It was always going to be a tough ask for the Fremantle Dockers, heading back to the MCG to face a Collingwood team that seems to have something special about them.
Sure, the Dockers were the best road team all season, amassing seven interstate wins, but as GWS found out back in 2017 – when you front up at a packed MCG, with 80,000 of the 90,000 in attendance against you, it is a tough mountain to climb.
Really, the 20-point margin flattered the Dockers, who found it difficult to move the ball qith any type of fluency. The pressure from the Magpies was immense, and it was constant. Whenever a Freo player took possession, he barely had time to scratch himself before he was confronted with a black and white guernsey – sometimes two or three. Collingwood were relentless, forcing Freo backwards with direct pressure and working to cover the corridor with every single player doing their part.
Inaccuracy kept the Dockers in touch, as the Pies sprayed the footy when kicking at goal, but such was their field dominance, you never really got the feeling that Freo were seriously coming for them. The Dockers hung around that four to five goal margin, but that’s about as close as they could get.
The Pies had all the answers – hell, it looked at times as though the Dockers didn’t even know what the questions were in this game.
Let’s jump into the ins and outs of this contest as the Pies now head to Sydney to take on the Swans to claim a place in the 2022 AFL Grand Final.
Here are The Mongrel’s Big Questions.
HOW MANY TIMES DID YOU HEAR “ CAN’T TAKE IT CLEANLY” WHEN REFERRING TO FREO?
I heard it plenty, and it was mainly in relation to Fremantle players.
Can we hazard a guess as to why?
Yes, you… the Collingwood player wearing number 25 with the 29 pressure acts.
“Ummm, was it pressure, HB?”
Damn straight it was. And you, Jack Crisp, were one of the blokes bringing the heat all contest long.
Collingwood squeezed the life out of Fremantle in this game, completely sealing off the corridor to them and forcing them far and wide just about every time they tried to transition into attack. The Dockers were trying and would look inboard at every opportunity, but the defensive discipline of this Magpies unit meant that every avenue except the kick down the line was covered.
When the Dockers attempted to switch, it was not a quick kick across the ground – it was always backward and across, as Collingwood continued to press up. This created a slow, predictable style of play that the Pies feasted on.
And as soon as the turnover was affected, usually as a result of a long kick toward half-forward, the Pies rebounded and killed the Dockers through the middle.
We have seen glimpses of this all season from Collingwood. It is a taxing system to employ, but if you can get players up and about late in games, it becomes almost impossible to penetrate.
The thing is, next week they face a team just as adept at strangling the life out of teams and kicking them out of the corridor. Sydney v Collingwood will be a knockdown, drag-out affair, and with so much on the line, will not be for the faint-hearted.
Stick with me on this one – I am going somewhere with it.
If Craig McRae were in the market for a house, what would his first question be to the real estate agent?
“How accessible is the corridor?”
The real estate agent, being asked a genuine question, would rifle through the mental list of cliches and double-talk they use with every single person they know in their life before being forced to answer honestly.
“Well, it is accessible from the front door, three bedrooms, the dining room, and the bathroom.”
McRae would shake his head. “no… this won’t do. I don’t like people accessing the corridor. Only me.”
See, now we’re here – told you I was going somewhere.
The way Collingwood completely owned the middle f the ground was impressive in this one. In simple terms, they simply outworked the Dockers and forced them wide due to sheer numbers massing in the middle and the speed in which those players took up their positions to seal up the corridor.
Freo were like a kid who’d been sent to their room – simply not permitted to use the corridor for any purpose. On the flip side, Collingwood were like your cousins when they come over – every time you look, they are emerging from a room you don’t want to see the little buggers in, and they’re wandering around in the corridor.
Whilst a couple of Freo fans I know messaged me during the game stating that Fremantle needed to be more daring and go up the guts, the fact of the matter is that they simply couldn’t. Collingwood would not allow them. And when you assume that level of control over the most important avenue to goal in the game, the result will sort itself out.
Yes, the Pies kicked like mules at goal, but their dominance through the middle was so complete that it did not matter.
Control the corridor and you run the house. Craig McRae and his Pies sent the Dockers to their rooms in this one, and every time they emerged, they were shunted back in there and punished for their temerity.
HOW MISLEADING ARE STATS AND HOW GOOD IS JACK CRISP?
So, the top possession getters on the ground read as follows. Caleb Serong had 34. Andrew Brayshaw had 30. And Blake Acres had 27.
Tell me, which one of them was more potent or more important in this game than Jack Crisp?
That’s correct – none of them.
There is a misconception that in order to be a great midfielder, you have to rack up huge numbers. People see that Brayshaw or Serong have hit 30 touches and immediately start wondering how to fit them in their votes. Oh, they got 30+ touches… they must have had good games, right?
That’s basically how the Brownlow is decided every year, which is a damn shame. Jack Crisp proved the folly of being seduced by big numbers in this game, as he had 24 MEANINGFUL disposals to be the best player on the park.
