AFL Round 12 – Fremantle v Adelaide: Beautiful as Grace Kelly

That hoary old chestnut – does a coach have a responsibility to the game beyond their team winning? I hate when the Crows play a team coached by Ross Lyon – it’s a guarantee for a dull and frustrating encounter… and, more to the point, we usually lose. The behind the ball press is a recipe for ugly football – it says to your opponent the only way you will win is bloody ugly – wearing an Australian flag as a cape ugly.

I’d love to occupy the high moral ground in this debate, but I had no problem with an aggressive press when Nathan Bassett implemented it to great effect at Norwood. With three grand finals and back to back premierships in the bag my perspective was very much that winning premierships was Fred’s one and only job. The lack of a premiership is the only thing that makes Ross Lyon’s playing style impeachable from that perspective, although he was only some Milne incompetence away from two premierships at St Kilda.

Nevertheless when the opportunity arises I park myself in front of the TV and don the hair guernsey, happy, at least, that BT is not commentating. The Crows start brightly, tackling harder and forcing midfield turn overs in tight. Charlie Cameron looks the part as he kicks a couple while some normally dependable Fremantle players miss at the other end. If anything the Crows should be further in front at quarter time but just lack the delivery and class to be so.

Sandilands is everywhere in the second quarter including going for a two bounce run down the wing. It doesn’t end well, but if you’re seven foot tall you probably don’t spend too much time practicing your run and carry. Fremantle traps Adelaide in its defence as the Crows’ midfield pressure drops off and only wasteful finishing denies the Dockers a decent lead. Classy Cameron snags another to put the Crows back in front with an undeserved two point lead at the break.

Early in the third Jenkins absolutely messes up an around the corner left foot snap as does big Tex (sometimes even Stevie J isn’t Stevie J so I’m not sure why everyone else in the league all of a sudden thinks they are) and that is all she wrote for the Crows. Perhaps Radiohead performing Street Spirit (Fade Out) will be the next pre-game entertainment at Adelaide Oval. Fyfe further demonstrates he is a doer not a thinker by snapping a difficult goal and missing a relatively easy set shot. Zac Dawson then kicks a goal and I check twitter for news of hell freezing over.

From a personal perspective the best thing that happens in the last quarter is Ballantyne booking himself a mid-season holiday with a high hit on Jaensch (tribunal pending). Otherwise it is simply embarrassing for the Crows who seem to have no plan to retain the ball or move it quickly and bravely enough to avoid the Lyon trap. While Lyon’s game plan resulted in a frustrating encounter that was painful to watch, like many traps, today it only caught the stupid.

Big wraps on the defenders today – Dawson, McPharlin and Spurr comprehensively held Walker, Jenkins and Betts – Spurr the standout. Luke Brown took another scalp in Ballantyne, Rutten was surprisingly effective on Clarke, while Talia was lucky that Pavlich didn’t have his kicking boots on.

So where to from here? The game will go on regardless of coaches’ tactics and the debate will go on following the Queen’s Birthday game that made this one look like Grace Kelly circa 1955. With the Crouch brothers each having 31 possessions against a good side in the SANFL and the Crows’ half forward line desperately needing someone who lowers the eyes (yes, Sando, I’m talking about Mitch Grigg), expect to see some changes for the next game as the Crows continue the stagger for eighth spot. Fremantle can expect better things than the Crows this year, particularly with Sandilands up and about but I don’t know if they’ve got the full package.

Our votes: 3. Spurr 2. Sandilands 1. Mundy

About Dave Brown

Upholding the honour of the colony. "Play up Norwoods!"


  1. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Spot on Dave. I went for a Sunday arvo walk with Mrs Swish and missed the second quarter. Got back in time to see the two worst attempts at non-drop punts ever.

    As the non-BT commentators remarked, you either practice those, or you don’t try them at all. They may as well have been kicking a soccer ball.

    Its taken a while for the penny to drop with me, but clearly there is no on-field leadership at the tricolours. What Danger does is “follow me” type leadership, but none of the others can do the stuff that he can do (although Sloan tries to sometimes).

    Who is it that is saying, “well that didn’t work, from now on we do this” – are they scared to try something different, even though the same-same ain’t working?

