GWS v Fremantle – The Mongrel Review

Preparing for this game, I have to say that I had no idea what to expect. GWS had been playing pretty well without success, and while Freo’s first half against the Tigers’ last week was awful, they somewhat returned to their pre-bye form prior to that game.

Both these teams have had seasons of mediocrity with flashes of brilliance (to use the words of Justin Langer). This was an important game for both clubs, one of those games that is somewhat worth eight points in the context of the season. The Giants had Kelly returning to increase their midfield depth and O’Meara returned to the Dockers from his lottery-losing week at the tribunal.

Before the game, the Giants lost Hogan and the Dockers lost Frederick. As a Freo fan, I usually go into their games nervous but hopeful, so you’d think I’d have been extra so, given the importance of this contest; but this game for some reason, I was a bit apathetic about it all. Maybe they’ve finally defeated me, I don’t know.


Here’s what I saw.



Fremantle came into this game winning only one of their previous 17 first quarters. While it’s obviously much better to be in front at the end of the 4th than the 1st, when you’re playing away it’s imperative you start well to set the tone of the rest of the game.

They started like they didn’t want to be there, and once that mentality sets in, it’s very difficult to dislodge. Oppositional, the Giants looked good from the outset. A bit cautious with their ball movement, perhaps, but determined to win the inside ball, well-structured behind it, and they had a clear determination behind their pressuring and tackling.

When it came to the coaches addressing their players at quarter time, Kingsley would have enjoyed only needing to make some slight adjustments to ball movement. Justin Longmuir had to try and convince his players to actually play the game, and he didn’t do a great job at it.




Briggs’ improvement in moving from third ruck to probably being the number one at GWS is one of the good stories of the year, and today he lined up against Luke Jackson. Some media pundits have argued that Jackson is good enough in the ruck that he could permanently replace Sean Darcy, who could become trade bait.

I don’t need to tell you how silly that sounds; you don’t trade players you need when they’ve never even hinted at wanting to be traded, but this game, again, showed just how important Darcy is the to the Dockers’ structure.

The stats will say neither won the contest, but the Giants’ midfield definitely enjoyed the service they got from Briggs more than the Dockers benefited from the taps of Jackson. Around the ground, Jackson may have got more of the ball – but so he should. He’s a midfielder who can ruck a bit, not a ruckman who’s good in the midfield. But in the coalface, in the ruck contest, Briggs had Jackson’s number

It wasn’t necessarily on terms of more taps, but more taps that allowed his team to clear the ball with surety and space. So, if you’re one of those people who think Fremantle can do without Darcy, you’re staying in at lunch to write lines: 100 lines saying “Jackson is not a lead ruckman.” Worse for Fremantle, when Jackson is not in the forward line, their forwards don’t work well. Amiss may be the next big thing, and Treacy is no slouch, but both are young and really need a genuine third target to help spread the defence.



I was genuinely looking forward to this match up. Toby Greene is one of my favourites to watch and Ryan is a genuinely good defender. Ryan was the logical Docker to take Greene: Walker can be a bit fumbly under pressure, the talls are too slow, and neither Young or Hughes are used for their defensive work.

Unfortunately for Ryan, the ball came through the Dockers’ midfield far too easily, barely giving him a chance to stop Greene.

Greene is a class act, and can’t be beaten by a single defender. The best defender in the world can look second rate if their opponent is given the opportunity for space To work into. But what got me was Greene’s second goal, early in the second quarter. It came from a soft free kick – not softly paid, but soft in terms of physicality and intent. Greene was hitting the front of a contest hard and Ryan could do nothing but grab an arm, giving away an easy holding the man free kick in front of goal. On a better day, Ryan wouldn’t let his opponent have that kind of run. He certainly would not panic and grab an arm. It was clear that even by then, Greene had got into Ryan’s head, and already won the contest.

Greene slotted his 300th career goal shortly after, and finishing the game with a steady four – not a massive game by his standards, but dominant enough for purpose.



When Fremantle are at their best, it comes from good forward pressure and good pressure around the ball. About a month ago, they were the best team in the competition in terms of tackling and pressure (if that ‘pressure gauge’ stat has any meaning, and I suspect it doesn’t, but we use what we must).

The Giants have also been building as a pressure side in their forward half. In this game, the Giants lead the way in all areas of pressure. The Giants won the inside 50 tackle count 19-7 and which will leave the Dockers’ coaching staff fuming. But worse, around the ground, Docker’s looked like a second-rate tackling team.

