The Fremantle Dockers recovered from a spirit sapping post-siren loss to Carlton last week to shut down the Sydney Swans. The Swans won their last match, against the Greater Western Sydney Giants with attacking play, and the Docker defenders were determined to close them down. The Docker defense, with their three best defenders in stands due to injury, was again the story of the night. Though this week the ending was more to the Docker fans' liking. Brennan Cox and Luke Ryan had 11 marks (catches) between them and when they couldn't mark, they spoiled their opponents marking chances. The two main Docker defenders were well supported by Nathan Wilson, Reece Conca and Ethan Hughes. The Swans made 43 attacking entries but were only able to boot two goals. At the other end of the field, the Docker forwards didn't have it all their own way either, managing just eight goals from 34 entries.
Despite the fine conditions it was a game of unspectacular close fought football. Neither team was able to break free and set up wide open attacking play as both coaches poured players into the contest. The Swans, through the good ruck work of Callum Sinclair, held a slight edge in hitouts, but the clearances at the center bounces and around the ground were shared between the two teams. James Rowbottom, playing just his 24th game for the Swans, was strong in the packs making a game high eight clearances. He was well supported by Josh P. Kennedy (returning from injury) with five clearances and Nick Blakey, who seems to have found his best niche in the middle of the ground. The Docker midfielders Nat Fyfe, Andrew Brayshaw, and David Mundy kept the center ground contests even by clearing the ball thirteen times between them. The midfielders of both teams applied intense pressure around the ball, with Sydney laying six more tackles. If there was a difference in the midfields, it was that the Dockers used handballs to get out of trouble better than the Swans; and also to free up players at crucial moments. The Dockers created a few vital breaks by having a player free of pressure to deliver the ball forward, and their forwards didn't let them down. The height of Matt Taberner and Rory Lobb troubled Swan defenders Lewis Mellican and Tom McCartin, with both of the big Docker forwards marking at crucial times. Taberner took nine marks (five contested) and each of Lobb's five marks were contested. Sydney big man Tom McCartin booted the first goal of the match after four minutes of play, but Sydney's next goal didn't arrive until the sixth minutes of the final quarter when rookie Sam Wicks, marked and kicked truly. Between those Sydney goals, the Dockers kicked six unanswered majors to leave Sydney with their lowest score since the club moved north from Melbourne in 1982. (Sydney were previously the South Melbourne Swans.)
Both teams lacked a clear system into attack and the game was mostly contested in the midfield with pressure on the ball shutting down any chance of free-flowing play. Jake Lloyd got plenty of touches for Sydney and Oliver Florent and Luke Parker gave James Rowbottom support around the packs. Harry Cunningham picked up lots of kicks in defense for Sydney, along with Callum Mills who played another dependable game on the half back line. The Swans have a long injury list and will be relying on their young players, with only Kaiden Brand able to return before the end of the year. Their chances of making the finals evaporated with their loss to the Dockers and they will now be working to give their younger players as much experience as possible.
Although the Dockers probably won't make the finals, their long-term future appears bright, with young players such as Andrew Brayshaw (26 possesions and 7 tackles), Caleb Serong, Adam Cerra, and Lachie Schultz making steady improvement. Next week Sydney will have a tougher test, when they play in Adelaide against the league's leading team, Port Adelaide. The Dockers remain in Perth to play the Giants at Optus, before heading for the Queensland hub to finish the season.
Scores Fremantle: 1.1 4.4 5.7 7.8 (50) Sydney: 1.2 1.4 1.4 2.7 (19) Best Fremantle: Ryan, Brayshaw, Fyfe, Mundy Serong Sydney: J Lloyd, Cunningham, Blakey, Florent, Rowbottom
Article last changed on Monday, August 24, 2020 - 8:41 PM EDT