Fletcher Roberts isn’t the flashy modern footballer we’ve come so accustomed to over the last decade. He’s tall, lanky and at times lethargic, in the mold of current board member Matthew Croft and West Coast legend Darren Glass.
He’s not the Adonis type that elderly and children adore, like Marcus Bontempelli or Anthony Koutafides.
It’s easy to forget he attracted attention of AFL clubs after kicking four final quarter goals to steer the Sandringham Dragons to a TAC Cup premiership in 2011. It’s easy to forget he was only drafted in the pre-season draft of 2012. It’s easy to forget he kicked a sixty metre bomb after the siren to lift the Footscray VFL side to a comeback victory to consolidate second place on the table in the 2014 season.
But thankfully great footballers aren’t determined by their Supercoach points, rather their contribution in successful sides. Roberts has already contributed.
In an inconsistent season where Roberts was fighting for a spot in the best twenty-two with Joel Hamling and Marcus Adams, he came to the fore when it mattered. With a bit of luck – Matthew Suckling succumbing to an achillies injury after the semi final victory to Hawthorn – Roberts found himself in the side when it mattered.
A preliminary final away to GWS, he needed to perform. This was arguably the most important match in the modern history of the Footscray/Western Bulldogs Football Club, and with the improving form of Joel Hamling he may have been playing for his career.
Play for his career he did. The defensive trio of Roberts, Hamling and Morris were essential in shutting down GWS’ formidable talls. Roberts equalled his season and career high of twelve one percenters that game while Patton, Lobb and Cameron were restricted to seven goals, the latter to none, modest by their standards.
Onwards to the biggest week in Footscray Western Bulldogs history for fifty-five years.
Even though Roberts’ contribution in the Preliminary Final victory was immense, his place in the side for the Grand Final was in question as Matthew Suckling was a possibility to return. But Luke Beveridge rewarded good form and the two time premiership Hawk was named as an emergency, behind Roberts.
Even though the Bulldogs previous three weeks were arguably the best a side has played all season, the majority of the ‘experts’ were backing Sydney. The first half was tight, but the Bulldogs ran away with the game in the last quarter, and the rest is history. The sixty-two year premiership drought was over.
Sydney tall forwards Franklin, Tippett and Naismith were nullified, only combining for one goal between them – although Franklin picked up an injury early in the match. Fellow defenders Dale Morris and Matthew Boyd were amongst the best, while Roberts and Hamling were described as the ‘Odd Couple’.
The duo whom had only amassed a collective of sixty games between them, were premiership defenders, forever immortals in the inner western suburb of Footscray. In the Grand Final they combined for six marks and nineteen one percenters, as their pressure and defensive acts on Sydney’s big men were key clogs in taking out the premiership.
As earlier rumoured, during the circus that is the trade and free agency period Roberts’ partner on Grand Final day was gone.
Joel Hamling was traded to Fremantle along with picks forty and sixty-three for picks thirty-five, forty-three and sixty-one after requesting a trade back home to Perth. It was also rumoured injured defender Marcus Adams was also looking to go back to Perth, but that trade never materialised.
Even though much of his teammates were recovering from injury, Roberts had an injury-free pre-season for the first time in recent memory. According to sources he’s been one of the better performers in pre-season training and is confident in his ability going into the season.
In the opening pre-season match against Melbourne, Roberts had an impressive game being one of the Bulldogs best defenders in a narrow loss. He then followed up to play the final match against Gold Coast and is likely to line up round one with Dale Morris and Zaine Cordy.
As Roberts’ contract is up at season’s end, he’ll be looking to have a breakthrough season and consolidate his spot in the best twenty-two. With the poor pre-season form of Marcus Adams, the age of Dale Morris and the inexperience of Zaine Cordy and Kieran Collins, Luke Beveridge will no doubt give Roberts every opportunity to prove his worth and reliability.
His time is now, and Fletcher Roberts is ready.