While the Giants tackled with surety and determination, the Dockers tackled as if scared about being suspended or something – I can’t explain it. It was as if they were boys playing against men. At half time, the Dockers had not earned a single holding the ball free kick, and the Giants had won themselves several. I don’t intend this as a comment about the umpiring, simply to exemplify the ease in which the Giants players could evade or break tackles, let the ball go in a tackle, or spin around long enough to free their arms and find a target.

Outside maybe Fyfe, most of the Fremantle players when tackled often went straight to ground and some even looked hopefully towards the umpires, as if pleading sympathy. Of the top five tacklers in the game, all of them wore orange. Pathetic is about the only word that explains the Dockers’ efforts; elite the efforts of those in orange.


The Battle of the Middle

Tom Green was dominant early, gathering nine ground ball gets in the first quarter alone and led the way of the dominant GWS midfield. He spent a bit of time off the ground in the second, only getting the five touches, and it was there when the Dockers started to resemble an AFL side. But he came back on after halftime and that was the end of that – the Giant finishing 30 pretty effective touches.

Josh Kelly coming back from a few weeks off injured was instrumental. His ball movement was terrific; it was as if hadn’t missed a week at all. Kelly’s beautiful goal from 50 put the icing on the cake for the Dockers – which is a rare thing to say when it’s not quite half time.

Often finding his way to play on probably the least defeinsively minded player I’ve ever seen in Liam Henry, Josh Kelly feasted, finished with three goals from his 33 touches. Coniglio was his at his best as well, also moving the ball with ease and collecting himself 31 touches.

For Freo, Brayshaw and Serong battled hard and Fyfe showed some glimpses of his best at times, but split his time across half forward. Generally speaking, it was too little by too few from the men in purple, as they were second to the ball too often (contested possessions 140 – 116) and not willing to win it back (tackles 63-50).



I should probably find one positive for Fremantle, and it’s that Nat Fyfe has turned back the clock a little during the last fortnight. Fyfe had a couple of good leaps early, but he jumped beautifully for a mark of the week opportunity, and goaled from point blank, thanks to some actually pretty reasonable questioning to the umpire from Himmelberg.

Fyfe kicked the goal of the week last round, and he might pick up a mark of the year nomination this week. Later in the game, he managed to shove off his defender twice before finding Amiss in the forward line. Is he rising from the ashes? Or, is he just a very good player, still capable of doing enough great things to leave this Freo fan in eternal optimism? Probably the latter.



If you’re not a GWS fan and, like me, you don’t watch a lot of their games (which you should definitely start doing), you may not know the name Callum M. Brown. In a team full of big names, it’s understandable you’ve not heard of a bloke who’s only played 16 games and hasn’t had particularly impressive numbers.

But he did a lot right in this game today. He finished with a modest 16 disposals and career best 11 kicks to go with his two goals, but he seemed to be everywhere I looked. What impressed me most was his work ethic.

In the third quarter, he ran almost the length of the wing, rightfully predicting the wide receiver handball option and then maintained the pace to chase and tackle the more experienced, and no less swift, Michael Walters. Earning the free, Brown kicked it safely inboard and then worked his butt back to impact the ball which was quickly transitioned inside his forward 50. Good quality gut running, and the future looks bright for this kid.



With Hogan out, a lot fell on the shoulders of Jake Riccardi leading the forward line for the Giants, and lead it well he did. Only 37 games and 34 goals into his career, it was a big ask for Riccardi, but he does like playing against the Dockers, kicking his career best four goals in a game against them previously.

He beat that record today, finishing with 5.2 and looked every bit the dominant forward. Fremantle may have one of the better back lines in the competition at times, but isolate them and create space, and they become second rate. Riccardi teamed up well the Greene and his midfielders to make that happen and loved every second of the opportunities that were presented to him.



Whitfield fell victim to a dangerous tackle decision on Jordan Clark and it will definitely be viewed by the MRO. I won’t make any judgments except to say the free kick paid was fair.

But as for potential suspensions? Well, he’s going to want to hope that the moon is in the right position to reflect positively over the Yarra river, because that seems to be the logic of the AFL in these cases. Can we please go back to using suspensions to stamp out unsportsmanlike behaviour? Save it for the late hits, the strikes, the obvious things. Pay a 50 for a dangerous tackles and bumps, if you must do something to show you’re taking concussions seriously.



Well, that about wraps it up from me. As I said at the start, I don’t quite know what I was expecting from this game, but I know I wasn’t expecting a 106-36 level score line.

Simply put, this was a match where one team, the home team, demonstrated that they’ve worked things out under their new coach. It often takes a new coach half a season, or even a whole year, to implement new structures and get their team playing their best. GWS have shown some glimpses up until now, but with a solo TV slot it was clear from the first moment that they wanted to announce themselves to the broader AFL world as a team who should still be feared. And the Dockers gave them every opportunity to for them to show it.