When the whips were cracking in the first quarter, Crisp made several daring runs through the middle of the ground – you know, the exact type of runs that Fremantle were unable to conjure for the entire game. He tucked the footy under his arm, took off and forced the Dockers’ defence into complete and utter chaos.
Here’s a little formula I like to use when assessing how damaging mids, or half-backs can be. You can use it too, if you like.
Crisp’s 24 touches gained 600 metres for the Pies. He ran at 58% efficiency, which could be better, admittedly. Combine those two numbers together and you get a total of 658. Then divide that by the number of disposals (24) and you get a nice little number of 27.41.
Now, when we do the same with Brayshaw, we get 12.65. Serong has 14.64, and Acres fares a bit better as he is a kicker by nature – he has 24.11.
I call it the offensive midfielder score. We could add goals in as well, but that would just further skew the results in favour of Crisp.
He played a fantastic inside-outside game in the absence of Taylor Adams and set the tone for the Pies early in a best-on-ground performance.
So people, remember this when you see the big accumulators rack up huge numbers that go backwards and sideways without doing much damage. They’re stat-sheet stuffers, and they look fantastic on paper, but if you really want to see who is playing the damaging brand of footy, use that little formula and see what you come up with.
In this one, Crisp and the next bloke we’ll talk about had the highest in the game – they hurt with their touches.
IS JORDAN DE GOEY-ING NOWHERE?
No way – not now.
If any officials at Collingwood were pondering the future of Jordan de Goey and what they could get for him in a trade, I am sure Craig McRae has wandered over, tapped them on the shoulder kindly requested that they shove any proposed trade right up their backsides.
We’ve heard for years that Jordan de Goey is not a superstar, and really, those claims have had plenty of merit. He’s been called Dusty-lite and the Dustin Martin you’d get from wish.com, but with back-to-back performances in the middle of the ground where his name was well and truly in the mix for the best player on the park, Jordan de Goey is starting to silence the critics, one game at a time.
I have been critical of de Goey – not for his off-field exploits, no, no – but for his failure to produce the type of football Collingwood have needed from him on a consistent basis. Watching him this finals series thus far… perhaps the tide is turning and the consistency is finally emerging.
With 24 touches, a goal, and two direct goal assists as part of his 12 score involvements, he was one of the more potent players on the park, and looked like a danger to Freo every time he touched the footy. What was just as impressive was the fact that de Goey now seems willing to play defensively at times, as well. I’ve always seen this as a big weakness in his game. Like Martin, he would run flat out with the ball, and half-pace back when forced to cover a man.
That is not occurring at the moment. Jordan de Goey is motoring from contest to contest and looks hungry for both the footy, and to hunt an opponent.
If you’re a cynic, you could put this down to JDG needing a string of huge games in order to secure the big contract he was after, but in watching him over the past couple of weeks, he is pushing harder than I have ever seen him to remain engaged in the contest, and to work to the next one.
If the Pies can get over the Swans next week, he would be a fantastic tip for the Norm Smith, and if that occurs, the comparisons, deservedly, should be shelved, as de Goey is now forging his own path, and based on the last couple of weeks, it is difficult to fault where it is headed.
WAS THAT THE MOST INEFFECTIVE DOMINANT RUCK PERFORMANCE WE’VE SEEN?
Coming into this game, you couldn’t help but feel that Sean Darcy was going to be pivotal to the Dockers’ chances of getting over the line.
Despite being a bit of a quiet achiever, Darcy Cameron has been solid for the Pies all season, but he is no dominant big man. Mason Cox goes missing as often as he is sighted, as well, so if you were Justin Longmuir, you would have been sitting there, thinking that you had the ruck situation on your terms.
I wonder how happy he’d be with the performance of Darcy at the moment? It may make the potential recruitment of Luke Jackson a little more appetising, although his efforts against the Lions were pretty ordinary, as well.
Darcy had the size/strength advantage over both guys and should have been able to muscle his way forward often. He finished with five clearances, but ran at just 31% efficiency with his disposals. You could forgive him, being a ruckman and all – half the time you’re surprised they’re able to drop the ball onto their boot correctly – that’s just three of his 13 touches genuinely going where they were intended.
But surely he made up for it in the ruck duels, right?
Wrong. clearances were locked at 33-33.
Mason Cox was able to punish Darcy around the ground when he moved into the ruck. Cox dragged down an equal league-high four Get out of Jail marks in this game (one was very late in the piece, but hey… they all count) as he launched at the footy with confidence. In retaliation, Darcy had zero marks for the game.
Not GooJ marks… no marks at all.
If the pass mark for Darcy in this game was controlling the ruck and working hard around the ground, it was a failure. He was beaten quite soundly by the combination of Cox and Cameron, and of all the areas Freo fell down, this one probably hurt them most.
WHO IS OUT THE DOOR AT FREO?
From all reports, there are a few.
Mundy obviously retired, and there were some wonderful scenes post-match, or him with his son, before being chaired off the ground. Thanks David… you’ve been so great for the club.
