After a impressive season that ended in narrow heartache, the Fremantle Dockers are looking to go one step better in 2014. Many argued Fremantle was its own worst enemy on Grand Final day with so many early misses that proved costly. A late surge showed that they have the cattle to get the job done, but still had a few areas to improve on. They have addressed some of these areas with a couple of relatively cheap inclusions in Scott Gumbleton and Colin Sylvia.
While Gumbleton is out injured for half the season – something not foreign to one of the unluckiest players in the AFL – Sylvia is on the verge of cracking into an incredibly strong seniors side. So close in fact, he was named as one of the three emergencies and travelled with the Dockers to Melbourne before tonight’s clash with Collingwood.
Colin Sylvia is one of those players that screams talent, but his questionable work ethic at times has let him down. No doubt Melbourne fans have come to know Sylvia as a one-way runner, downhill skier or flat-track bully. These are all names that Sylvia will have to overcome if he is to make the most of his second chance in the west.
Ross Lyon is the king pin of defensive pressure and if Sylvia isn’t applying it, he won’t be in the side. Unlike at St Kilda, Lyon now has a plethora of great young talent he is not afraid to throw in the deep end – something many criticised him for not doing at the Saints. Like his tenure at St Kilda, Lyon understands how close his club is to a flag and guys like Gumbleton and Sylvia could be the finishing touches on a masterpiece.
Sylvia undoubtedly has great football skills and a brain to match. If he can successfully provide the run and polish on the outside for the Dockers, he’ll add some much needed flair to complement the tough inside midfield of David Mundy, Michael Barlow and Ryan Crowley. No doubt with Stephen Hill, Nat Fyfe and a fit Anthony Morabito, Fremantle will have a dangerous midfield that can compete with most on any given day.
Sylvia’s career best game came in 2009 against Hawthorn when he collected 37 disposals, took nine marks, laid two tackles and had nine inside 50s while finishing off with four goals. Despite the Demons losing by 22 points, Sylvia picked up the three Brownlow votes and Demons fans were hoping he had finally come of age. While he has had flash-in-the-pan games since and at times looked like the Demons’ most damaging player, his inability to run both ways has hurt him.
After all, Sylvia was taken with the third pick of the 2003 National Draft, just behind 2008 Brownlow Medalist Adam Cooney and Carlton switch man Andrew Walker. Given his obvious talent, Fremantle hopes it can increase Sylvia’s defensive work and capitalise on his outside skill to help improve the delivery inside 50. Defensively, Fremantle are clearly the benchmark in the competition; if they can improve offensively through pinpoint inside 50 passes, then they will no doubt be the team to beat in 2014.
Colin Sylvia has the potential to be one of the most damaging players in the AFL. He has offensive weapons that make him a dangerous prospect for any opposition team. If he can build up his defensive capabilities, then Sylvia will go from Melbourne’s missing man to Fremantle’s missing link.