AFL Finals: Fremantle team preview

5 September 2012

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Source: AFL

Home and Away Review

Fremantle’s first game of the year against the Cats at home was one to watch. It was Ross Lyon’s first home-and-away game in charge of the Dockers, hosting the reigning premiers.

In a match that went down to the wire, the purple brigade scraped away with a four-point victory. The scoreline, 105-101, suggested we would see a change from Lyon’s defensive game style he had adopted with the Saints, but it wasn’t the case.

Fremantle lost three games in a row from Rounds 8-10, against the Hawks, Eagles and Adelaide at home, creating doubt that the Dockers wouldn’t improve on last year’s finish.

They managed to break the streak against the Tigers before the mid-year break, but that didn’t turn the fortunes, with Collingwood and Essendon both knocking off the Dockers mid-year.

It seemed doubtful they would make the finals from there, but they managed a smashing victory over rivals West Coast, which went on to set up important wins over Richmond and North Melbourne to sneak back into the eight.

Their form going into the finals is peaking at the right time.

Key Finals Player – Aaron Sandilands

The big man has played just 12 games this year, but the Dockers cannot win the flag without him. He was injured in Round 11, and missed more than 10 weeks, before returning for the Dockers in their last three vital games for the home-and-away season.

With Jonathan Griffin now able to play as that second ruckman, as well as pinch-hit up forward, the combo will be all-dangerous, especially against a weak Geelong ruck outfit.

Sandilands has proved the last three weeks that he can hit the ball to advantage, allowing Fremantle’s midfielders first use of the Sherrin.

Fremantle’s midfielders must take advantage of that, especially if Sandilands comes up against Shane Mumford or Sam Jacobs in week two.

Why the Dockers can win the flag

They have some quality footballers all across the ground, and Ross Lyon knows how to get teams into Grand Finals.

With captain Matthew Pavlich finishing the year with 62 goals, they have some obvious fire power up forward.

Hayden Ballantyne and Tendai Mzungu both have an eye for goal as the small to mid-sized forwards, while Michael Barlow, Stephen Hill and Nathan Fyfe provide class through the midfield.Not to mention David Mundy, who has blossomed in the last month with possession tallies of 31, 27 and 32 over the last three weeks.

They also have a relatively easy run with finals, with Geelong and possibly Sydney in a semi-final, before Hawthorn in a preliminary final should all go to plan.

Why the Dockers can’t win the flag

Who will stop the Thomahawk? Fremantle lost arguably its most important player in Luke McPharlin with a hamstring injury, and while it may only be a two-to-three week layoff, the Dockers don’t have that much time to wait.

The star fullback is in line for All-Australian honours this year, and has been the rock of the Fremantle defense. Retiring defender Antoni Grover looks the likely replacement, but Geelong’s Tom Hawkins has been unstoppable in the last half of the year, and the McPharlin loss is too great.

Besides that injury, you’re only as weak and your weakest player, and at the moment, there are still a few too many kids running around in the purple jumper.

It was a good result in making finals, but the Dockers aren’t expected to be making a preliminary final.

Best Possible Result – Preliminary Final

Even that is very hopefully wishing, but the Dockers will find Geelong this week harder than Sydney the next (should the Swans lose to Adelaide).

They’ll be taking it one week at a time however, and Ross Lyon knows how to play a game on his terms. They must run the Cats off their feet, and the smalls and mids must help Pavlich score a big total, while the mids also need to give the McPharlin-less defense a chop out. If they get through and meet Sydney in Sydney, they’d be every chance, with Lyon’s history at the Swans.

Should Sydney upset the Crows this week however, the Dockers are little to no chance of beating Adelaide at home.

Damien Ractliffe is a third-year Bachelor of Journalism student at La Trobe University and part of upstart‘s editorial team.  You can follow him on Twitter: @DamienRactliffe