Carlton v Fremantle – The Mongrel Review

This is an important game for both clubs who have at least been seen by many as being underperformers during the 2023 season. Carlton started the year well, but dropped right down the ladder, with many pundits suggesting 2023 would be the end of Michael Voss as coach, but they have found form in the last couple of weeks. Fremantle started the year quite woefully, found some form up until the bye, and then have been situated somewhere between woeful and mediocre since then.

With finals still in the conversation for both sides, a win here was crucial. Even if finals don’t eventuate, a strong finish to the season can carry momentum into next year, and this game is beautifully placed as a springboard for a good late-season build. A loss, however, marks the end of any genuine finals opportunity and leaves the side looking for answers with seven games remaining in the year.

Against Carlton was the fact they hadn’t won both their trips to Perth in eight years. Against Fremantle was the fact Carlton has been a bit of a bogey team for them, with only one win since Justin Longmuir took over as coach.

In the end, we saw a very professional game from Carlton, leaving their fans thinking, “where has this been all year?” and the kind of performance from Fremantle which leaves fans re-evaluating their life choices for the umpteenth time.

Here’s what I saw


Vossy makes a statement

This game put the experienced coach in Voss up against the newish, but probably been around long enough, coach in Justin Longmuir. From the start, it was very clear that Voss had done his homework and Justin Longmuir did something at home that wasn’t work-related.

Carlton went in with a clear strategy in the middle: let Darcy win as many taps as you can, and then use your bigger bodies to harass the ball back. What resulted was Darcy ended up with a club record 58 hit-outs, yet Carlton won clearances 41-35. This number probably doesn’t quite reflect just the dominance of Carlton’s midfield, as they did not allow the much smaller Fremantle bodies any control of possession at all. Often times when Fremantle were able to get a clearance, it was rushed and quickly turned over; conversely, led by Cripps (29 disposals – 24 Handballs), Carlton were able to clear the ball quickly and dominantly, allowing better field position. Cripps played his genuine bull-ish style of footy, getting inside and distributing cleanly to Walsh (32 disposals), Docherty (28 disposals), and Cerra (27 disposals), all of whom were able to waltz the ball into their forward 50 and keep it there. The only Fremantle midfielder able to get his hands on the ball was Brayshaw (32 disposals), but many of those were in smaller contests around the ground.

Voss’ plan didn’t just stop there. Defensively, their set ups were excellent. Fremantle are a team who like to run and carry, and if they can’t, like to switch the ball. The Carlton defensive line often hung back a little wider, tempting to allow the Dockers early access to the centre of the ground, but many times the men in purple went against the risky option and chose to follow the standard switching option. Simply put, they ended up switching the ball to a now equally contested side of the ground, cutting off any ability to open the game up and run. Furthermore, when the Dockers managed to get the ball forward, they again played into Carlton’s hands by streaming numbers forward. Prepared for this, Vossy kept many of his players back, trusting his backline to create turnovers. themselves. When this happened, often by skill, but frequently through mismanagement from Fremantle forwards, they had plenty of options to transition the ball quickly from turnover, which they did again and again.

Many times, Fremantle had a half chance to score, but the ball was quickly sent beyond their ability to defend and resulted in a Carlton goal; as some call it, the 12-point turnaround.

Voss’ third trick was to get Curnow and McKay up the ground and outside 50 more often. Both ended up with three goals apiece, but both rarely occupied the forward 50 at the same time. By presenting for marks across the middle, they allowed quicker transitions for the Blues, but also dragged their defender with them, opening up space for other forwards and disrupting the usually reliable Fremantle defensive, who looked much more disorganised than they usually are.

No, this was a coaching masterpiece from Voss, and Justin Longmuir’s inability to react and counter will have head honchos at Fremantle wondering whether he’s the man for the job long term. They won’t of course make any rash decisions, but the pressure will be mounting on Justin Longmuir- particularly early next season.


Luke Ryan is too good to be at Fremantle

These were words sent to me by the Mongrel himself during the game, to which I simply replied: about half the team are. There’s just something happens to a player when they put on the Dockers’ guernsey that makes them completely forget how to football. With the exception of Luke Ryan. Ryan today played an incredibly classy half back-full back role. His interception work was terrific, with 18 of his 35 touches coming from intercepts. The highlight of his game was a contested mark taken, where he made a contest that he had no right to make and took the mark with the ball coming from behind him, all while not making illegal contact. This was a dark day for the Dockers, but it would’ve been a lot darker if not for Ryan, who genuinely deserves to play for one of the bigger clubs where he’d get the widespread credit he deserves.


