What I Love About My Club In 2024 – Fremantle


We love it here at The Mongrel, and it is always best expressed by our writers for their chosen teams.

This year, as we head toward Round One, I hand them the ball and ask – what do you love about your team in 2024?

Let’s see what they come up with. Matt Passmore and Justin Rake team up to cover their beloved Dockers. – HB



Who would’ve thought that the Mongrel would have two Fremantle fans on staff now. It’s a scary time for all. It’s a difficult club to love sometimes, but when asked to write about the things we’ve come to love about this club of ours, well, we knocked our heads together and came up with a few good reasons. Justin Rake has kicked it off with the first three and then Matt Passmore has taken up the rest.


1. A restocked midfield mix ready to make a splash

After spending 2023 struggling to find balance in the midfield, the Fremantle Dockers all of a sudden enter the new season with renewed vigour in the engine room.

Justin Longmuir and his coaching staff experimented heavily with their midfield mix last season with the likes of James Aish and Sam Switkowski often joining the stars in the guts, but the coming campaign is offering up much more clarity.

All-Australians Andrew Brayshaw and Caleb Serong will continue to be the major players, but the return of Nat Fyfe to his rightful spot and the positional switch of Hayden Young offers the Dockers more size and physicality in the contest.

Together they’ll form Freo’s go-to midfield quartet, but don’t count out youngster Matthew Johnson from having a huge say in the team’s fortunes. Throw in Neil Erasmus, Jaeger O’Meara and Will Brodie and it’s easy to see how deep the Dockers bat through the middle this year.


2. A more settled, comfortable and unstoppable Luke Jackson

Fremantle’s star recruit last year, Luke Jackson’s first season in purple offered up the appetiser for what might be one of the great main courses Dockers fans have devoured in their history.

The questions about whether he can co-exist with fellow dominant ruck Sean Darcy remains valid, but should they figure it out (which, for the record, I believe they will), Jackson has all the tools he needs to terrorise the opposition in a multitude of ways.

He’ll stretch defenders who still need to keep tabs on other tall forwards Jye Amiss and Josh Treacy, he’ll run ruckmen into the ground and he’ll even give midfielders fits when he dabbles as a rover.

Jackson has been best on ground (or close to) in basically every Fremantle pre-season hit out, and now with a season in Longmuir’s system already under his belt, the big fella might just tear games apart.

Oh, and he’s only 22 years old…


3. An under-pressure head coach could be what this club needs

Now I realise that sounds like a fan clutching at straws to find positive takeaways, but hear me out.

To me, the frustration with Justin Longmuir’s coaching is not his strategic capabilities, nor the way he maintains relationships with his players (I actually think he’s sound at both). To me, his faults lie in a reluctance to go to plan B when Plan-A has been blown to smithereens.

Longmuir believes in his style, and in his men. He backs them in with confidence, but this a double-edged blade that cut the man more often than not when both his game plan and favoured players repeatedly came up short in 2023.
The now fifth-year head coach took too long to pull the trigger on moves like playing Hayden Young in the midfield, or giving a more prominent role to youngster Matthew Johnson.

But that was when his job was safe, and let’s be frank, Longmuir is coaching for his career in 2024.

This hopefully sees Longmuir coach bravely, not safely. Roll the dice more often, give an exciting youngster like Cooper Simpson a game over the tried and trusted Bailey Banfield, and let your most damaging players do their work closer to goal.

If he wants to keep his job beyond the new season, Longmuir simply needs to add more flexibility and adaptability to his repertoire.


4. That they’re setup for the future beyond Tabs

I’ve been a big fan of Matty Taberner for a pretty long time. He’s never perhaps been the player everyone wanted him to be, but then having the pressure to replace a player like Matthew Pavlich is perhaps unfair on even the best of recruits.

But he has been a very serviceable and reliable player for a pretty long time. He’s often been among the best in the league for contested grabs, he’s become a more than reliable goal kicker, and although prone to the occasional brain-fart, has pretty much done his role as the key forward as well as you could expect him to – in fact probably even a bit better.

His 2020 season, in particular, was phenomenal, and under the last few seasons of Ross Lyon, Taberner was probably the most important player on the team; if you don’t believe me, check the win/loss ratios and ladder positions from the first half of those seasons to that of the second half, after he got injured. If there’s an Issue Tabs has had, it’s his body consistently breaking down and it bringing the whole team down with it.

Which is why I am glad that the team is in a position to move beyond Tabs. I will not argue or complain when he gets selected, no I’ll be quite happy. But he no longer needs to be the patch up, solve all, key forward. Jye Amiss kicked 40 goals last year and looks bigger after another preseason. He is the Dockers spearhead now and he’s got the talent, brains, and athleticism to grow into that role and play it as well as anyone. Josh ‘Cyclone’ ‘Dick’ Treacy competes hard, pinch hits in the ruck and has a big body which he gets around the ground. He’s not a star up forward, but he provides much needed support for Amiss, and does it well.

Then there’s Luke Jackson, the third tall, resting ruck, utility player that is as close to a replacement for Pav as Freo will ever have; if that’s only an assessment of versatility and nothing else. Those three, with Darcy resting up forward, look like a very tall, capable forward line which losses nothing in mobility, an issue perhaps for Lobb and Taberner.

