AFL Round 6 – Gold Coast v Fremantle: Saturday night’s for fighting, bad decisions, skill errors and 10km on Sundays

Twelve months ago the Fremantle Football club came across the Nullarbor plain, saw the revamped Carrara as Metricon Stadium for the first time (having played at the location in 2009 prior to redevelopment in a 9 point win over Carlton), and were very nearly conquered by the upstart Gold Coast combination. There were 10,000 locals last Saturday Night looking for the tide to be turned, but in the end their hopes were dashed thanks to the poor performance of their team.

Once upon a time Fremantle were once known as a team of turnover merchants thanks to their (at the time) high risk possession style in the early Gerard Neesham era. It seems that mantle has been passed on, which may sound harsh on the back of a single performance at home. While it wasn’t a wide expectation that the home side would even their ledger at 3-3 (John Singleton’s mate who apparently knows what the punters want would have been amongst most bookies who would have made the purple haze strong favourites), several believed that if there was an upset result that could happen over the weekend formerly known as Labor Day weekend in the Sunshine State (holiday since moved to October after the NRL Grand Final) then this was the match.

To say that the Fremantle forward pressure didn’t have an impact would be a lie, for it was more often than not that their starting 7 man backline for the centre bounces would evolve into a 15 man defensive unit for the stoppages in the Suns forward 50. It’s a style of game that our club locally are trying to perfect and trying to combat at the same time, so I can assure you it isn’t a simple task to find space to execute the skills to a level where teams can be victorious long term. The problems for Gold Coast came when it was their turn to rebound from their defensive half, where the Fremantle numbers were closer to a 12-14 player marking system flooding the midfield areas. The problem is that there is no excuse to miss targets on their own with little to no pressure around them, both with foot disposal and handball. It was reminiscent of the day I first signed up as a Bulldog member (ironically the next home opponent for Gold Coast, but with local footy commitments I won’t be attending) when Richmond played in a similar manner.

There is a worry though that I see with the Fremantle side, which relates again to the style of play that is being employed. Sure they won the game handily and with the absentees from what many would regard their best XXII there is some merit in a road win which they need to win at least 4 out of their 10 to make September. However too many times, with the lead at a comfortable margin, the numbers would drop deeper into the back half without real necessity (none of Tom Lynch, Sam Day or Charlie Dixon prior to injury) looked like making an impact in a one on one contest let alone when many dropped into the defensive 50. Instead of looking to attack and turn a convincing win into a real percentage booster that the very elite teams would achieve, the Dockers would look to chip the ball around take their time and be content to keep the lead at a comfortable margin. It’s almost certain that they would get praise from the coach, given that a similar plan gave his past employers a shot a premierships. But long term playing a low scoring style tends not to work when it comes to the crunch, and whilst the style may become more free flowing once the cavalry recovers from injury to improve the side, I worry that teams in September will find a way to outscore them rather than be allowed to be stifled.

That said, when a team can counter attack to maximum effect and provide space for Michael Walters to continue his damaging form why change a thing. Fremantle have always been kind to the smaller forwards from Winston Abraham to Paul Medhurst, Jeff Farmer to Hayden “The Agitator” Ballantyne (who himself chipped in at times). Walters this time last year was about as popular in the Docker camp as the Waterhouse family is in the Singleton camp. Now he would have been given the rave reviews the Carlton small men are getting if he were playing in Melbourne.

At least the second quarter saw a couple of spot fires to at least get the gathering a little peeved. Whilst a lot of attention is given to Ryan Crowley’s old school application of tagging Number 9 (that’s G.Ablett for those playing at home) which had some effect (but wasn’t the decisive factor in the victory), the agitation started from an unlikely source. Lee Spurr was a run of the mill member of the Central District juggernaut in the SANFL for many years, but he would get admiration from the coach and playing staff not for running through a player when he had time to pull out given the opponent had taken the mark, but for whom he ran through. It’s not often players target the biggest dog in the pound, but the Suns physicality is basically provided by Karmichael Hunt and this was the first time that anyone I can remember in this code actually dishing out what he often gets credit for providing. To be honest I was surprised it wasn’t sufficient enough to cause at least a points penalty with the MRP, for I felt it was high contact with medium impact as opposed to the official line of insufficient force and no further action. It seemed to rub off on Alex Silvagni, although to be fair Number 9 was tackled into him so despite the reaction of the Suns players this incident was unavoidable.

Which brings me to why I was on the Coast for the weekend. I would have loved to say that the football would have been the main focus of the weekend, but the reality is that I almost decided not to go (much like the decision to go to the Grand Chancellor’s Gym rather than wander down Surfers Paradise that afternoon). The Sunday morning saw me join about 2200 others in pounding the pavement based around the home of the Gold Coast Titans at Robina, for the 2nd edition of the local paper’s fun run. Based on what I had seen the previous evening, running 10km would be a piece of cake for it would be easier to be involved in something painful rather than sit through a painstaking performance. Everything was working well, even seeing the leading runners pass in the opposite direction was a boost, until just after the mid distance turn when the old troublesome left calf started to hurt. Then shortly afterwards the left shoulder felt as though it was trying to cramp and it was difficult to try to loosen the shoulders (I had given up on loosening the calf until the run had finished) and maintain a decent pace. Don’t ask how, but despite the pain and ailments I did manage to complete the course in 50:40 which is a personal best time……OK it’s easy to set a PB given this was my first properly timed run over the distance. To put it into perspective, dual international Mat Rogers completed the same course in a time 8 minutes quicker.

Maybe if the Suns were as composed and as accurate in their disposal as we were in our running, perhaps they can move up the AFL’s pecking order. As for me, it’s a quick rest to try to get the calf and shoulder to heal before a fortnight of local footy and a trip ironically enough to Perth for a 12km running event on the day of Fremantle’s home fixture with Melbourne. If you are doing the HBF Run For A Reason, I hope to see you there!

 

MATCH DETAILS
GOLD COAST 7.12.54
FREMANTLE 15.9.99

SCORERS
GC: O’Meara 2.0, Hunt 1.1, Bennell 1.0, Prestia 1.0, Ablett 1.0, Harbrow 1.0, Shaw 0.2, Stanley 0.1, Rischitelli 0.1, Smith 0.1, Dixon 0.1, Thompson 0.1, Lynch 0.1, RUSHED 0.3
FREO: Walters 4.1, Griffen 3.0, Crozier 2.0, Suban 1.1, Sutcliffe 1.0, Hannath 1.0, Silvagni 1.0, C.Pearce 1.0, Mayne 1.0, Mzungu 0.2, Ballantyne 0.1, D.Pearce 0.1, Crowley 0.1, Duffield 0.1, RUSHED 0.1

BEST
GC: Harbrow, O’Meara, Brennan, Prestia
FREO: Walters, Griffen, Suban, Ballantyne, Duffield, Crowley

(If I was giving votes on this game, it would have been (3) Michael WALTERS (FREO), (2) Jonathan GRIFFEN (FREO), (1) Jarrod HARBROW (GC))

OFFICIALS
FIELD: Justin “One too many letters in the surname” Schmitt, Ben “Just kick to me because I will run run run” Ryan, David “Not famous enough for any quote” Harris
BOUNDARY: Nick Wade, Nick Liparota, Gerard Large, Drew Kowalski
GOAL: Shaun Apted, Tristan Symes

About Mick Jeffrey

32 Year Old, Bulldogs Member and tragic. Reserve Grade coach after over 225 combined senior/reserves appearances for Brothers AFC in AFL Capricornia. 11 time Marathon finisher, one time Ultra Marathon finisher and Comrades Marathon competitor 2017.

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