What got us talking: Are the Dockers on the dive?
Last year, Fremantle finished top of the ladder. They were minor premiers for the first time in the club’s history.
They did go down to the Hawks in a home preliminary final. But after coming so close to another premiership opportunity, there was conversation that Freo would be there-abouts in 2016.
But the Dockers’ start to the season has not lived up to those lofty expectations.
In round one, Fremantle went missing at Etihad Stadium. The Bulldogs dominated the Dockers, beating them by 65 points. Freo only had one goal to their name at half time, and it didn’t get much better than that, only scoring 38 points for the entire match.
Brownlow medalist Nathan Fyfe was quiet and Matthew Pavlich barely touched the ball. The exclusion of Aaron Sandilands and Michael Johnson also didn’t help the cause.
After that below-par performance against the Dogs, Coach Ross Lyon was expecting his side to bounce back.
But their round two result was once again inadequate.
The Suns pushed through at Domain Stadium, taking the four points in a solid performance. Gold Coast’s score of 126 was also a telling sign. For two weeks in a row, Fremantle conceded 100-plus points to their opposition. The last time that’s happened? Round 14, 2012.
These losses have left commentators shaking their heads. Where was the Fremantle we all were waiting for?
Many have said the changes in the deliberate out of bounds rule and the exclusion zone around the mark are the causes of Freo’s fall from grace.
Ross Lyon has also admitted to tinkering around with the game plan this season. But he has refuted calls that the rule changes are to blame for his side’s average start.
The Suns scored 6.1 from centre clearances; four of those in the first half from only five entries. From these figures, Lyon has said Freo’s defence is actually the issue.
“I don’t think the rule change has affected that. We’ve chosen to go a certain way out of the middle that has certainly left our backline exposed and not coping,” Lyon said. “And our mids are not coping, so we certainly have to look at that.”
Nat Fyfe also weighed in, labelling his team’s effort as “clearly not good enough”. But he does believe the players need some time to adjust to the new game plan.
“There has been some change and some shift,” Fyfe said. “Our old structure worked quite well for a number of years, and we are trying some new things to try and give us an edge.”
“Clearly they’re not working at this point. But it’s our job to keep the faith in them and keep working hard, and hopefully the results will align with the mentality.”
It will be interesting to see how long the Dockers persist with their changes. The allusive ‘premiership clock’ is ticking and a lot of their stars are not getting any younger.
But if they continue to dish up performances like the last two weeks, then maybe Ross Lyon will flick the switch and revert back to his old style.
The first test is this week against the Eagles. Always a fierce opponent, this contest will have a little bit of extra bite as Freo try to even out the ledger. Add in a West Coast Coast side trying to bounce back from a Hawks’ trouncing and we have an interesting match.
Fyfe is confident a different side will come to play this week.
“We’ll lick our wounds, regather and come for a big derby,” Fyfe said.
It’s early in the season and for all we know the Dockers could go on to win the Premiership. But in this moment in time, for your fans and your critics; I really hope so Nat.
What we learnt from round 2
– Never be too confident (especially if you’re Melbourne… or Richmond…)
It was a hard week for Demons’ and Tigers’ fans. From going in certainties and losing to the Bombers’ B-team, to having victory snatched away with four seconds to spare; it was definitely a week to forget for these two sides. Hopefully they learn from their mistakes?
– Grand Final’s are not won in round 1
After beating the Hawks, the Cats were primed as 2016 premiership contenders. Now a loss to the Giants is not the end of that discussion. But maybe we all shouldn’t base our bets off one performance.
– Grand Final repeat
There was definitely a sense of déjà vu in this match. It was exactly the same result; score line and all. The Eagles haven’t learnt, the MCG still proves to be allusive, and the Hawks are still just too good.
What we can expect from round 3
– Are the Dogs the real deal?
The “sexy” football of the Western Bulldogs will be tested this week as they come up against the reigning premiers. While the setting is Etihad, and the Dogs have won the last eleven straight there, it’s always hard to go against the Hawks. Still expect to see a close match.
– The Western Derby
Not much more to say on this topic, but the match will definitely be telling. Expect West Coast to bounce back, while the Dockers fall short.
– Crows to add to the Tiger’s misery
Touted as finals contenders during the pre-season, and with the captaincy being questioned, the Tigers will need to bounce back from their shocking performance. While there won’t be a repeat of last week’s final two minutes, the Crows are playing some exciting footy. It could be two in a row (on the wrong side of the ledger) for Richmond.
(First published on Bound For Glory News on the 7th April 2016)