R8 – Fremantle v Richmond – The Mongrel Review


The first of the Sunday fixtures was not pinned to be a ‘must watch’ game but, like all games, there’s enough questions around both these teams to make this more interesting than it seems.

Fremantle were coming off a confidence-building game against the Dogs. The Dockers seemed to return to something like their best last week, putting their slow, stagnant game of the previous month behind them, and allowed themselves to take risks coming through the middle and moving with pace. Would they be able to back that up in an away fixture against a side that they really should beat?

Conversely, the Tigers haven’t much going for them this year. A few injuries to key players haven’t helped, but they’re also at that stage of their team’s development – somewhere between trying to be competitive and going all out for a rebuild. They’ve been a team that’s not expected to win many games but are still capable of catching any side napping.

In the end, the game went largely how most of us expected it to go. Fremantle played a professional game, but the Tigers showed what they can do when they’ve got nothing to lose.


Super Fyfe starts as Sub:

Starting Fyfe as sub after his dominant return to form was an interesting move, but I liked it. It sent the message to Fremantle’s midfielders (and fans) that they don’t need to have Fyfe out there – he’s just another cog in the machine, not carrying them as he might’ve in previous years. It rewards Cooper Simpson’s impressive debut, by allowing him a full game – and at the MCG in front of family as well (God, I hate when players get to play in front of their family for the first time and only get 20 minutes).

But mostly, Fyfe is a simply good choice as a substitute. Firstly, his experience gives Justin Longmuir another coach on the bench, which is never a bad thing. Secondly, you can pretty much put Fyfe anywhere in a crisis and he’ll impact. I’ve never understood the logic of having new players in this role. Surely having a versatile & experienced player gives the coach more options, be them strategic or out of need.


Were Freo controlling possession or simply too slow?

Fremantle have been criticised (and rightly so) for being too defensive, as they find the mix between controlling the ball and moving it quickly. They found the mix reasonably well today, but there were times they probably fluffed around with the ball a little too much.

I remember watching the Eagles back in 2018, and I think JL is modelling their game plan off that a little: Control possession through kick and mark, but also control the pace. Back then, you could gauge the Eagles’ wins by their mark count: 100 or more marks usually resulted in a win, if they took fewer than 100, it usually resulted in a loss. In Freo’s wins this year, they’ve averaged 104 marks and not gone below 90, compared to their three losses averaging 83.

Today the Dockers took 130 marks and only six were contested, probably showing they overused it a little bit – but they still managed 18 marks inside 50 from 59 entries.

So, are the Dockers too defensive?

Do they not play an attractive game of footy? I think to say yes, is a bit of a cop-out answer and probably not the right one. This was the first time the Dockers have scored over 100 points for the season, but they’ve only scored below 90 in one of their five wins.

So back to the main question – were they controlling or too slow. I think a little bit of both.

The Dockers lacked some of the run and overlap they had last week, and there were opportunities for handballs where they elected to kick instead. But they still weren’t slow about it. There wasn’t constant lateral movement and few kicks backwards. When they did go sideways or backwards, it was with purpose and positivity, not for safety . They could definitely have been faster, they could definitely have taken more risks with their ball movement – but they controlled possession and field position so much, they probably didn’t feel the need.


Should Serong, Brayshaw and Fyfe (or Young) be spoken about in the same way we speak about Butters, Rozee and Horne Francis?

Probably not yet. The Port midfield have a few more runs on the board than Freo’s. There’s something about Butters, Rozee and JHF that resembles the great midfield trios like Kerr, Cousins, and Judd.

No, the Dockers’ mids aren’t in that ball park, but are moving towards it at a rapid pace.

Hayden Young is a beautiful kick of the footy on both sides (as all players should be) and he has that laconic nature about him where he seems to have more time than he should. Collecting 30 touches, eight clearances and two goals, he’s becoming the goal-kicking midfield that Fremantle have been looking for and enjoyed the space without Fyfe. At times today, I looked up and thought I was seeing a 22 year old David Mundy out there, which is high praise indeed.

Brayshaw is building his game nicely. 31 touches and five clearances. But if there’s one mid who should be getting attention, it’s Serong. Coming into this game having broken two club records this season – most disposals (46) and most clearances (17)) – he’s as much a mongrel inside mid as he is an important ball user on the outside.

Sometimes today, I went long patches without noticing him at all, but then realised that he’s been an integral part of every play. Other times, he had space all to himself and looked very much like classy ‘seagull’ type receiver. He collected another 38 touches – only the 12 contested compared to 20 las last week. He’s nearly impossible to defend because he can play inside, outside, and backs it up with solid tackling. Daicos, Sheezel and those types often make the highlight reels (deservedly so) BUT if you’re a young midfielder learning your craft: Watch and learn from Serong.


