Fremantle v Essendon - The Good, Bad, and Ugly

For the first time in a while, the Dockers are able to field a close to complete team, and the results that followed were impressive. Despite a spirited effort from Essendon away from home, the Dockers’ pressure and commitment to the contest saw them run out 16 point winners.

Here’s The Mongrel’s good, bad and ugly of their Round 2 clash.

THE GOOD

Haydn Ballantyne

Welcome back, little fella. As a footy fan, I’ve missed you.

The mouth was working, the little legs were pumping, and when it was his turn to go, he went. Ballantyne knew the contact was coming from behind. He didn’t flinch. He took the mark, he took the hit, and he took the applause.

If only he could’ve converted on the kick, which didn’t make the distance from 35-40 metres out.

He may not have scored on that occasion, but Ballantyne was integral in several other goals.

Nat Fyfe

Watching from home, I had the feeling that Fyfe was absolutely dominating the air. I had a quick look at the stats at half time – he had three marks. But I know why I felt that way; every mark he took was overhead. He doesn’t get the easy marks from backward kicks. He leaps at it and takes the tough ones that actually matter.

Loved watching him at the feet of Sandilands again. Here’s hoping that Fyfe gets a clean run at it for the whole season. If Fremantle plays like they did against Essendon, there should be several three-vote games attached to the name N Fyfe.

Devon Smith

The Bombers had three big names come to the club in the off-season, but Smith has now established himself as the most promising. He is a relentless worker, and a good user of the football.

While players like Zaharakis and Stringer struggled, Smith continually made space and ran like a demon when he got it. Saad has also been good, and limped off at one stage. His job on Betts last week was great but he didn’t have the same influence this week.

David Mundy up forward

So this is where they send big-bodied, ageing midfielders to put their feet up, is it? Luckily, Mundy has no intentions of putting his feet up. His 22 touches and two goals were just what the doctor ordered for Freo.

Mundy’s ability to stay cool in a crisis, and deliver big goals from distance may just be the remedy for Fremantle’s forward woes. Combined with Matt Taberner, they could provide some real headaches for opposition defences. The forward fifty looks particularly dangerous with a fit Ballantyne teaming up with Brandon Matera (if they can stay out of each other’s way) and Michael Walters resting forward.

The “hang in there” Bombers

Judging by the amount of play Fremantle had in the first quarter, they should’ve been way in front.

They weren’t.

Again later in the game, you had the sense that Fremantle were in full control of the game.

The scoreboard said they weren’t.

Good teams have an uncanny ability to stick around and swoop on chances as they arise. The Bombers did one of those two things tonight, but with several players down on the night, one positive aspect is that despite being thoroughly outplayed for most of the game, they lost by less than three goals.

THE BAD

Jake Stringer

We saw two Jake Stringers in the pre-season. One sat around and looked lost. The other played a week later and looked sharp and switched on.

In this game, we got the first version. Stringer not only wasn’t effective, unless the ball came to him, he looked disinterested. His second efforts were poor, and even though he had two nice moments, both involving breaking tackles, there was zero consistency to his performance.

If you’re an Essendon supporter, I think you’d be hard-pressed to claim you’re happy with what you’ve received from Stringer thus far. In this game, you got the guy who phoned it in for the Western Bulldogs last year. You need the guy who was All-Australian. I’m not sure he’ll ever be close to that again.

Baby Giraffe Joe

The gap between Joe Daniher’s best and worst is far too wide. I think I’m safe in saying that he didn’t look too threatening at any stage today. He looked less like the man poised to become the best forward in the game, and more like a baby giraffe out there. Much credit must go to Alex Pearce, who was incredible on the big man all game, but Daniher didn't look like threatening.

Not that it’s entirely his fault. The delivery to him left a lot to be desired, and left him flat-footed or under the ball several times. He did work hard at ground level – one of his tackles resulted in a late goal for the Bombers. However, Joe is in the team as a high marking forward, and on tonight’s efforts (from both him and his teammates passing him the ball) it’s hard to grade his game as anything but a fail.

THE UGLY

Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti

Usually I struggle to spell his name because I’m old, and I’m getting forgetful. Today, I didn’t bother to look it up. I guess my efforts with his name match his effort in the first half when he returned stats of 0 kicks, 0 marks, 0 handballs and 0 tackles.

Yep, that’s right, four donuts for Tippa. He was like Homer Simpson’s best mate.

It did not appear that there was a hard tag on him. He just could not find it. So what do you do when you can’t find it? You work on your defensive pressure, right? I remind you – 0 tackles.

Was gifted a goal in the third quarter, but he’d already done his dash with me.

Hang your head in shame, Tippa. That was terrible

OTHER BITS

I’d like to place a wager on Michael Hurley being the number one kick-in target in the league. Opposition teams would be wise to have someone close to Hurley after every behind they score.

I thought Bellchambers had some good moments against Sandilands over the journey.

Josh Green was up and about early, but faded a bit after half time.

Luke Ryan’s front-on tackle on Joe Daniher was as good as it gets. Daniher went for a bit of a fend off and Ryan was having none of it. Holding the ball.

One stiff arm I did like came from Brad Hill on Jake Stringer. Didn’t think you had it in you, Brad.

Freo’s coast to coast work was excellent on a couple of occasions. Hard running for each other was fantastic, as were the foot skills.

Love the run of Lachie Neale. People outside WA will start taking notice of him soon. Ditto for Alex Pearce - was master of the dangerous Daniher all game.

Seeing Nathan Wilson back himself to run away from Tipungwuti either speaks of his enormous confidence in his own speed, or a lack of respect for Tippa’s ability to chase him down. Either way, he was correct.

In the third quarter, the level of Fremantle pressure started to get near their memorable 2013-levels. I’m sure it made Ross Lyon smile.

Stephen Hill’s kick from full back… ugh! Gifted Tipungwuti a goal.

I felt that Brandon Matera was almost there tonight. Just failed with his foot skills, but was getting to the right spots. Persevere with him – I think he’ll come good.

How good was Hurley’s 40 metre pass to Cale Hooker in the third quarter? How terrible was his next kick when he got the handball back from Hooker, when he kicked it straight out on the full?

Hard to do a review without mentioning the Fremantle backline. Alex Pearce was tremendous on Daniher, Wilson was fantastic as well, and Connor Blakely took all before him.

Play of the game – Fyfe marks at half back, transfers play into the centre. The ball ends up with Brad Hill who gets it to Langdon. Goal. Excellent stuff.

Stringer’s best piece of play came with less than three minutes left. Broke two tackles at a stoppage, handballed to McKenna for a goal. Too little, too late.

 

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