Round 5 – Fremantle v Carlton: Transitioning Without a Parachute

When Ross Lyon signed a long term contract extension prior to this season, he acknowledged there would be an inevitable period of transition for a Fremantle side that has not won less than 14 games in any season he has coached them. You’d be pretty certain ‘transition’ wasn’t intended at the time to be code for a form plummet with no discernible bottom.

After four rounds under Brendan Bolton, Carlton had shown they could maintain a decent zone. They’d been able to keep possession and field position for reasonable periods in every game. What they hadn’t been able to do was convert any of this easily onto the scoreboard. And they’d turned the ball over sufficiently that opponents had outscored them on the rebound. Which, in theory, should have made them sitting ducks for the patented Freo strangle.

What transpired, in perfect conditions, was in perfect accord with weekend’s Anzac themes. Both sides turned Domain Stadium into a quagmire.  Vast effort was expended in going nowhere. What the two sides lacked in composure and execution, they tried to compensate for with sheer grunt. Defensive abilities far outweighed offensive skills. There was no doubting the commitment, but all it produced was a football equivalent of the Somme. They were lucky to be two goals each at ¼ time.

As Carlton continued to bomb the ball forward, only to see Fremantle blaze it back with an equal lack of purpose, it became apparent we were actually watching a contest between two bottom sides. Forget the relative achievements of last season, this was a battle between a team seeking to learn how to, and another that had forgotten how to.

And so they dug in. Four goals each at ½ time, six apiece at ¾ time. Most scoring seemed to come from horrible turnovers or bizarre mistakes. Players blazed wildly with team mates in better positions. Daisy Thomas kicked his game-high third goal from the boundary with a kick that actually landed on the goal line, while the Dockers appeared to be defending the point line. When Jonathon Griffin launched from outside 50, it was going through until Matt Taberner, on his own, decided to mark it rather than watch it, and spilled it.

With Fremantle blood in the water, Liam Jones proved a most unlikely shark. Unsighted, as usual, for three quarters, he had missed an easy set shot early in the final term.  Minutes later he marked over Johnson in almost the same spot. Carrying the growing burden of his entire career, he steered it through. Taberner redeemed himself to give Freo back the lead. Then Murphy snapped truly after a superb Wright defensive smother. Bryce Gibbs looked to have settled the issue with a long set shot, only to have Freo clear the next centre bounce for Griffin to volley a reply.

Four points down with time running out, Lachie Neal tried to switch direction from the back pocket. Sam Kerridge lunged desperately at Neal. Jones was standing in no-man’s land 20 metres out as Neal hit him lace out. Jones was almost knocked over from the shock. Collecting himself, he sealed the deal.

Carlton had almost as many bodies wearing the Gatorade shower as were in the surrounding victory circle. It was the first Carlton win for 9 of the 22. Ugly or not, any win will do at present. Hard work eventually needs some reward if belief is to sustain.

This also applies to the current Fremantle predicament. They had previously lost two games where they’d scored a hundred points. They had a serious crack at shutting this one down, applying 100 tackles. At the moment, nothing they try is working. Sitting 0-5, they now face the Crows, Giants and Hawks. With Fyfe and Johnson on the operating table, and Sandilands weeks away, 0-8 is suddenly looking pretty short odds. Having ground down so many opponents, they look worn down themselves.

What Ross Lyon does from here will be fascinating. Injuries are, of course, part of the story. But too much of his top end talent is the wrong side of 30. Hill, Mayne, Suban, Ibbotson and Pearce have all played well over a hundred games without really becoming the players they often promised to be. Ballantyne looks beaten up. Barlow leg weary. Only Son Son Walters still seems to have his spark.

Lyon might just be wondering where bottom will prove to be in the short term.


FREMANTLE    2.5   4.8   6.12   9.14   (68)                 

CARLTON         2.5   4.9   6.10  10.12  (72)          

Fremantle: Walters 2, Crozier 2, Sutcliffe, Fyfe, Taberner, Griffin, Mayne

Carlton: Thomas 3, Jones 2, Wright, Lamb, C. Curnow, Murphy, Gibbs

Fremantle: Neale, Barlow, Hill, Walters, Johnson, Weller

Carlton: Cripps, Kerridge, Murphy, Simpson, E Curnow, Wright

About John Butler

John Butler has fled the World's Most Liveable Car Park and now breathes the rarefied air of the Ballarat Plateau. For his sins, he has passed his 40th year as a Carlton member.


  1. The People's Elbow says

    Early wins were always going to be ugly, and I’d hazard a guess that our other eleven wins this year will also be ugly.

  2. John Butler says

    And Liam to win the Colemen?

    Essendon next Sunday would be sweet enough.

  3. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    Nice result for the Blues JB with 9 unbaptized winners . Slowly building towards a Carlton v Collingwood GF in 2020.

  4. Ross Bowden says

    JB, I’m not sure if your game report was written from the basis of amazement, bewilderment, cynicism or blind belief that a mixture of mediocre and talented footballers actually won a game they weren’t expected to. Credit, I feel, must go in the main to Bolton, with a slightly less amount of credit going to The Fremantle Football Club board for reappointing Lyon as coach, therby putting the ‘kiss of death’ on the team for what amounts to the rest of the season. A begrudging and belated congratulations on your win, but please do not expect anything more than that from this dispirited Tiger supporter.

  5. Injuries to key players have clearly turned the inevitable Fremantle slide into the sudden avalanche. But haven’t we seen this movie before? St Kilda – 2011. Generals are always fighting the last war. General Haig meets Blitzkrieg? Caveat emptor when pledging your faith in messiahs – or patent medicine salesmen. Arsenic ‘tonic’ knowingly administered killed Phar Lap. Ross Lyon seems uniquely talented at flogging dead horses.
    I suspect “transition” is a post hoc explanation for a dead horse that has had the jigger turned up to 10,000 volts for 4 years.
    When the Eagles sacked Woosha for Simpson, you could immediately see the players responding to a credible gameplan instead of an ancient relic – even though we finished 9th. I suspect the Blues actually believe Bolton knows what he is talking about, which is big improvement on old men stuck in their glorious past.

  6. John Butler says

    Welcome to the Almanac Rosco. And yes, there was a fair degree of amazement at proceedings in the West last Sunday. Out of respect for your suffering I’ll resist all discussion of the Tigers.

    PB, that’s the obvious criticism long leveled at Lyon. Was his signing to a long term deal just career sand-bagging? Or did they suspect the jig was going to be up and the length of the contract is an expression of commitment to rebuild? Lyon is going to have the chance to prove it one way or the other.

    Reflecting on the piece, one aspect not discussed is the reduced interchange cap. I haven’t looked at Freo’s previous numbers, but is it possible they would be one of the teams more affected because of their style? It would be interesting if anyone had those numbers.

  7. An accurate report, JB, in which you do not dress up the win for anything other than what it was: a battle of two lowly teams – but, yes, definitely heading in different directions.
    I like B Bolton a lot.
    I cannot believe that I was actually willing Carlton to win in those dying seconds! WTF?
    And Liam Jones!?! He is surely a reminder of everything that was wrong with the Malthouse era.

  8. The People's Elbow says

    One more ugly win down, ten to go…

  9. The People's Elbow says

    …nine to go

  10. The People's Elbow says

    …eight to go

  11. The People's Elbow says

    …seven to go

  12. John Butler says

    Elbow, given our percentage, it might be eight to go still.

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