After beating the Brisbane Lions by 40 points at Patersons Stadium on Saturday, Fremantle must be considered a premiership contender. However, the Dockers need to sort out their forward line if they are to truly challenge for the flag.
They have lost only twice this season and have not tasted defeat since going down to Hawthorn by 42 points in Tasmania, seven games ago. But Saturday’s 12.14 (86) to 6.10 (46) victory was an arm wrestle, against a side that is destined to finish in the bottom section of the table.
Defender Michael Johnson only managed to provide the deciding goal, his second for the game, 22 minutes into the final term, making the margin 39 points. The fact that Johnson and others can run forward and kick a couple of goals is what has made the Dockers so dangerous in recent weeks. But that his two goals were so important to the Dockers winning is an issue. It was glaring that a key forward is the missing piece in Ross Lyon’s puzzle as the Dockers continue to grow.
It must be frustrating for all involved with Fremantle to have captain Matthew Pavlich and the biggest man in the competition, Aaron Sandilands, sitting on the sidelines. Both are still listed as being two weeks away from returning from injury, but Pavlich has not played since round three and Sandilands has not stepped foot on an AFL ground this season. It is going to take a while for them to regain their touch, as both had leg or foot injuries, so running would have been an issue.
The Dockers had nine goal scorers in the win against the Lions, but it was still a struggle. Their first goal of the game, 13 minutes into the opening term, came from Johnson, who managed to run forward from defence and get hold of the ball, uncontested, just outside 50 metres.
For much of the game, midfielder David Mundy led their scoring, with two goals.
It doesn’t help that the Dockers’ leading goal scorer for the season – Michael Walters with 19 goals – is also sidelined through injury, and is also a fortnight away from a return.
But credit must go to Brisbane for being able to make life tough for the Dockers, whose one loss at home this season came against Essendon, by four points in round three.
Michael Voss had his match-ups right, particularly in key positions. Despite Patersons Stadium being the biggest ground in the AFL, there was not much room for the impressive Fremantle midfielders to run, particularly in the first half.
Voss challenged his young side to play man-on-man football, and for much of the contest they were able to do so.
This was a Brisbane side that had four teenagers on the ground and 11 players who had played less than 50 games, compared with the Dockers’ six players.
But while they were able to keep scoring opportunities for their opponents to a minimum, they could not create enough of their own to challenge for the win. They kicked only five goals.
While one player would not normally make a difference to a game’s result, it would be interesting to see how the game would have played out if Lions skipper Jonathan Brown, who was sidelined through suspension, was available to play.
The second term was particularly frustrating. The Lions went inside their attacking zone 11 times for the term but returned only 1.6. Veteran Ashley McGrath looked the most dangerous in attack and did kick their sole major for the term.
Jordan Lisle booted three goals but didn’t really make the most of his opportunities. He kicked his third after the siren.
At one stage, Lisle kicked the ball from inside the Lions’ goal square and it went straight up in the air and did not make the five metres needed to cross the line.
It was just that type of quarter.
As good as Brisbane was though, with Sam Mayes, Ryan Lester and Mitch Golby presenting a challenge for the Dockers, experience was always going to be a big decider in this contest.
Mundy, who had just two touches in the opening term, finished with 27, and Michael Barlow 32.
Sadly, the man who set the Lions’ games record on Saturday, Simon Black, finished his 319th game on the bench wearing the red subs’ jacket. And that is sure to be a talking point this week.
The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.