Effort is what counts

I think what disappointed me most about Richmond this game was simply their lack of pressure. They were a team very happy to run hard when they had momentum, but they largely allowed the Dockers to do what they wanted with the ball. They tried to match the style of controlling possession, but when you’re not winning the ball in the middle or not putting pressure on the kicker – you’re not going to generate enough possession for this style to work.

At the end of the game, Fremantle finished with 60 tackles to go with their 112 contested possessions and 36 clearances. When you compare that to Richmond’s 40 tackles, 16 clearances and 98 contested possessions, their lack of effort is exposed more than anything.

With where the club is at, I think coach Yze could excuse any number of mistakes, but even if everything else goes wrong, you can still control the effort you put in to get your hands on the ball first or, if you can’t, make life as difficult as possible for the opposition.


Nankervis dominating the tap

One big win for Richmond this game was Toby Nankervis. He was a massive presence in the ruck for the Tigers, making Sean Darcy look very un-Darcy like.

Darcy kicked a couple of goals, and was a presence, but ended up being subbed off in the final quarter. Whether this was strategic, they didn’t want to risk some calf tightness, or simply because of Nankervis’ dominance, I don’t know but I do know the decision would have been made a lot easier to make as Darcy was not showing much against his opponent.

In Darcy’s defence, he is still building fitness coming off injury, so it’s understandable he’s not at his best – but that doesn’t take anything away from Nank. He was huge.


Is the Darcy/Jackson thing working?

This question is going to be asked every time one of those two don’t play well, and I think the answer doesn’t really matter. They’re going to make it work, regardless – and we need to stop looking at is as a ruck pair.

Darcy is the ruckman; Jackson is a utility (remember seeing that on a footy card and having no idea what it meant?). Jackson is a quality player you can put anywhere, and he’ll contribute – as he did this game. He wasn’t at his bestatbut this was also not at all his worst.

Having him ruck full-time takes away his versatility, and that’s a highly underrated attribute. Jackson could be a good enough ruck, he could be a good enough full forward, and he could even be a good enough midfielder. Freo has a master ruck and two emerging masters in the forward line. Having a jack(son) of all trades makes them all a little more powerful.


Where is Richmond at?

This is a transitional season for Richmond. As I said in the preamble, they can’t select a consistent side, they’re playing young players, but rebuilding isn’t their focus at the moment (we’ll expect that next year I think). There’s no point denying it any longer, that the Tigers made the same mistake the Eagles did a few years ago – sold the future for one last crack at a flag, and it hasn’t worked at all.

They should now have an eye on the future and make big decisions to get the right mix of youth and experience. Dusty is rumoured to go, and that might not be a bad thing – as great a champion as he is, he isn’t one (I think) to act like a player/coach off the field as some of the older guys do.

Is is worth them keeping Pickett? Sure, he was a Cinderella story, but the ball is over. Will he be worth anything on the trade table? At his age, probably not, but it’s worth finding out. Should they move on a player like Shai Bolton? As good as he is – he’s more style over substance.

Consider the needs of the next five years.

It’s not that they’re woeful, but they’re not good enough for long enough to be competitive against the better sides. I quite like Lefau in the forward line, even if I get that song from ‘Beauty and the Beast’ stuck in my head every time I hear his name – bloody kids.

Today, their best period of play was through the third quarter. There was belief, run, carry, and they just had a genuine crack, and it felt as running over the top and scalping a win was on the cards. The Dockers put a stop to it eventually, but the signs were still good.

Throughout the game, they showed glimpses. And this is should be their mentality from now on. Forget the result, just win the ball and make things happen. Mistakes will be costly, and there’ll be a few blow outs as the season goes on, but at least they’ll have some clay on which to sculpt a thing of beauty, because as of now, there isn’t much to inspire confidence.


The Rise and Rise of Josh Treacy

I felt a little sorry for Pat Voss after last week. He put in the kind of debut that should be rewarded. But it was inevitable that he’d make way for Jye Amiss.

Voss was recruited to Freo later in the summer, largely to replace their two key forwards on the long-term injury list, and also in part because while Amiss is building nicely, Treacy plays a more physical role and, while he’s been impressive, the Dockers aren’t quite ready to put all their eggs in that basket.

I think they can now. Treacy, still only 21, is quickly becoming a dominant forward. He kicked four goals today and four of his five marks were contested. He is an absolute beast around the ground and allows Amiss the space needed to play as a leading forward.

If Amiss is building in the Jack Riewoldt mould: slight in frame, athletic, and an intelligent leader, Treacy is starting to look a bit like Nick. Now imagine a team with both Riewoldts in their prime and then throw in Luke Jackson- that could be Freo in three or four years.


Final words:

This was a game for the purists. It won’t make the highlight package, nor will it feature in the media. It wasn’t a bad game, just not a particularly interesting one. A better side than Fremantle would’ve broken it open earlier, and a better side than Richmond would’ve made a bigger advantage from their third-quarter momentum.

As it was, the Dockers did what they needed to do – which is a positive sign for the team, who is still very young..