The premiers played like the premiers should for three quarters, and Fremantle played like a challenger for one. The Dockers had 33 points on the board after the first quarter, and added just 25 points over the course of the next three periods, as West Coast wore them down and ran over the top of them.
Whilst much will be made of the absence of Fremantle’s best player, Nat Fyfe, you have to wonder what he could’ve done to stop this wave of blue and gold crashing down on the Dockers?
The Freo forward set up continued to be an absolute free for all, with Jesse Hogan and Rory Lobb either not talking, or not listening to each other. They consistently flew for the same ball and spoiled each other in the air, the most significant collision coming on the wing of all places, when Hogan cannoned into the exposed back of Lobb.
For God’s sake – talk!
There is a supreme confidence about Dom Sheed at the moment. His fitness levels appear to be through the roof, and he just finds the ball over and over. He had 40 touches today, and if we were giving out JLT awards, his name would have to be close to the top as the best player of the series. He picked up clearances (eight), got his share of contested ball (13) and ran the show through the midfield in such a way that you would never have guessed this time last season.
And it’s not as though this was some midfield with no stars – all the big names were playing on-ball. Sheed was just the best of them. Again.
Speaking of the best, I heard the girl who plays for Adelaide in AFLW – Danielle Ponter state that Willie is the best of the Rioli family. How would she know, right? Well, she’s a part of the Rioli-Long clan, and apparently she didn’t hesitate in saying it was Willie.
Imagine that? Better than Maurice? Better than Cyril? Better than Michael Long? Far out… it’s a big call.
Well, it’s a big call until you watch how easily Willie is doing the things he’s doing at the moment. It’s no secret that he came to the club horribly out of shape and was still able to work his way into the team and then become an integral part of the premiership last season. This year he comes in with relatively good fitness, and it’s already reaping rewards. I’m thinking a Mongrel Punt JLT awards might have to be in order, as now I’m thinking Willie will have to be involved as well.
He was great last week, and he topped it this week. Maybe he and Sheed can arm wrestle for it? Or they can take a leaf out of the AFLX book and rock-off for it. Anyway, it’s difficult to think of anyone off the top of my head that’s been as impressive as Sheed and Rioli over the past two weeks. If you’ve got a name, hit me with it.
I want to take a minute to talk about Tom Hickey. I spoke highly of him last week, and damn it, I’m going to do it again. He fantastic today, and when he wasn’t winning clearances himself, he was giving silver service to his mids. In the first quarter, he simply muscled Rory Lobb out of the contest with ease, and snapped a great goal, but it was his sublime knocks in the middle that gave the eagles first use over and over
He had five clearances himself, and when he is in the forward 50, he is just expertly using his body to nudge out the opposing ruckman and win clean possession. I hope that doesn’t surprise you – Hickey was rated third amongst rucks last season for clearances, behind only Brodie Grundy and Stefan Martin. This is what he does, and as long as he can stay on the park, the Eagles have an absolute gem.
This brings me to Rory Lobb. Hang your head in shame, Rory, seriously. You’re a good player with great hands, but you were MONSTERED by Hickey at stoppages and spent your time running around the ground dropping uncontested marks. You’re better than that, and Freo recruited you to provide a great get out of jail option for them.
But you’re not doing that. When Nathan Vardy is switching onto you, you’re holding the bloke inside your defensive 50 and giving free kicks away. And then you’re complaining about it even though it was obvious! Either that, or you’re being beaten pointless by Vardy as he taps the ball down Willie Rioli’s throat and all but handing him a goal.
The goal I mentioned Hickey kicking above – Lobb was playing on him at the time. He was too easily moved out of the way, and too easily beaten in the air. Lift, son!
And I’m on a roll here… don’t stop me. Brandon Matera…
… what in the hell are you doing, mate? You’re like King Midas gone wrong, and instead of everything you touch turning to gold, it’s turning to shit! I thought you were bad last week, but this week you just raised the level of ineptitude to a level I thought you were incapable of. You dropped marks, missed targets, overshot handballs by 15 metres, missed open goals and had zero awareness when strolling into goal, resulting in you being tackled to the ground and being caught holding the ball.
On the serious side, I don’t think Matera has ever had a worse couple of weeks. You’ve got this old bloke – Hayden Ballantyne, who tries his guts out and can barely go these days, but it is the inability of Matera to do anything that keeps Ballantyne in the team. You know what you’re gonna get with Ballantyne – 100% effort.
Sadly, you know what you’re gonna get from Matera at the moment. Not much. He needs to get his head in the game and start making good on that potential, because it is evaporating right before our eyes.
