a bit of a lesson a while back against Liam Ryan, but it was clear that he had learnt quite a bit since then, and positioned himself well against the veteran Walters, to easily walk away with the points.
There was a heap of controversy attached to Stocker’s arrival at Ikon park, given the cost at the time and the intricacies of the deal, but the Blues are now beginning to reap the rewards on their investment in the young man. He has 15 games under his belt now, and is looking better all the time. He was way too much for Michael Walters to handle in this one… but I’ll get to that in a tick.
THE DEFINITION OF INSANITY
Want to know what the definition of insanity is?
It is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.
Want to know what the definition of insanity is?
It is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.
Want to know… you get the point, right?
Jump back on your Kayo account or your IQ box and cast your eye over the fourth quarter forward 50 entries from the Dockers. Sloppy, haphazard kicks inside 50, high in the air and begging to be spoilt.
And they were.
And if they were not spoiled, they were bloody-well marked by one of the best one-on-one defenders in the game. Rory Lobb was the big hope, and with his height, he would normally be able to pluck one or two grabs. Rather than lower their eyes, Freo continually bombed the ball to the top of the square, where Jacob Weitering and Liam Jones patrolled with the intent to kill the contest.
And how did those kicks to Lobb in the contest go? He had one handball for the quarter. ONE HANDBALL! Meanwhile Weitering had six touches and four intercepts in that period alone. It simply did not work, yet that didn’t stop Freo from trying it, over and over again. I hope wherever they’re staying can fit them with some nice straitjackets.
BAD KICKING IS…
Another week – another game blown by the Dockers due, at least in part, to their inaccuracy.
This was the 11th game of the season that has seen the Dockers kick more behinds than goals, and it is more than just a worrying trend – this is costing them premiership points and percentage. They had four more scoring shots than the Blues in this one, yet managed to squander 66% of their kicks at goal… the ones that made the distance or didn’t go out on the full.
The Dockers are almost there. They play a brand of footy that can be messy and unattractive to watch, and that style is compounded when you throw in rampant inaccuracy on top of that. Being almost there is not good enough. They have to start putting to together and converting.
A TALE OF TWO HALF FORWARDS
I call them half forwards, because together, they make up about the effort of one full player.
I don’t know what role Michael Walters is filling for Freo this seasons, but whatever it is, it seems as though he’s not doing a great job of it. Yes, he experienced some horrible luck in this game – he made position and the ball overshot him, or he got to the right spot and the ball just didn’t get there (which, I thought made it the wrong spot, but what do I know?). Yes, he looks like a man down on confidence, and yes, we all know what he is capable of when playing his best footy.
But what we’re seeing from him is so far from his best footy, that his current game is almost unrecognisable from what we’ve been treated to over the years. It is a cheap knock off of the electrifying forward/midfielder combination that saw him named to the All-Australian team just two seasons ago. Tonight’s effort was horrid, and he has had quite a few games this season where he has been completely unable to get near the footy.
He was blanketed by Liam Stocker in this game – the same Liam Stocker who the Blues sacrificed at the altar of Liam Ryan a few weeks ago. Remember how Ryan handled Stocker with ease? Walters was unable to handle him at all. As a matter of fact, Stocker won their duel quite easily, which gives a very good indication as to how far Walters has fallen in a couple of short years. Hell, Eddie Betts is producing more on his old legs than Walters is – he needs a foot in the arse, or a week in the WAFL.
And the second half forward… Jack Martin.
Michael Voss called him the best 17 year old he’d ever seen, but I wonder what his assessment of him would be at the moment. One of our esteemed Mongrel members made the observation that he picks and chooses when to have a go, and it became apparent that he was simply not willing to have a go for the majority of this game.
Loitering around half forward like Joe Ganino at a public toilet, Martin managed just three touches in the first half and importantly, laid zero tackles. So he added bugger all offensively, and even less defensively. Jonathon Brown came out and smashed Zac Williams a couple of weeks ago in terms of his work ethic, but I reckon Williams was unlucky that this performance from Jack Martin was not delivered on the same day – he made Williams look like a marathon runner in this game.
