During the week, I perused the fixture to look a which games I was really looking forward to covering this weekend. Right at the top of my list was the Dockers welcoming the Swans to Optus Stadium.
Of course, in the interim, I have been knocked over by covid, so after just managing to get through the game, I hit the sack, hoping a half-decent night’s sleep would allow me to focus on the ins and outs of the contest.
It really didn’t work. So, apologies if this one is a little below the standard you’ve come to expect.
Here are The Mongrel’s Talking Points
DEATH BY A THOUSAND CUTS
What we witnessed here is one coach who had something else in his kit bag and another who decided to stick with what got him to the dance.
Fremantle play a surge type of footy. They get numbers behind the ball and when the turnover occurs, they run forward in waves. In the first quarter, this was clearly on display as they were the better team, forcing the Swans into bombing the footy long, only to rebound it and send the ball back inside their attacking fifty, where the pressure of the small forwards and mids pushing down resulted in a 16-9 inside 50 advantage. It was painfully obvious that if the game continued in this style, Freo would prevail.
Horse Longmire had seen enough.
Instructing his players to employ a short-kicking game, the Swans then went on a kick-mark rampage, controlling the footy through the middle of the ground and working their way closer to goal with precise field kicking. Freo, with numbers behind the footy, were powerless to stop it.
Or were they?
FAILURE TO ADJUST
In what I am sure will be talked about, Justin Longmuir was slow to react to the change in the Sydney style. He maintained the Fremantle structure of the basketball equivalent of a zone defence as the sharp kills of the Swans tore his team to shreds.
In a way, I can understand why he refused to budge – the game was winnable, but in a styles clash the likes of this, you’re always going to look at the failed tactics and wonder “what if…?”
Look at it this way – a couple of set shots, and let’s just say a couple from Rory Lobb and one from Matt Taberner manage to split the middle and we’re sitting here talking about how Longmuir stuck to his guns and what a gutsy win it was.
However, it was not to be. The Swans recorded a massive +59 in marks for the game, which gives a great indication as to how they controlled the footy. A wise man once said it is pretty hard to kick goals when you don’t have the footy. The Swans took that mantra to heart and it paid huge dividends following the first quarter.
WARNER V BRAYSHAW
I like to take note of the particular matchups at stoppages, as I reckon it gives a great indication as to which players take the defensive aspects of their roles seriously. I have to admit – I viewed Chad Warner as a purely offensive player prior to this game.
Not in a selfish way, or as one of those see-ball/get-ball players, but as one that makes it a priority to win the footy first and pay attention to his man second.
But that was far from the case as he stood next to one of the more prolific and damaging ball-winners in the game this week, Andrew Brayshaw.
Rewatching parts of the game in order to drill into my cloudy head exactly what occurred, Warner worked diligently to both stifle the run of Brayshaw and collect his own footy. He got the balance perfect, as he went on to collect 13 first-half disposals to Brayshaw’s six, removing his link-up play and his leadership from the contest.
Brayshaw worked back into the game in the third quarter, but by this stage, Warner was on a mission and his 12 touches for the quarter breathed renewed life into the Swans’ game.
Last year, all the talk at Sydney seemed to centre around their kids early on. McDonald, Gulden, and Braeden Campbell. Taken the year before that trio, it has been Warner that has leapt out of the box this season, playing such a good brand of footy that you occasionally see Callum Mills out on the wing to make room for him.
GOLDEN BOOT GULDEN
The role of Errol Gulden to the Swans’ success in 2022 will be a vital one as we progress toward September. Playing a mix of half-forward and wing, the silky skills of their second-year man came to the fore against the Dockers, as he continually found the best option and did so in a manner that few others could.
Buddy on a lead? No probs.
Will Hayward pressed up against the boundary? You don’t even have to move a muscle.
Stuck on the boundary with no other options? No probs… he’ll just curl it around his body for a goal.
I spoke above about the short kicks slicing up the Dockers, and Gulden played a significant role in bringing that about. On a personal note, when he is up and about, he may be my favourite Swan to watch – always balanced, always composed, and always deadly with the footy. I’d be playing through him whenever the opportunity presents.
I gave Jordan Clarke best on ground last week against the Saints. He destroyed them running off half-back, doing as he pleased with the footy with little pressure on him all day.
It seems John Longmire took notice, too, and deployed his best defensive forward, Ryan Clarke, to put the brakes on Clark’s run. Okay stop… I’m just gonna call Jordan Clark Jordan, and Ryan Clarke Ryan to avoid any confusion (from me, not you).
The role of Ryan is to keep players honest. He does this by ensuring he gets to spots where their attention is not only warranted – it’s demanded. he gets to the fall of the ball, stays dangerous and compels his opponent to run with him. Jordan was the man who had to run with him in this one, and when the tables were turned, Ryan was right in his hip pocket, forcing Jordan to dish off quickly.
A key indicator for me around this matchup was Jordan having just 172 metres gained for the day, or just ten metres per disposal. As a half-back runner, you’d want to be up around 400+ metres in a game, so in terms of limiting his influence, Ryan Clarke got the number of Jordan Clark in this one, quite easily, too.
DOING IT WITHOUT THE LIZARD
One of the more positive aspects for the Dockers in this one was their ability to completely cut Nick Blakey’s run out of the game.
The combination of Travis Colyer, Michael Frederick, and Lachie Schultz all took turns in checking The Lizard’s run. Normally racking up the distance for the Swans, he was limited to just under nine metres per disposal, which gives a strong indication as to how Freo were able to contain him.
What this permitted, however, was the emergence of Olli Florent’s run and carry, which has been hit and miss in the back half this season. If he is the second option when Blakey is taken out of the game, it is a damn good second option. Another win for the Swans when Florent collected 20+ possessions. The Swans are now 5-1 this season when that happens.
AN ALMOST RUCK GAME
41 hit outs are nothing to sneeze at, but I was very surprised to see that Sean Darcy had just eight touches and one mark.
I have been a bit critical of Adelaide’s Reilly O’Brien at times, as he gets both hands to heaps of marking opportunities and grasses them – we saw a bit of that from the big Freo man in this one, too.
What Darcy did do what drift inside 50 to provide a marking target and open up space for the smalls as a result – he was so close to taking three or four marks inside 50 that could have had a significant influence on the contest. Alas, it was not to be.
LOGUE ON BUDDY
Loved this matchup, with Logue clearly getting the nod over the 1000-goal man.
Griffin Logue went step for step with Lance Franklin and used his strength and closing speed to prevent Buddy from getting any easy footy. Another win for him was his ability to recover after the contest to be first back to the next contest after disrupting the Swans’ champ.
Performances like these continue to drive up the value of Logue, who has not signed with Freo as yet, and as every week ticks by, it is looking more likely that he will test the market. There will be plenty of offers, you’d think, but I hope he stays at Freo – he slots in beautifully alongside Brennan Cox and Luke Ryan, both of whom were excellent in this one, as well.
LITTLE LIFE IN FYFE
Nat Fyfe’s up-and-down 2022 continued, with the dual Brownlow Medallist struggling to remain involved in this game. His frustration – I’m guessing with himself – boiled over in the second half as he pushed Jake Lloyd in the back of the head after the Swan disposed of the footy.
Fyfe is coming back from a pretty significant layoff, and like most who do, his form has fluctuated. It’s important to realise that, at 30, with a long injury history, Fyfe is going to take time to return to the form that saw him dominate the centre circle. I reckon that’ll bubble to the top around September.
Guys, I am going back to bed for a while. Again, apologies for the drop-off in quality – hopefully, things’ll be back to normal next week. Cheers – HB