Brisbane v Fremantle – The Mongrel Review

The final match of Round 21, between Fremantle and Brisbane probably didn’t get the coverage it deserved. It was considered a standard win for the Lions and a test to see whether Fremantle could repeat their heroics from last week – with the expectation they wouldn’t.

However, I’d argue the stakes were a fair bit higher than that, particularly for the Lions. Making the top 4 is imperative for anyone wanting to make a Grand Final, even more so for interstate teams, who almost need to finish top 2 for the best chance. So, for Brisbane, this game was to be essential in terms of their hopes of launching for the 2023 finals campaign. Furthermore, they needed to prove they could win away. The Lions went into this game as the best-attacking team on the road, but defensively they have been very ordinary. This has resulted in them with more losses than wins, and question marks over their September capabilities. Surely, those questions would continue to hound them should they not beat 15th placed Fremantle on the road.

For the Dockers, this game was a chance to show that their win against Geelong wasn’t a fluke and that they could back it up against a quality side at home.

In the end, the game came down to a few key match ups and the Dockers gave the Lions a run for their money, but the experienced and more composed side took the chocolates.

Here’s what happened.



Fremantle’s first-quarter woes have been well documented this year, but something that also hasn’t seemed to work that well for them the last couple of years, is kicking the first goal of the game. The Dockers burst out of the blocks pretty quickly this game, and did just that – a goal to Lachie Shultz in the first minute had the home crowd up and about, and the Dockers actually won a first quarter for once – 2.2 to 1.4. Unfortunately, they didn’t win the last quarter, which showed everyone just how silly a talking point this whole “slow start” issue is. Yes, no one wants to play catch up footy, but building into a game never hurt anyone, as the Dockers found out today when Brisbane did exactly that to them.



If there was any talk going into this game, it was “Would Young go to Neale?” Against Geelong, Young made his way into the midfield for the first time in his career, and tagged Patrick Dangerfield out of the game, while having a substantial influence himself. Meanwhile, Neale himself was tagged out of the game by Gold Coast’s Touk Miller. In many ways, this pairing acted as a mini version of the larger game happening around them. And after the game, Neale rated Fremantle as “the best 15th-placed side I’ve ever played against.’ Weird backwards compliment, but understandable given the quality of his rookie opposition in Hayden Young.

Like the Dockers, Young’s first quarter was very impressive. He didn’t apply a hard tag, to Neale, but trusted his ability to beat his more experienced counterpart to the contest. Which he did. Young was everywhere early, having ten touches to Neale’s four. It wasn’t just getting the ball, though, Young with his famed left boot was using it with precision, making headaches for the Brisbane midfielders and allowing Fremantle good access forward. As the game went on, though, Neale got into his straps more. The second quarter saw almost reverse stats: Young with 5, Neale with 8. Neale was moving around the contest a little more and getting some support from Dunkley. Young had six tackles for the quarter, compared to none in the first, which shows that he wasn’t getting to the ball first anymore.

It was in the final quarter where the cream rose to the top. Lachie Neale used all his ability and experience to run Young around the park, picking up nine touches – probably the most damaging nine of his collection. Meanwhile, Young was struggling to have the influence he had earlier in the game.  Much like the game around them, the Dockers started the better team early, but the more the game went on, the higher the stakes rose, and the Lions became composed and professional. Although, if we were giving votes, they’d probably go to the losing player Young.



Jarrod Berry was outstanding for the Lions all day. The absolute workhorse picked up 28 touches and lead Brisbane’s midfield from the get-go, often with little support.

His first half was a blinder – it would have had blokes asking their google assistant what the word meant, as it could have been applied to his game by that many people it would have been bound to confuse some poor fella at some stage.

He is one of those players who the Lions seem to have in reserve. Not inasmuch as he plays reserves, but there are games when he doesn’t get a heap of the footy, despite being able to do so, if that makes sense? Winning the footy is not a problem the Lions face often, but when Neale is being harassed, players like Berry have demonstrated the ability to step in and take the load off.

His first half comprised 19 disposals and as Lachie Neale worked his way through his tag and started to become more prominent, Berry once again drifted back into that support-type role. It is a selfless type of role, and the sort that helps turn good teams into great ones. Knowing that Berry, or Zac Bailey, or Dev Robertson (usually) can step in and fill the need, it must be something that eases the pressure on both Neale and Chris Fagan.



I may have to eat some humble pie here. A few weeks ago, I rated Jackson as a tall mid who could play forward and ruck a bit – not a mobile ruckman who could go forward a bit. With Darcy out, Jackson has had to do the rucking, which I would have thought a step above him. I was wrong.

The addition of Josh Corbett to Fremantle’s forward line has allowed Jackson to focus on being good at rucking, not trying to do both. And today, he was very, very good, particularly in the first half. The 21-year-old was everywhere, making me triple check the team sheets to see whether Brisbane had a ruckman at all. I know Darcy Fort isn’t the gold standard in rucks, but he was made to look second-rate at times, as Jackson, on top of his 44 taps, found space around the ground, went back for defensive marks, went forward for a goal and two behinds, and otherwise collected the ball 24 times, which would have made him Brisbane’s third-highest possession getter should he be wearing the maroon. Some of Jackson’s clearance work, winning the ball himself and running it out was reminiscent of Nic Naitanui in his prime.

Not bad for a midfielder who can ruck a bit.

Darcy Fort, conversely, won his fair share of ruck taps (38) but otherwise had little influence as a player around the ground. He played an honest game, and against a different ruckman you may say he was good. But when you’re up against a bloke at his best, it’s easy to fall into the shadow.

