Round 5 – Melbourne v Fremantle: Dockers a class above

It’s always a thrill to head to the G to watch a game of football. Unfortunately I seem to go there most often to watch Fremantle take on Melbourne, a game that doesn’t draw more than 20,000 at best. Today would be no different. If ever there was a reason to bring back footy at smaller suburban grounds its games like these.

And so it was on a beautifully crisp autumn day I made my way from Jolimont station though the park, past the statues of Norm Smith, Johnathon Coleman and Jimmy Stynes. Melbourne fans are having their picture taken at the Stynes statue, all smiles while the great man is locked in time looking to kick the ball long to a team mate. They could have done with a dozen Jim Stynes over the past decade, and the question sticks in my head as to why after such great success with Stynes and Wight why they haven’t forged a stronger link with Ireland since. A quick search of the web tells me they haven’t had an Irish listed played since 2001. Freo have listed their first International rookie in Sean Hurley, who on the weekend while playing in the seconds picked a best on ground nod. He’s got a way to go to replace McPharlin but the early signs are good.

The past two games have seen the Dockers burst form the blocks and dominate the first half. This game seems no different. In the blink of an eye they are 4 goals up. Apparently Vince was meant to be tagging Fyfe. That’s the headache coaches now have against Freo, tag Fyfe you’ve still got Mundy and Neale to worry about. Tag Neale, like the Swans did and Fyfe will hurt you. They’re a hard team to go head to head against.

Tom McDonald is doing a fine job of keeping the Dees in it, his efforts and some questionable inside 50 entries from Freo. Pav is not getting the delivery he likes and McDonald is good enough to shut a lot of these down. In that regard the loss of Frawley seems negligible for the Dees.

Ballantyne and Walters have not spent enough time on the ground together yet to form that partnership most Dockers fans are hoping for. After Sonny was out for 16 games last year and Ballas doing his jaw late in the season they still haven’t gelled like hoped. When Walters goes down in the first it looks like we’ll be waiting a few more games before these two can start creating the havoc I am looking for.

This game is like a lot that Freo used to suffer years ago. Quickly down due to some early goals the opposition then just holds you at bay while you expend all your energy trying to catch up. This isn’t quite rope-a-dope as Freo never look like losing, but they just do enough to hold the Dees until half time, going in with a 3 to 4 goal lead. Losing Pav late is a concern, but after seeing what the Dees have I’m not too worried about the result.

When half time rolls around and we head down to the bar for a beer. The emptiness of the G and then the fact the bars in the members reserve were playing the Mayweather v Pacquiao fight had me thinking that the little leaguers would be playing in front of an empty stadium. The beer is good, the fight doesn’t really grab me.

In the second half it’s the Freo show. In every contest it seems like the Freo players are the ones to get the clean hands away. The runners like Pearce and Hill are lining up, and Clancee is helping us all forget that Crowley has been sidelined. Strange that Crowley, if found innocent, will have missed more matches than the entire Bombers team put together.

The standard boos are there for Ballantyne, but you can tell the Dees fans hearts are not in it. 10 goals to 1 in the second half ices the game. Mayne has been fantastic, in fact you’re hard pressed to find a Freo player who has not been solid. Ballantyne despite not impacting as much is still putting his heart into everything.

At the end of the game my mate’s son is handed a cap by Michael Johnson and then we are allowed onto the pitch for a kick to kick. This is one of the reasons I like coming to the G for a match against the Dees. The sound of a few hundred balls being kicked, the smiles on the kids’ faces who are not worrying about the score line of the game gone past. I can’t imagine this happening when there’s a 50,000 plus crowd, so maybe the idea of going back to suburban grounds isn’t one to consider just yet.

On an autumn day at the start of May this scene fills me with joy. This is what I love about football, that and seeing Freo a game clear on the top of the ladder.

 

Melbourne     2.2  5.4  6.8  6.14 (50)
Fremantle     5.3  8.6  11.8  18.10 (118)

GOALS:
Melbourne: Garlett 3, Hogan, vandenBerg, Brayshaw.
Fremantle: Mayne 4, D Pearce, Suban, Neale, Taberner, Mundy 2, Hill, de Boer, Fyfe, Sandilands.

 

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