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Tale of the tape for your AFL team in 2018: Fremantle


Young Fremantle ruckman Sean Darcy took to senior footy like a duck to water and made an instant impact in his first eight games. Photo: AFL MEDIA

Tale of the tape for your AFL team in 2018: Fremantle

Ronny Lerner    

FREMANTLE
2017 record: 8 wins, 14 losses (14th)

THE INS
Nathan Wilson (GWS), Brandon Matera (Gold Coast), Andrew Brayshaw (Sandringham Dragons), Adam Cerra (Eastern Ranges), Hugh Dixon (Tigers FC – TSL), Mitch Crowden (Sturt), Tom North (Eastern Ranges), Lloyd Meek (GWV Rebels), Sam Switkowski (Box Hill Hawks), Scott Jones (East Perth), Bailey Banfield (Claremont), Stefan Giro (Norwood)

THE OUTS
Hayden Crozier (Western Bulldogs), Harley Balic (Melbourne), Lachie Weller (Gold Coast), Shane Yarran (retired), Zac Dawson (retired), Garrick Ibbotson (retired), Zac Clarke (delisted), Jonathon Griffin (delisted), Sam Collins (delisted), Josh Deluca (delisted), Matthew Uebergang (delisted), Nick Suban (delisted)

THE STRENGTHS
Many are predicting a prolonged absence from finals for the Dockers, but they have a pretty strong midfield to build from which could help them fast-track their journey back to September. Nat Fyfe, Bradley Hill, Lachie Neale, Stephen Hill, David Mundy and ruckman Aaron Sandilands, assuming he’s fully fit, have the ability to provide plenty of headaches for their opponents. Michael Walters is one of the best small forwards in the AFL and former Giant Nathan Wilson adds some quality to a developing backline. Coach Ross Lyon would be rapt that Harley Bennell finally managed to play a couple of games late in the year. If he can recapture his best footy, he could provide some serious X-factor. The Dockers also became kings of the close games in 2017, winning four out of five games that were decided by less than a goal. That ability to consistently get the job done in a pressure cooker environment will be an invaluable learning experience for the team’s youngsters and prepare them for when they do eventually return to the finals.

THE WEAKNESSES
It must be said, however, that their 8-14 win-loss record was slightly misleading. While it was truly commendable that they were able to win four games by less than a kick, when you look at their percentage, it tells a very different story of where the team is at. Only wooden-spooners Brisbane (74.3) had a worse percentage than Freo (74.4) in what is a damning statistic. The Dockers were pumped by 100 points or more on three occasions by Adelaide, Richmond and Sydney. Given those three teams were widely considered to be the best teams last season, it perhaps gives an accurate illustration of how far off the pace Freo are. In terms of 2017 differentials, the Dockers were ranked last for disposals, last for uncontested possessions, last for uncontested marks, second-last for goals, second-last for contested possessions, third-last for tackles and fourth-last for inside 50s. In simplistic terms, the Dockers are one of the easiest teams to play against, and that is a fact that would eat away at Lyon, who made his name on being in charge of tough, uncompromising, high-intensity football sides. Only Carlton scored fewer points than Freo last season, and while a lot of that has to do with the lack of pressure occurring in the middle of the ground, the forward line has to take its fair share of the blame. With just 49 goals between them, at a combined average of just 1.3 per game, Cam McCarthy and Shane Kersten were badly exposed and clearly need more support.

ONE TO WATCH
Sean Darcy took to senior footy like a duck to water and made an instant impact in his first eight games, which is pretty rare for young ruckmen. Sandilands will be 35 next year so it remains to be seen how many more games he has left in his stellar career. However, one thing is for sure, he had better look over his shoulder, because Darcy is gunning for that No.1 ruck spot and is coming hard.

UNDER THE PUMP
Danyle Pearce has a huge fight on his hands to extend his career beyond 2018. Next year is the last year of contract and he turns 32 in April. The former Rising Star winner only managed seven games in 2017 after not missing a game in 2016 and appears to be well and truly on the outer as Lyon continues to invest heavily in youth.

RONNY LERNER’S BEST 22
B: Lee Spurr, Michael Johnson, Griffin Logue
HB: Nathan Wilson, Joel Hamling, Ethan Hughes
C: Bradley Hill, David Mundy, Stephen Hill
HF: Michael Walters, Brennan Cox, Harley Bennell
F: Shane Kersten, Cam McCarthy, Hayden Ballantyne
Foll: Aaron Sandilands, Nat Fyfe, Lachie Neale
Inter: Connor Blakely, Darcy Tucker, Cam Sutcliffe, Luke Ryan
Emerg: Sean Darcy, Brandon Matera, Andrew Brayshaw

One of the most interesting talking points next year will surround the No.1 ruck spot. Sandilands obviously has the runs on the board and has first dibs, but for how long? He has been restricted to just 15 games in the last two seasons due to injury and youngster Sean Darcy finished the season with a head of steam and already looks the goods. A lack of genuine key forwards ensures 19-year-old big man Brennan Cox is a walk-up start while Alex Pearce will have to prove he is up to the rigours of AFL footy before he is given a call-up after a broken leg kept him sidelined for 18 months. Andrew Brayshaw is an emergency for now, but it wouldn’t be surprising if, by the end of the season, he broke into the senior line-up. Ed Langdon, Brady Grey and Adam Cerra are a little unlucky to miss out on the best 25.

4 Comments
  1. I don’t know Ronny Lerner is but he has a lot to learn, Freo were very unlucky with injuries last year but hopefully next season will be different and if that’s the case they will be premiers 2018 without a doubt.

  2. Rohan Connolly

    I DO know who Ronny Lerner is, a long-time football journalist who really knows his stuff. And if you’re going to have a crack at him, I’d humbly suggest you back it up with some evidence. Because no call that he has made in this piece is anywhere near as big as your claim that an injury-free Fremantle will be premiers “without a doubt”.

  3. You’re not really that humourless are you RoCo?

  4. Freo won some close ones and lost some close ones against decent sides (Geelong and GWS away)

    The issue was 4 blow out losses, but you get that playing 7-10 new players in your side (B Hill, Hamling, Kersten, Maca, Logue, Darcy, Ryan, Nyhuis, Cox) and having your best player coming back from a broken leg and losing 2 of your best early in the season (Sandi and Ballas)

    Freo have a side that is brimming with pace and talent, but which is now a very young and inexperienced side.

    Expect Cerra, Brayshaw and Crowden to get senior time in 2018. I think they are a 7-12 side. 7 if no serious injuries and Pearce and Bennell get on the park for the season.

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