Rick Browner reporting for AFANA from Patersons Stadium, Western Australia
Two weeks ago at Patersons Stadium, the Fremantle Dockers played their first game against Geelong as if they were Grand Final material. In Round 3 against the Brisbane Lions they looked second rate.
First blood went to the Lions with Todd Banfield awarded a free kick after Stephen Hill bamboozled himself and ran too far with the football. Brisbane was all over the more fancied home side which was hesitant in its disposals and not kicking truly when in possession of the ball. Both teams had a full court press on with their zones and the game resembled a chess match as each side tried to move the ball forward. Unfortunately it was not a Boris Spassky-Bobby Fisher level game but more like their unprepared understudies stepping into the spotlight. Clancee Pearce bobbed up for the Dockers to kick their first goal from a free kick, making two goals from free kicks so far in the match. The ball was camped in the Dockers’ forward half but it was an untidy rugby-like affair with many stoppages and the ball trapped underneath a pile of players. Zac Dawson pulled out of a contest when it was his turn at the plate, resulting in Daniel Rich kicking a goal to give the Lions a three point lead as the siren sounded.
It was more of the same in the second quarter with stop/start play, knocking the ball out of bounds and no playing on after a mark. It was a pedestrian and unexciting match that was waiting for a spark to get the sides to engage. Each seemed intent on slowing the play down and not taking chances. It took 11 minutes into the quarter before Fremantle’s Matthew Pavlich scored a goal, again the result of a free kick. Both teams activated their substitutes around this time when Brisbane’s Matthew Leuenberger appeared to injure his calf and Jared Polec came off the bench. Fremantle’s Nathan Fyfe was crunched in a hard shepherd and popped his damaged shoulder so substitute David Mundy took the field to cheers from the Dockers’ hometown crowd. Mundy had suffered a long-term injury and this was his first game back for some time. Polec was right in the game and, on the back of another free kick, scored a goal from his first touch. It looked like the Lions were going to go on with it, but Mundy lit up the midfield and his pass and the resulting goal to Pearce were inspirational. Mundy was in the thick of things again moments later when he scored a goal of his own to gain a slim 11 point lead for the Dockers at the end of the first half.
As the teams came onto the ground for the second half, Coach Ross Lyon said that he wanted his side to take on the game and play on more when they were one-on-one to increase the tempo of the game. Skipper Pavlich took this message to heart and booted a 60 meter booming kick that appeared to score a goal. There was a video referral from the umpires that had the score overturned, but nevertheless the Dockers’ intensity had lifted. Zac Clarke scored the next goal from a turnover and it looked like the Dockers were off to the races at last. There were six inside 50 meters so far in this quarter for the Dockers to zero for the Lions. Dawson again proved brittle in the back line with a turnover that gave Daniel Merrett a much-needed goal to steady Brisbane. Polec converted from 60 meters out to give the visitors some belief that they might pull off a win. The Lions were breaking for their teammates and getting some run off the ball. However the heat was taking a toll on the skill level, which was surprising as both sides come from the hotter parts of Australia and are used to training in very warm conditions. The Lions had a few players cramping and seemed to be running out of legs as the game progressed. Josh Mellington gave his side a healthy break when he booted a clever check side kick deep in the left pocket late in the third quarter to take the Dockers out to a 16 point lead. Had they kicked straighter earlier, the game would have been all over much sooner.
Brisbane was on record pace for having the least inside 50 meter arc entries since this statistic had been recorded. It is all very well to win possession around the half back line but scoring goals is the only way to win games and that happens up forward. To this point in the game the Lions had been inside their attacking zone a puny 17 times. Pearce, a much-improved player who is relishing his opportunities in the big League, put the nail in the Brisbane coffin when he kicked truly from 55 meters out. For the remainder of the match Brisbane bumbled around with the ball and didn’t look a patch on their first round performance against Melbourne.
Brisbane find themselves languishing in the bottom half of the Ladder with a game against the Gold Coast Suns to come next round. This will be no pushover as the Suns acquitted themselves well against Essendon this week. The Dockers go to Melbourne to play St Kilda in a game that will be tough and a good indicator of their form on the road.
In a footnote to the game, Dockers’ ex-coach Mark Harvey received a standing ovation from the Fremantle members as he walked past them to take up his viewing position with new club Brisbane. Fremantle unceremoniously dumped Harvey last year in controversial circumstances and Ross Lyon (2011 St Kilda coach) was appointed in an unpopular coup. The members’ show of respect may indicate a misreading of their feelings about the matter by senior club management. Ross Lyon will almost certainly not get the same reception when he steps onto the park against St Kilda.
Scoreboard Fremantle: 1.4 4.7 6.13 6.16 (64) Brisbane: 2.1 3.2 5.3 5.5 (35) Best Players Fremantle: Barlow, Mzungo, McPharlin, Pearce, Sandilands, Clark Brisbane: Reddin, Rockliff, Patfull, Drummond, Polec
Article last changed on Monday, May 28, 2018 - 5:36 PM EDT