  2. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Good write up Dave and unfortunately a very predictable game and result we lack depth and understandably have missed , Henderson , Lynch and Crouch
    I also agree with , Swish leadership is just so vital and in that area we have missed , Van Berlo he is thought of extremely highly internally and in the football industry in general . It is no coincedence that average sides in the comp are a mile below in this area than the top sides , it is going to be interesting to see where these two sides end up if Freo can finish , 2 two home finals await

  3. Dave Brown says

    Thanks, gents – yep, you both may be right about the leadership. It was like watching Craig’s Crowbots in the second half – handpass backwards then kick and hope. At least with Van Berlo missing the club has had an oppotrunity to look at the two most likely to replace him.

    Agree with you on Danger, Swish, although the opportunity is there to make himself a Gary Ablett Jr style leader. I’m a Sloane fan but he is trying to do too much at the moment. Will be interesting to see how Walker develops as a leader at the club too – by all reports he is very influential amongst the team. If he can impose himself further on games by bashing and crashing in the midfield when the team is struggling (a la Pav) he may be part of the solution.

  4. Sean Gorman says

    Just to think the Crows could have had Pav – Daveo despite the score (that is divorce yerself from it) the game was not as boring and dour as you suggest. In saying that you mirrored our go the bomb out of the backline in last years GF – and we know how that ended. And just to be a total wanker Ballaz was always gunna make a…

  5. David Zampatti says

    That’s it, I think, Sean. Most of the perceived “ugliness” in Fremantle games is what the Dockers do to their opponents, not what they do themselves. Ball in hand, there’s plenty of flair in Fremantle , from McPharlin and Johnson through Hill, Fyfe, Mundy, Suban, Pearce up to Pav and Ballantyne and Walters, and statistically (2013 stats), I understand Freo take the ball up through the corridor more than any side other than Geelong .

    What Freo gets criticised for more often than not is the way they set up when they DON’T have the pill; the “strangle” the “press”, the “grind”, the way their defensive structures work. Well, one’s tempted to say “toughen up, princesses”. It’s hard to expect Freo, or anyone, to play an open, free flowing DEFENSIVE game, because there’s no particular correlation between the longed-for shoot-out and just letting the other guys score lots of goals, on the basis of some supposed aesthetic principle, when there’s something you can do about it.
    And if Lyon (and Roos and Clarkson and Thompson and pretty much all the AFL’s successful coaches) have figured out that you don’t necessarily have to get the ball back quickly, just often, it’s hard to suggest they commit professional hare-Kari and, I don’t know, wave the other team through to goal.
    It was a bit like that a few years ago when the hard tag, exemplified by Crowley and Rawlings, came into the game. Somehow, this was unfair, had to be stamped out,, it was a blight on the game. As if guys standing around waving Chris Judd and Stephen Hill through because it was a delight to see them in full flight was something admirable. Or something that any sane coach was going to countenance.
    As you say Dave, it’s easy to sweep just about anything under the carpet if it wins you games, but I suspect the thinking that goes into the criticism of Fremantle’s game plan is as muddy as it is wishful.

  6. Dave Brown says

    Thanks Sean – choosing Kenny McGregor over Pav is the single biggest recruiting mistake the Crows ever made. One can only imagine how the 05, 06 and 12 campaigns might have been different with him at CHF. Glad you got enjoyment out of the game :) And as for Ballantyne (love the filmclip BTW) I’ve given up trying to work out what is sanctionable anymore and it appears the MRP feels the same way.

    David – beauty is definitely in the eye of the beholder. As my fence sitting in the article suggests, I see both sides (and have been the grateful beneficiary of such a game plan). I certainly wouldn’t argue Fremantle is not attractive when attacking. In fact I would suggest Lyon’s game plan is only really effective with a core of the sort of players who are highly skilled and able to seize the moment in a low scoring match.

    What I don’t like is that Lyon’s game plan effectively says to the opposition (at least an opposition incapable of comprehensively winning the clearances/hard balls) is “at most one of us can play attractively and it’s not you”. Highly effective and as to whether it is bad for the game, that’s the AFL’s problem not Fremantle’s. Thankfully there is an off button on my TV remote.

  7. Sean Gorman says

    We just won’t mention Bunji McLeod – god have mercy.

  8. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Hang on Sean, you did get Chris Groom

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