The Fremantle Dockers returned to winning form by harassing and pressuring the Hawthorn Hawks with four quarters of attacking football. The Dockers returned to their game style of 2022; utilizing pressure around the ball, quick handpasses, running through the central corridor and direct transitions into attack, to record their highest score since Round 1, 2019. The Hawks matched the Dockers in the midfield for three quarters but fell down with poor delivery up forward. Most of the Hawthorn errors were a direct result of Fremantle's pressure on the ball, but even when the Hawks did find space they still made fundamental mistakes to allow the Docker defenders to regain the ball.
Despite the scoreline, Fremantle did not have the game totally on their own terms. Until three quarter time, Hawthorn dominated the center clearances thirteen to five. The Hawks had made only three less forward entries than the Dockers. Connor Nash, James Worpel, and Will Day routinely sent the Hawks into attack from center bouncedowns, forcing the Dockers to fight for the ball in defense before they could set up attacks. Fortunately for the Dockers, Luke Ryan was a rock in defense and Hayden Young's surgical kicking delivered the ball into attack. Caleb Serong also provided an essential link in the midfield and made a game-high nine entries into the attacking arc. Jai Newcombe, Dylan Moore, and Harry Morrison played the same role for Hawthorn by delivering the ball forward a combined seventeen times, however their kicking lacked the precision and depth of the Docker midfielders.
For three quarters, the Hawks almost matched the Dockers for contested possessions and the ruck combination of former Docker, Lloyd Meek, and Ned Reeves had the better of the Dockers ruck combination of Sean Darcy and Luke Jackson. Darcy lifted in the last quarter; and after Nat Fyfe entered the match in the third quarter, the Dockers won more clearances in the center and around the ground at stoppages. For the whole match, Hawthorn had limited avenues to goal. Poor delivery to Meek or Reeves when they were stationed forward made Docker defender Alex Pearce's job of spoiling marks (catches) relatively simple. Pearce had a welcome return to form after a few weeks where he struggled to have an impact. Luke Jackson also returned to the form he showed as a Melbourne premiership player. His twenty-four possessions, six marks, seven tackles, and two goals illustrated why the Dockers traded two first draft picks to get him on their roster.
What would have pleased the Docker coaches most was a return to a style where their players played on instinct and took risks. With Andrew Brayshaw and former Hawk, Jaeger O'Meara, directing play in the midfield, the Dockers owned the central corridor, once the Docker defenders gained possession. Attacks through the center opened up the forward line with eleven Dockers booting goals. Jye Amiss booted three and assisted with other goals, while Michael Frederick used his speed and marking ability to also kick three goals. Mitch Lewis was the only multiple goal scorer for the Hawks. Chad Wingard and Will Day were busy up forward for the Hawks but could only manage one goal each.
In terms of age and games played, Hawthorn has the youngest team in the competition. The Dockers are the second youngest team. The gap in their respective rebuilds is two to three years. With players like Will Day, Karl Amon, Harry Morrisson, and Conor Nash the Hawks have players for the future. The club took a brave stance in trading out established stars such as Jaeger O'Meara and Tom Mitchell. Today's loss returns them to the bottom of the table, from where they will be able to add additional talent at the next draft. It will be a tough year for the Hawks but their priority is now building for the future. It is difficult to gauge if the Dockers have turned the corner with their performance against the Hawks. The Hawks are lacking big bodies in the midfield and the speedy young Dockers were able to do their thing unimpeded. It will be a totally different proposition against a stronger team. The Dockers have taken a step backwards this year, but sometimes young teams do that as part of the maturing process. A trip to Sydney next week to play the Swans will provide a clearer guide as to where the Dockers are at. The Hawks also have a very tough game next week, the Melbourne Demons at the MCG. The Demons were almost beaten by the Gold Coast Suns and will be wary of taking the Hawthorn Hawks lightly.
Scores Fremantle Dockers: 5.3 10.4 14.6 18.9 (117) Hawthorn Hawks: 3.2 5.3 5.5 7.6 (48) Best Fremantle Dockers: Brayshaw, Jackson, Ryan, Young, O'Meara Hawthorn Hawks: Nash, Morrison, Amon, Day, Worpel
Article last changed on Saturday, May 06, 2023 - 6:05 PM EDT