Fremantle enjoyed the quality from Jackson, with most of their scores coming from clearances. It allowed them to get first use of the ball, and importantly, not allow the Lions to get a run on, which has been an issue for them in the past 6 weeks or so.



There are 2 types of turnovers: bad ones, and really bad ones. I don’t mind the bad ones. When your team is attacking and taking chances, they’re bound to miss the occasional option and turn the ball over, and this will occasionally result in a goal against. But a bad turnover is a turnover from a bad kick which shouldn’t have happened in the first place.

Fremantle committed both varieties of turnovers way too often and the Lions loved it – they feasted on them. In the third quarter, all but one of the Lions’ goals had come from Fremantle Docker turnovers. They set up well behind the ball, slowing Freo’s ball movement and forcing them to try and take a risk or to take the safe option. Both often worked in the Lions’ favour, because they could rebound quickly and catch the Dockers out of position. Conversely, the Dockers were able to force turnovers from the Lions, but weren’t able to capitalise on them, because they weren’t winning them as cleanly nor were set up to counter-attack with as much organisation and structure.

If there was one gap between the two sides that was obvious, it was just that – the cleanliness. There was a moment where the Dockers switched the ball, came back through the centre, out again to the wing and then forward. Every single disposal in the passage was a dropped mark, missed handball, fumble, and a tackle on Henry which really should have been penalised against him for incorrect disposal. That bit of luck aside, they still managed to get the ball forward. A bit of scrap is ok: The Mongrel himself wrote recently about how the Dockers love a scrap. But when you’re scrappy to the point of comical ineptitude, it’s bound to work against you.

In this case, Harris Andrews took the defensive mark and four possessions later, Charlie Cameron was having a set shot on goal. Which he nailed.

Finally, when the game was on the line, the Lions just found a way to take clean possession and the Dockers scrambled with their decision making and their composure. A long switch to a 3 on 1 turned into a goal to Brisbane; fumbles from Freo compared to quick hands of the Lions; missed tackles against tackles that win free kicks and turnovers.

It’s a simple game footy. But it’s sometimes a little simpler for those who have been there a few times before and no how to not panic. A learning curve for the Dockers – Important finals practice for the Lions.



It seemed everywhere I looked, I saw Cam Rayner and Lincoln McCarthy. Players got the ball more, but these two seemed a thorn in Freo’s side when the ball was between the arcs. Both beat their direct opponents to the ball in almost every contest, and McCarthy’s four intercepts across the wing and half forward all resulted in the ball being driven productively forward. Neither will get the talk, so I wanted to mention them here.

The game of Eric Hipwood was an interesting one – ranged far and wide to provide a marking target for the Lions, and between him and Ca Rayner, they took 22 grabs, with plenty of them up around the wing area.

Liam Henry has improved out of sight for the Dockers in the past month or so – but if I am a winger, he’d still be my most favoured opponent. The man just has no clue when it comes to defensive footy. There was an instance in the first quarter, where he was in the wrong position on three or four occasions, allowing multiple opposition players easy access to the ball, and the time to use it well. Henry is becoming effective with it; and he’s ok when he’s chasing it. Now he needs to learn where to go in between.

Sam Sturt is one of the lesser-knowns at Fremantle, but he’s got all the attributes of a decent mid/forward. He slotted 3 goals from tight angles, all with the old-fashioned drop punt. One day soon he’s going to break a game apart, but for now, it’s been a slow burn into his career, and he’s taking the most of his opportunity.

Caleb Serong was huge again with 35 disposals and got better as the game went on.



It was, all in all, an exciting game. Both teams went goal for goal for much of it, but when one team needed to capitalise on momentum, Brisbane did it better in the later stage of the game. 

This was a solid, team performance from Brisbane. There wasn’t any one player who stood out, took the game under his arm and said “I’ve got this, come with me.” Instead, as a group, they just did what they needed to do. Fagan, after the game, admitted “they didn’t play that well” and Neale in his post-match was “relieved to get the 4 points.” And I think that pretty much sums it up for them: They did what they needed to do, when they needed to do it. They encountered an opposition that put up a bit more fight than they expected, perhaps, and they responded to it. Even when Freddy kicked another near-impossible clutch goal, the Lions got into their procedure and disallowed the Dockers’ momentum to gain any real traction for a final push. It wasn’t pretty, but it was enough.

For the Dockers, it was a good sign for the future. They probably deserved to win, but they didn’t simply because, while they were good for most of the game, their good just wasn’t quite good enough. They just weren’t clean enough in important points; their good players played well, but others went missing for periods; they lacked the polish of Brisbane; and while they took the game on and played some exciting footy, they got too cautious at the wrong times.  Essentially: They made a lot of rookie mistakes that perhaps a lesser team may have let them get away with, but not a top 4 team hoping to become a top 2 team. You need to be better than that, more composed to beat them. But they’ll get there. Talent lasts longer than inexperience, and they’ve got plenty of both.


Next week

The Dockers face the Eagles in what looks like it might be one of the more interesting Derbys in a while. The Eagles have found form, and might actually go in favourites. The test for Fremantle will be, can they beat a team they should beat, when they’re expected to beat them? I’m not sold, yet.

Brisbane take on Adelaide at home, and chance to become 10-0 at the Gabba and start locking in a top 4 position. They won’t look too heavily at this game, and be pretty happy to keep an eye on the near future.