What is wrong with Fremantle:

There are four issues that really stood out for Fremantle in this game. Fans may excuse some mistakes, when it’s risk versus reward. Errors happen; they may expect that their midfield will lose the contest more often than not, especially against the bigger midfield of Carlton. They may even allow inconsistency and a drop out of the finals a year after they perhaps overachieved. After all, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact their playing 22 is still one of the youngest and least experienced sides in the competition, less experienced across the board than even their cross-town rivals who are having the year from hell. But those excuses would be copouts in a game like this.


No, I am much more concerned about:

  1. Their fitness: As the season draws on, they seem to be unable to keep up with sides for longer. They seem to trail to contests, be outrun or run down and not finish out games like they could last year. It may be fitness, it may be work ethic, but it’s something that needs a fix.
  2. Their inability to stop a side with momentum. For two weeks in a row, the Dockers have let their opponent kick seven or eight unanswered goals. Today, they played mouse to Carlton’s cat; they allowed themselves to be toyed with. There were patches where they brought the game to an arm wrestle, but were never able to create any kind of momentum, because they were too busy watching Carlton go goal after goal with no answers to stop it. Again, is this work ethic? Or is it coaching?
  3. An identifiable game plan. The Dockers lack identity. When Longmuir started coaching, they played with run and flair. Today they were in their shells, overthinking every manoeuvre and usually making the wrong one. In previous years, they’ve been really good at causing turnovers and counter-attacking but had no ability at all to do that today. Much of that was good coaching, as highlighted above, but much of it is because they refused to take the game on. During their run of good form this year, the Dockers scored a lot from contests, but today they were soundly beaten. Some pundits have shown concern Fremantle don’t really have a plan B, but it seems they’re not even clear on what plan A is. If they don’t build an identity soon, their identity will be established for them as being “a disappointing team who looks good on paper but lacks the guts to do anything.”
  4. Finally, where is their bull? Who is their player that’ll put their body on the line and get down and dirty? Where’s their mongrel? Brayshaw tries and Serong occasionally does the role ok, but they’re too important with the ball, and neither are strong enough. Last year they had Mundy and Fyfe. Fyfe missed much of the year and was well replaced by Will Brodie, but Brodie was no good early this year, owing to the fact that the midfield was too slow with him Fyfe and O’Meara whom they brought in to cover Mundy. Well, O’Meara has battled all year, but is no Mundy and without Fyfe. Why wouldn’t Brodie come back in? Yes, he’s had some injuries recently, but he was apparently fit to go this week. The brightside is they’ve got a decent bloke in Matt Johnson coming through, who looks all the size and weight to be the next Mundy-type player. But if you’re expecting an 18-year-old (who had an absolute shocker today and was subbed off) to rescue your midfield woes against Cripps and Co. Then you’re barking up the wrong tree.



  • Matt Kennedy limped off in the third quarter, after a rather innocuous tackle. Carlton have suggested it’s likely a sprain to his knee, but sometimes those minor-looking injuries turn into something much more significant. Fingers crossed it’s nothing major
  • Mitch McGovern looked to hurt his shoulder in a contest late in the third quarter and didn’t play out the game.
  • Sean Darcy received a heavy knock late in the game and came off worse for wear.


What’s next?

Carlton will build on their momentum and launch towards finals. They’ll be challenged next week by Port Adelaide, but Port are due a loss and Carlton definitely have a list capable of beating them. If they play like they did today, anything is possible.

Fremantle are up against Collingwood at the MCG. Collingwood have been another little Bogey side for the Dockers, beating them twice last year. Freo will have to do some soul searching, but it’s the kind of ‘nothing to lose’ type game which might see them bring out their best. I highly doubt it. Nope, it’s season over for the Dockers and back to the drawing board for their coach.


The final word

This was a professional game by Carlton. They dominated every aspect of the game, generating inside 50 after inside 50 – a whopping 60 of them and then they kept the pressure on with 18 inside 50 tackles. It did not matter what Carlton did, Fremantle found no way to respond. Or disappointingly, attempted nothing to respond, owing largely to the fact they could not get their hands on the ball in good areas, and create space to move. No, this was as good a performance from Carlton as I’ve seen this year and probably as terrible a performance from Fremantle, which isn’t entirely their fault; they were just simply comprehensively beaten in all facets of the game, the final score being 6.9-49 to 14.14 98


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