Matthew-Pavlich

Story Of The Summer

After coming so close to a premiership last season the Dockers could be forgiven for standing pat and banking on organic growth to see them take that final step in 2014. Season 2013 saw Ross Lyon break the mould from the reputation he built at St Kilda as a recycle bin for mature-age players blooding seven debutant Dockers, which was fewer than only St Kilda, GWS and Collingwood. Adding more depth and class outside the club in summer recruits Colin Sylvia and Scott Gumbleton has also plugged the most glaring holes on paper.

In a career plagued with inconsistency Sylvia is one of the poster boys for wasted talent. The biggest issue for the former Demon is his lack of interest when adversity hits but a switch to Fremantle under the watchful eye of the ultimate motivator in Ross Lyon looks to be the perfect marriage. We all know Sylvia can play but it’s tapping into that care factor which makes or breaks his impact. Sylvia will join a Dockers squad which is already littered with arguably the deepest and most versatile midfield in the competition, and should have no trouble fitting into a role that flip flops between midfield and half-forward. Whether it’s inside, outside or floating up forward Sylvia’s talent makes him a prime candidate for a career resurgence, assuming of course his mind is willing.

After just 35 games since 2006 Scott Gumbleton will have just the sole goal this season – to stay on the park – but unfortunately that accomplishment is already in jeopardy with Gumbleton suffering from a hamstring tear ensuring he misses the next three months. Outside of running the right patterns and presenting as a genuine lead up target the expectations for Gumby will be rock bottom. In his favour 2013 saw Gumbleton somewhat productive when stringing together consistent games finishing second at the Bombers for goals, marks inside 50 and contested marks per game. If Gumbleton can reproduce that level of return in the second half of the season he’ll at the very least demand an accountable defender which makes the Dockers’ small forwards even more dangerous.

Where They Excel

Watch Fremantle for even five minutes and it becomes obvious they excel defensively across the board and it’s this discipline which kick starts their scoring ability. There’s no harder task in football than breaking down the Ross Lyon glue pot with only watching your own team attempting to do so (especially in first quarters) proving more painful. Fremantle allowed 64 fewer points in first quarters than the next ranked side in 2013 with the Dockers registering a 13-1 record when leading at quarter time.

The wall of Fremantle players negating every obvious or logical option can often require a good half to figure out, and even then it takes a hell of a lot of discipline to navigate. Adhering to such a strict system the ground over allows the men in purple to truly dominate through the bread and butter scoring indicators such as inside 50s, marks inside 50 and goals, all areas where they lead the competition defensively.

Turning defence into attack under Ross Lyon’s system comes incredibly easy once teams fatigue with the Dockers short sharp ball movement proving effective at locating space on the rebound. The improvement from year one to year two under Lyon is crystal clear with the Dockers scoring at least 54 points from turnovers in 15 of 18 wins.

Year

Effective Kicks

Turnovers

Kicking Efficiency

Uncontested Marks

Goal Scoring Efficiency

Points from Turnover Diff.

2012

12th

10th

15th

6th

6th

10th

2013

2nd

17th

2nd

1st

1st

2nd

Hiccups On The Horizon

We’d need to wait until the final day in September for the Dockers to face their most obvious demon which is falling apart at the final turn. Producing a single goal in the first half of a Grand Final and converting your shots at goal at just 27% will haunt anyone for a lifetime and like Hawthorn the season prior Freo will be hell bent on redemption.

Although a minor issue given the walkover against the Saints and away defeat of Geelong in the Qualifying Final Fremantle will no doubt be looking to improve on their performances interstate winning just five of nine contests compared to an 11-1 record at Patersons Stadium. The interchange cap could also come into play with the Dockers leading the competition for rotations last season.

In terms of defeats there were three primary areas where the Dockers struggled last season. Excluding the Saints game (for obvious reasons) in losses Fremantle produced the worst contested marks differential and scoring efficiency, and second worst contested possession differential which was ahead of only Melbourne. Match Fremantle for intensity when it comes to one on one football and success isn’t far away. That being said, as Hawthorn found out last season, the Dockers are often their own worst enemy.

The Skinny

Everything about the Dockers points to them being a major player in the premiership conversation this season. Even from a list profile perspective it’s clear that Fremantle are in the best shape possible to make an assault on a flag.

Fremantle has 15 players smack bang in their prime aged between 26-29, five more than any other club with Kepler Bradley and Jonathon Griffin the only question marks regarding best 22 status. The Dockers possess 15 players with at least 100 games experience, the equal most in the competition with Sydney. They also have arguably the best tactician in the game pulling the strings in Ross Lyon.

With such a deep, versatile and disciplined midfield consisting of hallmarks Fyfe, Mundy, Barlow, Crowley and Sandlilands combined with an excellent second tier of Zac Clarke, Matt de Boer, Stephen Hill, Colin Sylvia, Nick Suban and Lachie Neale the Dockers would deem anything other than dancing on the final day as failure.

Ladder Range: 1-3

Best 22

B: M.Johnson, Z.Dawson, L.Spurr

HB: P.Duffield, L.McPharlin, N.Suban

C: S.Hill, N.Fyfe, R.Crowley

HF: C.Mayne, M.Pavlich, L.Neale

F: H.Ballantyne, S.Gumbleton, M.Walters

Foll: A.Sandilands, M.Barlow, D.Mundy

Int: Z.Clarke, M.de Boer, D.Pearce

S: T.Mzungu

Note: Leaving out the likes of Colin Sylvia, Clancee Pearce, Tom Sheridan, Cam Sutcliffe, Garrick Ibbotson, Kepler Bradley and Jonathon Griffin underlines just how deep and talented this Dockers side is.

 

You can follow Scott on Twitter: @ScottyBarby

All data courtesy of AFL.com.au, Herald Sun, Footywire and Foxsports