Rory Lobb will walk because that’s what Rory Lobb does. Did you see the way he attacked the footy in this one? One-handed three or four times… he doesn’t like the contact, does he? His dropped mark in the third quarter as he got back in defence to “help” led to Jack Ginnivan kicking another goal off the crumb, and that was the moment I kind of knew the Dockers were cooked.
He will not be missed and I hope the Dogs know what they’re buying.
Griffin Logue is on the way out, too, and he also had a case of the butterfingers… better than having finger butts, I suppose.
And Blake Acres put the hard yards in after suffering an early knock to the knee. He is one Docker that could genuinely hold his head up high.
These losses will leave a sizeable hole in the Freo team, but they are coverable. It just means they will not have the same depth. A fit Matt Taberner covers the loss of Lobb – might even be an improvement. Logue’s best position already has Alex Pearce, Brennan Cox, and Luke Ryan holding the fort – no biggie. And Acres… well, if Nathan O’Driscoll can continue to blossom, a combination on the wings over him and James Aish are still pretty potent.
Though it looks bad on paper, looks can be deceiving. Freo should be fine, and if they can pick up a free agent or something, as well as Luke Jackson, they’ll be back in 2023.
HOW MANY YEARS DOES PENDLES HAVE LEFT IN THE TANK?
As many as he likes.
When you look at the Pies’ structure right now, they are grooming (bad word, bad word) the next Pendles off half-back as I type.
If you cannot see the similarities between Scott Pendlebury and Nick Daicos, you’re simply not looking hard enough. The nurturing (better word) of Daicos in his first year has been close to perfect for the first-year coach, McRae, as he has offered the Rising Star the platform to launch his career. You can see where it is going, can’t you?
In a year or so, Pendles and Daicos will just swap places. Daicos, a year or two older and stringer, will move into the middle and commence a stellar run as an on-baller, and Pendles will pinch-hit as a half-back rebounder. It is the perfect storm for the Pies as they get to bring Daicos along at a suitable pace, and ease Pendles into a role to elongate his career.
Pendlebury had 24 touches in this one, with five clearances an important contribution. His vision in traffic was once again a highlight, as was that of Daicos, who was at his best as the Pies assumed control of the game in the first quarter.
HAVE WE UNDERRATED THIS MAGPIE BACK SIX THIS SEASON?
Maybe not underrated, as when we look at the season as a whole, the Cats, Demons, and even the Dockers rated better, but with the players they have, this team is right up there in terms of talent.
Whilst there were a number of players and areas that stood out in the first quarter for the Pies, the cohesion of Darcy Moore, Nathan Murphy, and Jeremy Howe in the air, completely stifled the forward entries… the very seldom forward entries of the Dockers.
Howe had five intercepts and he gave Jack Crisp a run for his money for the best player on the park in the opening quarter, whilst Moore and Murphy delighted in killing anything that came in long and high. So impressive were the Pies, that it was the little men on the Freo list that had to step up and make a difference.
Lachie Schultz lit a fire under the Dockers on the back of hard work, kicking a couple of goals of his own and setting up another for Griffin Logue, but outside of his efforts, this was a showcase for the stingy Magpie defence.
Howe finished with 12 intercepts, and Moore had eight despite Griffin Logue putting time into him as a defensive forward.
ANY QUICKIES, HB?
Yes… I am glad I asked.
So… Jack Ginnivan was paid a free kick for a high tackle in this game.
I hope you were sitting down for that one.
Were my eyes deceiving me, or did we get to see Brennan Cox line up on Mason Cox at one stage? That is the most Cox on Cox action I’ve seen since I found the video my uncle left in his VCR before he passed away. All that time and we never knew…
I may have been a little harsh on Caleb Serong in one of the sections above – he tried his guts out in this one, and really, the only time Freo looked like finding a target inside 50 came when Serong burst out of the centre.
Probably the quietest game of the season for Will Brodie, who padded his stats in the last quarter, to finish with 17 touches. A disappointing way to conclude a stellar season from him.
Five tackles inside 50 from Jamie Elliott in this one – he has become a leader at Collingwood with his inside 50 pressure, and whilst everyone tends to remember his marks and goals because let’s face it, they’re pretty memorable, I reckon Craig McRae would be thrilled with his application when the Pies don’t have the footy.
How many times are the dicks on Best on Ground going to ask Nathan Buckley if he “misses it”? Every time I am in the unfortunate position to watch that tripe, and Collingwood plays, they ask him and he answers the exact same way. Get some new questions. And while I am at it, Fox always cuts to BOG way too early. No one cares about it.
Amazing goal from Michael Frederick late in the game, but those two junk time goals make his game seem a lot better than it was. With the expected exodus, Freo need more from him next season.
And that may just do me, people. A very solid outing for the Pies, who, had they kicked a little better, would have won this by ten goals.
As for Freo, they ran into a bit of a buzzsaw in this one. I’m still a believer – this was just step one in a process to contend. They have recruited well this year (Brodie and Clark have been great) and need to continue to find pieces to a puzzle that is constantly changing shape. They should be playing finals for a few years on the trot, now.
Massive thanks to our members – at this time of year your support is more appreciated than ever – HB.