What’s The Problem With The Freo Big Men?

The re-signing of Sean Darcy at Fremantle earlier this week set tongues wagging in the AFL community, and some weren’t all that complimentary of the big man’s decision to re-up with the Dockers.

You see, it kind of ruined the vibe they were going for.

After years of speculating that Darcy would jump ship, the West’s laughing stock of footy opinion pieces, Peter Sumich, declared that the deal for the “back up” known as Sean Darcy was a poor one.


If anyone should back up, it should probably be Sumich. Back up from his keyboard, back up from his desk, and back up from creating these sorts of ridiculous takes.

Darcy was second in the league for hit outs per game in 2023, with only Jarrod Witts ahead of him. Not bad work for a “back up”.

That’s probably why he wrote an article a while back talking about how important it was that Freo re-signed Darcy.


Others had their “Fremantle has culture issues – look at all the players leaving” narrative take a hit with Darcy’s signature, as well. I mean, what are they gonna say now? That the Dockers have a culture issue because he stayed? They were banking on the big man winding down the clock… trotting out the usual “I’ll wait until the end of the season” clichès to add fuel to the fire of their hot takes. This signing poured cold water on their premature celebrations.

And then there were those who cited the recent failure of the Max Gawn/Brodie Grundy combination at Melbourne as the evidence that this was a poor move. Naysayers immediately went on the offensive, stating that this dual ruck team was doomed to fail, as another just did last year.

Sound observations, indeed.

My memory is a little more expansive and dates back more than just 12 months. Yes, whilst the dream ruck combination at the Dees turned into a bit of a nightmare, with Grundy now looking to resurrect his career with the Swans, people are forgetting that Luke Jackson and Max Gawn made a pretty handy little one-two punch back in 2021. A premiership-winning one-two punch to be exact.

Oops, forgot about that one, huh?


Whilst you could successfully argue that Darcy is nowhere near the level Gawn was at in 2021 (no knock on Darcy, but Gawn was incredible), you should also note that Jackson is a more mature, better-rounded player at this stage than he was three years ago. He had moments in 2023 that made Freo fans feel extremely content that the trade to secure his services was well worth it.

It may not be popular opinion, particularly among those with an axe to grind, but Jackson is just about the perfect hybrid ruck/forward in the modern game. Powerful overhead, he covers the ground beautifully and is able to work all the way up to half-back to provide the “get out of jail” option for the Dockers. And he does it easily – the bloke is much more gazelle than baby giraffe, these days.

With Darcy doing the bulk of the heavy lifting in the middle, Jackson ensures that when his teammate is in need of a breather, the Dockers don’t lose too much with the ruck version of the second unit.

Jackson is no Grundy – not at this stage. He has no All-Australian blazers hanging in his wardrobe, but he doesn’t have to be Grundy at Fremantle. Sean Darcy is in the top handful of rucks in the game and as a backup, it would not be a stretch to state that Jackson would be the number one ranked relief ruck in the business.

So, what are people upset about? Why do they want to talk down the Darcy/Jackson combination so readily?

Some are West Coast supporters

Not much more needs to be said, really. Darcy could run into a burning building and save a family, and Eagles supporters would be critical that he didn’t shut the door behind him on his way out. It’s the nature of the relationship between these two groups of supporters to bash anything the other does, no matter how good it is, so you cop that.

What I cannot comprehend is how others believe bedding down the contract of a bloke who was going to have multiple suitors as soon as he hit free agency could be considered a bad thing. Particularly when he sits within the top handful of players at the club.

Were these people also quietly hoping for a reason to sink the boots into Freo, as well? Are they Geelong faithful put out by a former Falcon not heading home to the nest? I really don’t get it.

Ask yourself – with a six-year extension, what is the worst thing that could happen to Freo?

Darcy gets hurt?

Yeah, and that could happen to anyone. Nick Blakey, Aaron Naughton, and Connor Rozee have all signed big deals with their current teams, as well. What if they get hurt? It’s a risk teams seem willing to take.

And if one of Darcy or Jackson does get hurt, that’s the beauty of a team with two rucks, right? They have someone to cover the pivotal role.

Check out the teams that didn’t in recent years.

Port just went out and recruited two rucks after they struggled last year with Scott Lycett hurt. You don’t think they wish they had a valuable backup big man at the time?

How about the Blues in 2022 when they lost Marc Pittonet? There’s a reason Carlton re-signed him for four years and locked away Tom De Koning, as well.

They experienced what happens when the depth isn’t there. That shouldn’t happen to Freo.

At the end of the day, the Dockers did what many didn’t think they could. They locked away the talents of one of the best big men in the game and did it long before free agency became a factor.

Put any spin on it you like. Dress it up as something bad if that’s what floats your boat, but seriously, who are you trying to kid? If it were your team making that move and getting this result, you’d be singing its praises from the rooftops.

And you know what that makes you?

Haters are gonna hate. Hypocrites and gonna hypocrite.


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