R10 – St Kilda v Fremantle – The Mongrel Review


There’s a lot going on around this game. Fremantle were playing for a spot in the Top 8 & St Kilda were looking to save their season. Both teams are capable of playing good footy. However, on the flip side, both teams are also capable of playing ordinary footy, and the Saints have often, in recent seasons, brought out the worse in Fremantle. I could sense a bit of Jekyll and Hyde about this game, and that’s exactly what we got.

Here’s what I saw.


Webster V Freddy

In the first quarter, Michael Frederick went back with the flight and had Jimmy Webster coming the other way.

You could almost feel the stadium hold its breath as people knew a big collision was imminent.

With eyes all on the ball, there was a huge crash of bodies, and Frederick was, unfortunately, ruled out of the game with concussion. This is one of those incidents that will be looked at, but shouldn’t be. No free was awarded, and there really wasn’t much Webster could have done to avoid it – except not go for the ball.

If that was his only option, it means that it was also Frederick’s only option, and watching two players standing still, waiting for the ball to land, is not something I am willing to abide. It is very important to reduce concussion from the game, but it’s important to remember that removing it completely is impossible – reduction and proper treatment should be the aim. Automatically penalising the bloke who causes concussion is not the way to achieve that.

Play on.


Clearance versus Post-Clearance stats

At half time, Justin Longmuir mentioned the Dockers were “minus 18 in post-clearance possessions.”

This isn’t a widely used stat, but I think it is an interesting one in the context of this game and explained why Fremantle seemed to be on-top in the contest, but didn’t seem to be able to create momentum. Whereas, when the Saints got the footy, they seemed to be able to move and find a lot more space. Letting the opposition get their hands on the footy first is very unlike Ross Lyon, but in this game, it seemed to work. The Dockers may have got their hands on it first, but such was the pressure from the Saints, the Dockers had little or no options to use.

In the second half, JL adjusted and Fremantle were more willing to go one-on-one, allowing their players to spread more and find more options. The Dockers ended up dominating the clearances 49-34, but in the second half they got a lot more bang for their buck. The Dockers managed to create space and pace out of the contest and create 17 inside 50 marks and 31 shots at goal from their 53 entries. The Saints didn’t really have an answer for this adjustment, and as a result, the Dockers maintained the momentum for most of the second half.


Max King throwing his body around

The stats won’t show that King had a great game, but I really enjoyed how he threw his weight around and competed in every contest. Sometimes the ball doesn’t quite stick and things don’t go right, but you can always compete and make things happen anyway, which is what Kingy did.

Earlier in the week, King received some feedback in the media, with Jason Dunstall stating he wished he could show the young star footage of the way Wayne Carey attacked the contest. King responded as though he listened, with his ability to crash packs allowing the St Kilda crumbers to get to work. His defensive pressure and tackling were also excellent. Whilst he didn’t manage a goal on the scorecard, he still contributed well – perhaps even contributing more than Mitch Owens, who kicked three early and then disappeared completely.


Marshall V Jackson

This might have been the match up of the night. Marshall and Jackson shook hands at the start and then didn’t really bother to defend each other at all.

Both players managed to win 39 hit outs apiece, and  dominated out of clearances at different stages of the game. Both impacted like genuine ruckman, which is funny, because all you ever hear from people is how Jackson is really a forward, and Marshall is like an oversized mid. Not today, they weren’t – they were the big men in this game and they both played like it.

If I had to pick a winner, well, part of me wants to go Jacko because Marshall should be beating him. But I am not going to. Jackson only managed the three kicks to Marshall’s 11 at a more efficient rate. Simply put, Jackson got the ball and more often than not, gave the responsibility to someone else. Marshall took the responsibility himself and, more often than not, made something happen. That said, Jackson’s ten clearances… it kind of sways it back a little. I mean, Marshall “only” had eight, right?

A terrific match up between two fantastic mobile big men all night.


The Classic Seven-Point Play

The game was turning into death by a thousand cuts in the last quarter. Ten combined behinds had been scored in a row by both sides, when it looked like Jeremy Sharp finally was able to convert. Except, on video review, it was revealed that the shot was touched on the line. The game reset and the kick out from the Saints was awful, offering an easy goal to Treacy and a classic seven-point play.

But now let’s talk about that accuracy with more seriousness, because it was awful.


Freo’s accuracy, or lack thereof

Fremantle kicked 4.15 last week and would have wanted to turn it around this week. Their forward line actually functions pretty well – the players all contribute in different ways, which gives them space to work in, and they usually score fairly efficiently from their inside 50s, which might be surprising to read. But their accuracy is costing them games. They began the Derby with three behinds before allowing the Eagles to win momentum, and last week they gave us appealingly symmetrical scorecard of 1.10.16 to 10.1.61.