He finished the game with six touches in the last quarter – three of them coming very late in the piece (cough… junk time… cough) to pad his stats, but for a man of his talents, he absolutely dogged it in this contest.
Is he hurt? Lacking conditioning after being out with injury? Pissed off because he front-ended his deal before Covid screwed everything up and lost the big pay day? I don’t know, but against better opposition, this “effort” from Martin would have been completely exposed.
He came in as a big name recruit, but aside from his wonderful third quarter on debut for the Blues, he has contributed bugger all. And it is just not good enough.
HOW FIT IS PATRICK CRIPPS?
I know he had the ankle/foot injury in this one, but for me, you can always tell how banged up someone is by how quick they get up off the deck after they’re bowled over.
Cripps is not exactly bounding to his feet. I’m not talking about after his accidentally kicked someone in the leg – I am talking about in general. Watch the way some others spring to their feet to get involved in the next contest. You don’t see that from Crippa. He looks like everything is a massive effort, and you get that when you’re dealing with a hurting body.
IS SEAN DARCY GOING TO BE THE BEST RUCK IN THE GAME AT SOME POINT?
He is still a little chunky, but far out, he stands up under the footy, is basically impossible to move, and he has a really nice pair of hands.
There is some work to do on the endurance side, but after a couple more preseasons, we could see the big fella enter his prime and really start dominating games.
DID ADAM CERRA JUST AUDITION FOR THE BLUES?
Not sure it is for the Blues, but he is certainly auditioning for something.
We all heard the muck-rakers throwing figures around, right? We all heard whichever journo it was stating it was Carlton that were will to offer a huge deal to Cerra – it might have been the private schoolboy-looking journo… the one who looks like a fish.
Well, did Cerra pass the audition? He’d make a lovely wingman to feed off the grunt work of the mids…
WTF IS WRONG WITH BLAKE ACRES?
I don’t know – he has million dollar skills and a ten cent brain at times, making some of the most boneheaded decisions with the footy you’ll see.
His turnover in the last quarter with the game in the balance made me look around the room for someone to ask “what is wrong with this guy?”
Sadly, I was the only one there, so I had to content myself with one answer – a lot!
IS LEVI CASBOULT COOKED?
Yep, I think you all know it, as well. If Cripps is moving like a container ship, then so is Levi… like one that has been sunk, some time ago.
There was one instance in this game where he appeared to almost miss his the ball with his foot when he was kicking without too much pressure. I can’t see him hanging around too much longer, and I am not sure who is desperate enough to pick him up… maybe the Suns to add a big body inside 50 to help Ben King? That’d be about it.
Didn’t see much run and carry from Adam Saad in this one. Sam Switkowski did a pretty good job of limiting his run from defence in this one, whilst almost making an art form out of lowering himself into tackles to grab free kicks.
The only time Saad was able to get on his bike was when he was able to manufacture a match-up on Liam Henry, who completely gave up the chase on his opponent and simply allowed Saad to run away.
Speaking of Henry… geez, he had his chances in this one, and with Freo struggling to hit the scoreboard, his dribble kick, in particular, was a huge miss.
Loved the work of Jack Silvagni. Still without a contract for 2022, he provides a contest all the time, and hell… even wins some. The Blues would be wise to start working to keep him. Plenty of teams could use that kind of competitiveness.
Another excellent outing from Andy Brayshaw, who is looking more and more like he will end up being Freo’s best player. His snap goal out of congestion was a cracker.
Loved seeing Matthew Kennedy getting better as the game progressed. He has been threatening to become a very good midfielder for close to five years now, but injuries and poor form have conspired to rob him of the opportunity. It’s right there for him now – all he has to do is grab it and refuse to let it go.
Next week, the Blues get the Cats, and I am really looking forward to the Weitering/Jones v Hawkins/Rohan clash… as I am expecting Jeremy Cameron to be a non-starter if the Cats are being cautious with him?
The Dockers get the Hawks in Tassie in what becomes a pretty dangerous encounter. If they don’t win that, simply put, they don’t deserve to play finals
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