Fremantle v Hawthorn – The Mongrel Review

While the oddsmakers would have had this as an easy Freo win at home against a young Hawks side, it’d be a brave supporter indeed who would claim it was in the bag before the ball was bounced. Coming off consecutive losses to the Bulldogs and Brisbane, the Dockers were keen to get a win back on the board, while the team from Hawthorn was looking to live up to the monicker of the ‘might fighting Hawks’.

In the end, Freo had too much class and depth for Hawthorn and kept the pressure up all game to grind them down, but there were plenty of moments where Sam Mithcell’s men showed that they won’t always be so easy to run over. In the end the 69 (nice!) point margin is a fair indication of how the two lists are maturing, but Freo are going to start getting some form away from home if they want to live up to their potential.


That is Nat acceptable!

It doesn’t matter what team you support, if you like footy I can pretty much guarantee you’ll find something to like about Nat Fyfe. He’s well regarded not just for his footy skills, but for being considered a decent all-round bloke. It’s an odd choice then to have a Brownlow medallist start as the sub.

Yes, he’s coming back from a foot injury, but if he’s not right, it’d probably have been better to rest him. If he was good to go, why keep him on the bench? Just a weird outcome to either risk him if it’s the former or hold him back if it’s the latter.

Either way, Fyfe doesn’t seem the sort to hold a grudge, so I guess he’s just doing what the coaching staff think the team needs from him.

Regardless, his goal in the last was exactly the sort of thing he can do without breaking a sweat.


Luke is becoming a force

Few trades have earned as much scrutiny as Luke Jackson’s received when leaving Melbourne. Leaving aside the reasoning and cost, Freo will feel justified in picking him up as his trajectory continues to improve.

While I think Brayshaw was probably best afield, Jackson’s 24 touches (16 contested), seven tackles and two goals had him right up there, especially considering his work in the middle as a chop-out for Darcy allowed him to not just nullify the towering opposition rucks, but pick up a couple of centre clearances of his own that resulted in a strong forward push for his team.

Many people critical of this trade will often ask “What has he done?” but I suspect some may soon start asking “How much better can he get for us?”.

While big players are usually afforded more time to get into the game, at just 21, Jackson is showing that he’s ahead of the curve, and moves far better than his size would suggest.


Ruck battle

I’ll be honest, I’m a huge fan of Ned Reeves. While he might look like an elongated minecraft character, he knows how to play the big ruckman role and feed his mids. In this one, he and Meek managed to share ruck duties fairly evenly, except this week I’d have to say Meek was probably the better of the duo. While Reeves rucked a little more often, it was Meek who put the ball into his mids hands more regularly.

For Freo, Darcy and Jackson worked just as hard but had the courage to take the ball out of the ruck on their own and break away from the stoppage with alarming regularity.

As a pure, traditional ruck role, Meek was the best on the day. His 24 hit-outs (10 to advantage) showed just how he can complement Reeves. However, in a modern ruckman sense (as in playing as extra midfielders), Jackson and Darcy kept Hawthorn guessing on what they would do often enough that they caused confusion in their young opponents, keeping them unsure about running towards the drop of the ball or running by for the tap. It looks bad when a big ruckman can take the ball out of the air and break away from the pack, but that’s what Darcy and Jackson were able to do while the Hawks mids were running into their target spaces where they expected the tap to land.

It’s very smart work from the Freo tall timber, and if they can keep this up, they’ll have a lot more opponents worried about their structure at the stoppage.


Midfield battle

Day (26 disposals and seven clearances), Worpel (25 and six), and Nash (26 and eight) did well, but their usual inside bull Newcombe struggled more than usual with 20 touches and four clearances.

On the flip side, Freo dominated the hard ball in the midfield, with Brayshaw (34 disposals, three clearances), O’Meara (26 and six), and Serong (24 and five).

While the clearances favoured the Hawks (due in no small amount to Reeves and Meek’s work), the pressure on the disposal out of a pack hurt the effectiveness of the clearance and allowed Hayden Young and Luke Ryan to rack up 26 touches each as they launched attack after attack from half back.


Turning point

Though Freo were never headed once they hit the scoreboard, Hawthorn were in the game up until the second quarter. After a tight first period, Hawthorn managed to get a sniff when Mitch Lewis marked and goaled just after quarter time. With seven points in it, this was the moment where Freo needed to show that they had the steady nerves necessary to see off a young side playing like they had nothing to lose.

And that’s just what Freo did.

Freo went on a tear, scoring five unanswered goals through Banfield, Fredrick, Amiss, Brayshaw and Clark. An indirect forward thrust from Hawthorn resulting in Wingard marking and converting in the pocket, but Freo dominated from then on, forcing turnovers and running the Hawthorn backline ragged as they put on for goals to zip in the third quarter, with Jackson scoring two of them in a purple patch for the purple team.


The stats that matter

Freo were far more efficient, despite only slightly edging Hawthorn in their inside 50 count, 54 to 43. The main reason for this is how willing they were to keep the pressure up in their forward line, running and chasing to stop a rebound from the Hawthorn defence, including dominating the tackles inside 50 twelve to four.

While the sheer size of Hawthorn’s rucks allowed them to control the centre tap well enough, the strength and bodywork of the Freo pair to own the stoppage clearances 25-19, with six of those coming directly through Darcy and Jackson.

The key indication of contrasting game styles though was the difference in the disposal stats. Freo had 242 kicks to Hawthorn’s 191, and 122 marks to 91, while Hawthorn won the handball count 184 to 148. This really showed just how direct Freo were willing to go, while keeping Hawthorn’s head down and under too much pressure to steady and look for the longer option. Much of this was due to the great work Young, Hughes and Ryan were doing with interceptions, making blast kicking out of packs a negative option. So when Hawthorn won the clearance, they were under too much pressure to steady, a quick kick was frequently intercepted, and a quick handball immediately put the ball carrier under pressure.

It shows that Freo are much further along in their development cycle than Hawthorn better than any other stat.


Next up

Fremantle will be happy with the result, but despite the win their season is still on the line as they move closer to the bye. Heading over to Sydney to play the Swans, hosting Geelong at Optus, then travelling to the G to take on Melbourne will test their form, but if Freo pull it all together, all of those games can be considered winnable.

They’ll need to start strong against the Swans, and try to implement the sort of pressure and daring corridor play that was so successful in this game. The Swans have a few more options than the Hawks, but I’m tipping Freo to win this one, because if they don’t, they’ll be very concerned about season 2023.

Dockers by 22.


Hawthorn won’t have their bye until round 14, so they have a few more weeks until they get to take some time off. It won’t be an easy one next up though as they take on Melbourne at the MCG. After that, they’ll be looking at the Eagles in Tasmania as winnable, before they have to face the Saints, Power and Lions as they head into the bye.

While I think the Hawks will learn a lot from their loss, I rate Melbourne far too highly to think they’ll drop this one.

Melbourne by 45.