Enough of the anger, you think? I don’t even know why I’m angry… I don’t follow Freo, and I’m not invested. I just hate when players who should be something aren’t something. Does that make sense?
There was a lot of talk about which Eagle will fill the void left by Mark LeCras. It looks like Jack Petruccelle is the flavour of the month, and it’s hard to argue against him, but I just want to add a little something to the debate. I hate when commentators jump on a bandwagon and miss what happened right before.
Petruccelle goaled in the last quarter and whichever commentator it was started singing his praises, but the guy doing the hard stuff and feeding him the ball – Jake Waterman – didn’t rate a mention. Now, Waterman could’ve blazed away from 45 and tried to cover himself in relative glory, but he did the team thing. He gave the handball to the running player and allowed Petruccelle to get a bit closer and dob the goal.
There wasn’t a mention from the commentators, but you know, you get a mention here Jake Waterman; great handball. That said, you’d give Petruccelle his shot in Round One, unless you prefer Oscar Allen? He was good, and looked like he belonged out there.
Jarrod Brander had flashes, but spending all of his time in the defensive half doesn’t bode well for his chances to swoop on a forward role in two weeks. Besides, I don’t trust his kicking over 30 metres yet.
Jack Darling takes the points against Alex Pearce, and in the end he did it quite easily. But for inaccuracy, everyone would probably be talking up just how dominant Darling was. Pearce is a quality defender, but Darling is a monster these days, and should just about be entering his peak years. He was the best forward in the competition last year before landing on his ankle, and didn’t quite get back to the same level. I’m hopeful he gets a clean run at it this year.
Michael Walters – I love the way he goes about it. I know it was a practice game, but he looked like he genuinely cared out there. He looked like he was one of a handful of Dockers after quarter time that looked like they cared. I thought he got a bit of a raw deal from the umpires, and was pinged the other way a few times.
Another couple of shining lights for Freo – Andrew Brayshaw and Ethan Hughes. Brayshaw is developing nicely, and should get plenty of midfield minutes this year as he continues to live up to the hype. Ethan Hughes took five intercept marks, and in a defence that was absolutely bombarded, he was able to show a little bit of poise and balance to pick off errant kicks.
Fingers crossed Brad Hill and Brad Sheppard get up for Round One. Hill adds so much hard run to the Dockers midfield, and Sheppard deserves better than this after his hamstring cost him a premiership medal. Brennan Cox... I think he misses. Hamstrings aren't to be toyed with.
A bit of a tough afternoon for Jeremy McGovern. He just looked a little underdone, and struggled to get his run at the footy. When he did, he put a couple of marks to ground with little pressure around him. It was un-Gov-like. Luckily, he had quality around him, and the Fremantle forwards did themselves no favours, with all of them flying for the ball like a bunch of seagulls after one chip.
How bad was Elliot Yeo’s shot at goal in the first quarter? I don’t think he could’ve missed by more unless he deliberately kicked it backward. He was 35 metres out and missed the goals by 20 metres. That was a shank and a half. Luckily, Nathan Wilson stepped in to out-shank him, spearing a pass to Petruccelle just inside the 50 from full back. That was a casual, lazy kick from a guy who needs to be reliable back there.
Let’s put it down to pressure, or implied pressure, but the fumbling of Fremantle reminded me of my mate Joe Ganino on a date. They looked like they didn’t know what they were doing!
Liam Ryan was really good today. Once again he was taking marks he had no right taking, against much bigger opposition, and once he comes down, he just looks so balanced and relaxed. Maybe a bit too relaxed as he did butcher it a little, but more than made up for it with his tacking.
Andrew Gaff is on cruise control at the moment. Given the events of year, I reckon he was just happy to get through this game without anything silly occurring… by him or to him. 17 touches is a quiet day by Gaff standards. Michael Walters certainly looked like he enjoyed being able to tackle him.
Good to see Chris Masten have a better game this week. He looked much more at ease, and the mistakes were few and far between. I really gave it to him last week.
Late in the game it looked as though Jesse Hogan started hitting his groove, which would bring a slight smile to Freo fans’ faces. He has been managed carefully all off-season, and seeing him play out the whole game, beating McGovern in a one-on-one, and demonstrating good vision inside evokes a bit of hope.
And to finish off, it was a nice moment between Gaff and Brayshaw before the game. I’m sure the image will appear on the pages of newspapers, but between the players, it was put to bed ages ago, so nice to see them do it publicly.
The Eagles should knock over the Lions in Round One, but I think the Dockers are a real chance to beat the Kangaroos as well. North aren’t functioning well at the moment, either, and are very susceptible.
Bring on Round One.
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