Ahh but ‘they’ve lost Schultz’ I heard you say. To which I say, bah humbug. The guy took his money and ran and who am I to blame him for doing so? What I will say is that Schultz was and is a very good player, but he’s not a player that Fremantle can’t (and haven’t already) replaced. Remember Sam Sturt? It took him a while to get going, but he’s every bit as skilful and provides the lead; Remember Tom Emmitt? Probably not because he only played 2 games for his 4 goals, but he’s of a similar mould, style and perhaps even cleaner than Schultz. Lock him in.

Cooper Simpson was recruited in the off season and looks like an excellent pick up. He seems to play a lot taller than his 182 cm suggests he should, and his goal sense has, dare I say, shades of Stevie J about it. Not to build up a guy too quickly, but we’ll just say that for one player out, there’s always been a few waiting in the wings. And that’s not to speak of Micheal Walters and Sam Switowski at their best, nor to speak of Pat Voss whom (fairly) I know nothing about, but 30 goals in the VFL is nothing to sneeze at, and he just adds to that continued depth.

The point I’m making is simple. Fremantle have been building their forwardline for years, and finally, in 2024, they finally have all the pieces in place. They have a terrific forwards coach in Jaime Graham, and while it may take a little bit of this season to get right on the field (they are still very inexperienced), they have moved well beyond the need to build their team around stop-gap, one-string (if admirable) third tall forwards like Matty Taberner.


5. That they’re capable of playing an exciting brand of football (when they don’t think too much)

I saw an image this morning of two targets. The one on the left has X marks scattered in variously unimpressive locations, both inside and outside the circle and sat below a caption which said, “This isn’t failure.’The target on the right was devoid of any markings at all and under a heading which said, “this is.” It was a simple metaphor: Missing the mark is better than not taking the shot at all; It was a visual comparison to Michael Jordan’s phrase that “you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.

It is something I want Justin Longmuir to hang up in the tunnel for his team to see as they walk onto the field. A reminder that they play their best when they allow themself to be imperfect. Because in 2021, the Dockers largely took the opposition and competition by storm. It took them three or four weeks to get their act together, but once they did, they played a fast, exciting brand of footy which both got them into the top 8, allowed their supporters some optimism for the future, and had pundits and commentators singing their praises. It didn’t always work and they both lost some games they should’ve won, but they played with instinct and flair and it gave us all a sense that, perhaps with a few tweaks to the game plan, a little bit more depth, and a bit more experience, the team was on the right trajectory.

In 2023, however, they started thinking too much. I have a catchphrase for thinking which is, “if you think too much your brain falls out.” I use it regularly with my students and I used it regularly last year because the Dockers played like they were over thinking every aspect of their game. Thinking of course is important, but the thinking I speak of is the over thinking type which means you become too scared to have a shot, too scared to make a mistake.

Well, bring on 2024 and in the pre-season match sims I’ve watched, I’ve seen and read of a few instances where players have made really positive mistakes. The kind of mistakes they make when they’re taking the game on and making things happen. The kind that sometimes results in a goal the other way but mostly results in fast inside 50s and repeated scoring shots. It’s as if they’re showing some signs that they are again playing with some flair and valuing their instinct more than controlled structure or instructions. It could of course backfire completely but I am definitely confident that we shall, again, see an exciting run and dash brand of football this year. It it could be very exciting to watch.


6. That they are just a frustrating team to support

This section is going to come across as a bit defeatist or maybe a bit like I’m too accepting of a mediocre footy side. But that’s not the case, of course. Lets face it: we all love an underdog, but this is something that only us fans of flailing footy clubs can truly understand.

I think what’s great about supporting a pretty terrible side is that you can better appreciate the little wins along the way. When you’re winning all the time, you expect a good win against a good side and you learn to expect a great win against a poor side. Sure us supporters of long time mid-bottom sides also have teams we expect to beat, clawing a tight win or sometimes even a tight loss can bring enormous satisfaction – we just hope the team aren’t quite so satisfied.

Don’t get me wrong. Losing sucks, whoever you support, but you become a little immune to it when you’re doing it all the time. And there’s also so much excitement in always being on the edge of turning a corner. Will this be the season? The game? Usually it’s not, but one day it will be; it’s the nature of the competition that most teams are going to have regular ups and downs and there’s a different level of appreciation in the ups when you spend more time in the lows. It’s not that we’re accepting mediocrity, nor are we treating a round 5 win like it’s a grand final or something, rather, it’s a bit like appreciating a really starry night when you live in the city. Sure an astronomer can tell you all about it and revel in the brilliance and to them it may seem ordinary, but sometimes just seeing something ordinary can be great, even if you know it’s only a glimpse of something better.

On more than one occasion I’ve said that being an Eagles or Collingwood fan would just be a bit too easy. Where’s the challenge in winning all the time? I suppose they have been finding that out in recent years but they’re still too new to it to have built any kind of appreciation. I love my club not because I suffer illusions about their past failures or their current chances, rather I know that because they came from such a low and challenging place: needing to crowdfund players, using their first pick on Clive Waterhouse; sacking coaches at the wrong time, choosing the name ‘The Dockers’ when they could’ve been ‘the Pirates,’ a decade of horrible injury lists and so on. And I’ve shared with them every step of the way the adversary in which a club was built, the identity which has been established, and because of that, well I can celebrate the little wins on the way to, hopefully someday soon, to their long-awaited biggest win and the celebration that will surely follow.