Tonight, they continued to miss very kickable goals. Patrick Voss, who leads beautifully, struggles to finish off. Amiss? He seems to be living up to his name. The man who blasted into the AFL with the nickname “Nev Amiss, well, he’s quickly becoming “Amiss Often.” He’s got an interesting run up – a little bit Josh Kennedy like, though more casual. It’s traditionally worked for him, and he’s been quite public about his routine. I’d be looking at what he was doing last year and seeing if what he is doing this year is slightly different. Because there’s something wrong there. Is he getting too close to the man on the mark? It appeared as much at one stage, as he slotted one of his five behinds for the night.

He could have had a big night out, here.

In the second half The Dockers looked like they could take the game away from the Saints and won comfortably, but in the third quarter, they managed just 1.5 to St. Kilda’s 2.2 and in the fourth it was 3.7- 1.2 Now I am not some nuffy who’ll say that could’ve been 5.1 – once you swap one of those behinds into a goal, the entire game from there would be completely different, so It’s impossible to say what would’ve happened. But what is easy to explain is the benefit of momentum and in the second half the Dockers build plenty of that, but they weren’t able to capitalise. You can be as good as you want around the ground, but as they say – bad kicking is bad footy.

Amiss finished with 3.5 and Voss 1.3. When most of your scores are coming from key forwards, they need to be reliable.


Great Tackle Webster, Great tackle Pearce – tiny match winning moments.

There are little, game-defining moments in footy that don’t get talked about enough, and Jimmy Webster’s tackle on Michael Walters will be one of them. With Wangeneen-Milera’s kick affected by a good half-tackle from Emmett, Walters had the ball in a plenty of space. Webster got there, and while his tackle wasn’t massive, it was enough to dispose Walters of the ball and save a certain goal.

Later in the game, with any result possible and the Saints rushing forward, Alex Pearce came from nowhere to land a huge tackle and send the ball back inside Freo’s 50. These are the little standard setting, often match winning moments that coaches will show the team during the week and should be celebrated.


Definitely not Phillipou’s night

It wasn’t Phillipou’s night. In fact, he had a mare, only finding the ball a few times. But he couldn’t buy a trick. He claimed a very good looking contested grab, about ten metres out with almost enough time to swing the game, perhaps. But the umpire had other ideas and called it a touched ball. The replay was in the ump’s favour, but I get the feeling if he’d kicked five, that one would’ve been paid. Sometimes you get the goose and sometimes the goose gets you. He kicked a nice goal in red time, but it was a nice consolation for a pretty poor game.


What went wrong for the Saints?

I can’t really put my finger on it. They weren’t bad, they just weren’t great and then pretty much folded under Freo’s run. I think what they’re lacking is identity. They weren’t their miserable defensive selves, but they didn’t take the game on with any kind of flair. Watching Fremantle, there is a clear sense of purpose in the backline, a clear sense of direction with the ball. Even the forward-line seems to have some kind of system or logic. But with the Saints tonight, I didn’t see anything that they could lean on.

Ross Lyon has always been about effort, pressure and winning the contest – well, the pressure dropped right off, they had 20 fewer tackles, and they never really won the contest, except when Marshall was involved. They managed to hold things together for the first half, but there are players whose pressure is falling away far too rapidly after the main break, and it will continue to let teams off the hook. They are not a bad team, but they are playing bad footy in long patches, if that makes sense.

When the chips were down, who was standing up? King tried, but was never going to be a match winner with Alex Pearce draped all over him. Wanganneen-Milera had 31 touches but wasn’t inspiring fear in his opponents. They just lacked anything to lean on, any predictable system. It was almost like they simply expected to beat their opponent and that would be enough. They didn’t and it wasn’t.


Final Word

Before watching this game, I was watching  A Series of Unfortunate Events – and  that might be the name I’ll give Freo’s forward line, but in the end, they were the much better side. Where the Saints started each quarter stronger, Fremantle finished them stronger. Where the Saints started the game strong, Freo finished it strong running out 9.18.72 – 6.7.55 winners.

I think Fremantle are doing a lot right – they just need a little bit of polish. As For St. Kilda? There’s a bit of sculpting to do yet. They’re not ready to tackle marble sculptures and produce some fine art. They may have to go back to Year Three art class and get back to basics before they can piece together something beautiful. Maybe an ashtray.