The Fremantle Dockers "out-hawked" the Hawthorn Hawks at Optus Stadium in a game that signaled the turning fortunes of the two teams. The young Dockers played a traditional Hawthorn game plan, hard at the contest when the ball was in dispute but controlling the tempo of the game when they had the ball in hand. The Dockers were patient in setting their attacks and used their plan of retaining possession and moving the ball across the ground, until an avenue of attack opened. It was a dour struggle between the backlines as the defenses for both teams held firm for most of the game. The difference between the two teams was the tenacity of the young Dockers' attack on the ball supported by their ferocious tackling.
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The Collingwood Magpies were surprised by the Fremantle Dockers with a shock defeat at Optus Stadium. The Dockers were harder at the ball and used pace to outrun their more experienced opponents, and recorded their first genuine home victory in this unusual season. A first quarter where a team failed to score would normally have a coach ranting, but Justin Longmuir was impressed with how his young players handled their higher profile opponents. What the young Dockers lacked in skill was compensated with by endeavor. They were first to the ball and won more than their share of contested possessions. A team of hungry committed players will often defeat a better credentialled team, and the Dockers showed that if a team can get enough players to the ball, the chances of winning are increased. A bit of straight kicking also helps.
Optus Stadium was the location for champagne football on a fine Sunday afternoon and the next day became the venue for a rain-sogged slugfest. This Monday night's (Perth time) game saw the Geelong Cats finish convincing winners by booting six goals against the undermanned Fremantle Dockers. It was a rain-soaked game where the team with the highest number of fit and mature bodies would win. The Dockers fielded a team without a recognized tall defender and their dual Brownlow Medalist captain Nat Fyfe was one of eleven Dockers on their extensive injury list. The Cats had an injury list nearly as long, which included Gary Ablett, Joel Selwood, and Rhys Stanley. It wasn't the number of non-injured players that won the Cats the game; it was the physical maturity of the players fielded, which gave them the winning advantage.
The Fremantle Dockers defeated the St Kilda Saints in one of the most dramatic games of this remarkable season. The Dockers were without their four best defenders and were exposed early by the Saints' height in attack, but worked their way back in the game using their new possession-oriented kicking game plan./p>
The Dockers were in disarray in the first quarter, evidenced when one of their most experienced players, Michael Walters, started the drama by kicking in the wrong direction at a center bounce. The Saints then received a 50-meter penalty after Docker defender Nathan Wilson mistakenly thought his team had a free kick and played on. The penalty brought Tim Membrey to the goal square to boot his team's first goal; all of this within in the first minute of play. Sean Darcy was influential in the ruck early for the Dockers and moved forward to mark (catch) against opposing ruckman Rowan Marshall and open the Docker's account at the 7-minute mark. From there it was all Saints, as they won the contested balls and booted long to Ben King, who looked set for a field day against the Dockers' undersized defense. The Docker defense did well to spoil marks, but when the ball hit the ground the Saints' small men: Jack Billings, Dean Kent, Dan Butler, Zak Jones, and Jack Lonie, all swooped in for goals. The Saints were running on adrenaline and at the end of the first quarter the only question was how big would be their final winning margin.
The Fremantle Dockers survived a third-quarter attack from the Adelaide Crows to break through for their first win of the season. The more experienced Adelaide players controlled the ball in the midfield for long periods of the game, but the Crow forwards were wasteful in front of goals and delivered spirit-sapping misses. The once-mighty Crows, who were Grand Finalists in 2017, now sit at the bottom of the AFL table with little to suggest they have the players, or the desire, to challenge other teams. The young Dockers played without their captain and dual Brownlow medallist, Nat Fyfe, were missing their three biggest defenders; and yet ran out comfortable winners against the physically stronger Adelaide team.
A powerful second quarter, in a deluge of biblical proportions, was enough for Port Adelaide to set up a commanding lead over the Fremantle Dockers. The young Dockers challenged Port in the first quarter but were easily pushed aside during the waterlogged second term. The bigger bodied Power played hard-nosed wet weather football and the Dockers watched. The bruised Dockers steadied in the clear conditions after halftime but were unable to make inroads on the Port lead.
The Dockers began the game with plenty of pluck, matching Port in the packs in the first quarter. Two goals to Matt Taberner and singles to Travis Colyer and Brandon Matera saw the Dockers lead by a goal at the first break. As the match progressed, the undermanned Dockers
AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan has announced that the AFL season will resume on June 11th. Just prior to the announcement, teams were permitted to begin non-contact training in groups of no more than 10. Teams will now be allowed to begin full contact training on the 25th. However, training will be limited to two sessions per week. Players and officials from all clubs will be required to be tested 24 hours before each training session. When matches do resume, umpires will also be tested. Testing will continue for all for the duration of the season.
The league is still working on the schedule for the season but is expected to have that by the end of the month. In making the announcement, McLachlan said, "Today is a significant step in getting footy back ... as this situation continues to evolve, we have to remain agile and flexible to ... adapt ... while ... we continue to prioritize the health and welfare of our players, staff, and the wider community and ... don't place any burden on the public health system."
On the day the AFL began COVID-19 testing of AFL players, its hopes of restarting the competition were rocked by a letter from the South Australian government. The AFL intended to have a three-week training period for all teams, in a lead-up to the first AFL game in mid-June. The league looked set to announce an opening game on June 11th, between Collingwood and Richmond, but those plans may now be derailed. The South Australian government has ruled-out an exemption for AFL teams entering its closed borders without a mandatory 14 day quarantine. The Crows and Power were planning to fly in and out of South Australia on a weekly basis, to play in Victoria. In a further blow, the South Australian Government has also stipulated that no football players in South Australia can train in groups of more than ten (and training must be non-contact) until June 8th. The Crows and the Power will now have to find a training base at an east coast location, as soon as possible, if the league is to meet its mid-June restart date.
AFL boss Gil McLachlan has been in consultation with all state governments, premiers, and medical officers about a return date, which could be as early as mid-June with 16 rounds and the Grand Final at the end of October. The league wants to do everything possible to conclude the season before the horseracing season which commences soon after the Grand Final under normal circumstances.
The prospect of hubs in their full capacity is looking more unlikely. The season could resemble the traditional format with a few exceptions. Fremantle and West Coast, both of whom oppose hubs as an option, ironically could be forced to play "home" games in other states due to West Australia's strict border restrictions. So far, the clubs have not had success convincing the WA state government to ease those restrictions.
With so many sports competitions suspended, former AFL player Pat McAfee, who now has his own podcast, was looking for something to watch. He tripped across the opening round AFL match between Essendon and Fremantle and is now a diehard convert. Unfortunately, just after he discovered the game, the AFL announced the suspension of the season until the pandemic is over. While he couldn't quite figure out all the rules, he says he will keep watching when the game resumes and even has a dream of becoming an AFL player. Below are links to his stories and even a link to an "audition" video he posted.
Former NFL player Pat McAfee's AFL audition video has received an endorsement from Hawthorn legend Dermott Brereton. Brereton believes he has potential. Below is the link to the full story with a video of McAfee kicking a Sherrin and a link to a related article:
Sources: espn.com.au, themercury.com.au, foxsports.com.au