A look at 2017…
FREMANTLE didn’t need this season. With a move to a bigger stadium in 2018 it would have been nice to showcase an attractive young team that makes going to the footy exciting. Instead they got the second lowest scoring team in the AFL, a team that didn’t make it to 10 goals in nine games and scored over 100 points just twice. It was also a team that conceded at least the first three goals of the game nine times.
It wasn’t all doom and gloom. Some good young players emerged and, if things go well, the club will have three of the best players in the competition fit and ready at the start of next year – Harley Bennell, Nathan Fyfe and Michael Walters. At their best all are goal kicking midfielders and that might assist with the bottom line. And, if we can just get those two 104-point shockers out of our heads for a moment, we’ll recall good late season away performances against top-four teams Geelong and GWS.
But it’s the off-field bottom line that will be worrying the club. Next year fans will be able to see Fremantle play at Perth Stadium whenever they like. There will be no need to have a membership to secure a seat and if the team is playing like crap or you feel like going away for the weekend or staying on the couch you won’t be wasting your pre-paid footy dollars.
Therefore the club must be careful about what it charges members for their seats at Perth Stadium and what they get in exchange for their loyalty. It also needs to offer hope.
Hope can arrive over summer with trades of substance. The Dockers say they’ll be again looking at luring WA boys home. It’s a good strategy and also an admission they erred badly in taking their eyes off the home state in recent years – including having the list management boss based in Melbourne. A couple of McGoverns drifted by in their boyhood Dockers caps as the club they loved looked elsewhere.
Dockers fans live in hope and there are currently a couple of narratives in the front of minds.
One is that Ross Lyon is a genius. Unfortunately he told us late last year that he’s not. Still we hope he’s across the modern world of Australian Rules football and is the man at the helm who can take us where we want to go. We hope too that the messages he gives to his players are clearer than those he gives to us via his puzzling contradictory press conferences. Stoppage guru Mark Stone departed the club this week, perhaps that’s the start of a coaching shake-up and maybe the club will be brave enough to bring a challenging voice into the coaching group.
We also hope the regularly voiced view that Fremantle is better placed for the future than West Coast is actually true. The evidence for this assessment is thin. The Eagles are once again in the finals, they have a well-organised defence, they score and they’ve won the past five derbies. Their tactic of recruiting pensioners will only be vindicated if they win the flag but some youngsters will have the invaluable experience of, hopefully, a short finals campaign.
A look at the 2017 squad…
Michael Apeness: Didn’t play in 2017. Has had lots of bad luck with injury and has managed seven AFL games. He was a speculative choice at 17 in the 2013 draft – the Dockers needed a big man and picked Apeness ahead of Rory Lobb, Ben Brown, Tom Barrass and Alir Alir so someone better hope he turns out ok. He has played 28 WAFL games and kicked 37 goals.
Harley Balic: (Four games & three goals in 2017). Shows a bit and is a good mover. However he wants to go home and the club will hope he has trade value.
Hayden Ballantyne: (10 games & 11 goals). Freo fans invested a lot of love in Ballantyne and it hurt when he started eyeing off the West Coast Eagles last year. Now we see him a bit like Jobe Watson’s mythical cheatin’ girlfriend – we have a relationship but it’s different. Never really got going after missing the first half of the year with injury. His effort can never be doubted but, as the Dockers have discovered this year, there’s more to footy than effort.
Harley Bennell: (two games & three goals). His return was a real positive for the club. Showed signs of his amazing ability and will improve the team if he gets back to his best. The public support from coach Lyon was impressive.
Connor Blakely: (17 games & one goal). Very impressive when moved to defence. An important season for him and he’ll develop into a good midfielder.
Zac Clarke: Didn’t play in 2017. Once looked like he could be anything. It might be over now.
Sam Collins: (two games). His lack of opportunity is puzzling. At Peel he’s the leader of the defence, marks and kicks well and spoils with purpose. Someone thinks there’s something missing.
Brennan Cox: (10 games & four goals). Made an impressive start to his career. Very good in defence for Peel and used in attack and the ruck by Freo where his return of 4.11 exposed a weakness. Very good in the air.
Hayden Crozier: (19 games & 11 goals). Played a lot more in 2017 but still not totally convincing. Can take a big mark and can kick a good goal but misses easy set shots and has a tendency to go missing.
Sean Darcy: (eight games & one goal). A very good draft choice. It’s early but his efforts this year suggest he could be a long term ruckman and that’s just what the team needs.
Zac Dawson: (two games). It’s over now for this very strange player. Definitely one of a kind – a non kicking, non ball carrying defender in the modern era. He took on difficult jobs, often with success and often in big games.
Nat Fyfe: (21 games & 17 goals). A very good comeback. Will probably win the Doig Medal. With a bit of sharpening up of his kicking and more goals (let’s say twice as many) he’ll be back to the top of the tree.
Jonathon Griffin: (seven games & four goals). Did ok in sporadic late season appearances, perhaps enough to earn another year.
Joel Hamling: (22 games). Was as good, in fact a bit better, than was hoped. Disciplined and clever defender with a bit of Luke McPharlin about him.
Bradley Hill: (22 games & 13 goals). A extraordinary runner who provides numerous opportunities for team mates by giving them something to kick to. However over the summer he needs a realignment – his kicking and decision making in the latter part of the season were, well, terrible.
Stephen Hill: (18 games & four goals). Started the year really well and although slowed by injury had a pretty good season. Seems to freeze around the goals and his field kicking this year wasn’t as good as it’s reputed to be.
Ethan Hughes: (18 games & one goals). A very promising addition to the backline. Brave, athletic and skilful.
Garrick Ibbotson: (10 games). He’s retired after 167 games. A really fine career.
Michael Johnson: (22 games & two goals). The smartest footballer on the Fremantle list. Played every game and had a very good season. Will it be his last?
Shane Kersten: (20 games & 24 goals). Had opportunities but didn’t really enhance his reputation. Did some good instinctive things but not at his best when he needs to think on his feet.
Ed Langdon: (10 games & five goals). Injury mucked up the year. Gives the team much needed speed but very one-sided and that makes him a bit of worry in defence – something to work on over the summer.
Griffin Logue: (13 games & one goal). A slightly funky number eight draft pick by the club. Showed interesting signs at both WAFL and AFL level but it’s hard to pin-point exactly what he is. Good in the air when his confidence is up.
Cam McCarthy: (19 games & 25 goals). Made a reasonable return to footy after a year out. Drops too many marks to be a true key forward but he’s a great runner and shows rare skill at times.
David Mundy: (21 games & 13 goals). Could claim overtime payments. Used in many roles and his clean skills and hard work were rare commodities at times this year.
Lachie Neale: (21 games & 14 goals). Another high level season, this time without the most-stats-in-the-history-of-stats nonsense.
Alex Pearce: Didn’t play in 2017. Very unfortunate with injury but could be a key to future success.
Danyle Pearce: (seven game & three goals). The manager who got him a contract for 2018 deserves a medal. Fremantle must never again give multiple year contracts to players no other club would want. Pearce has given good service to Fremantle but this should be his last year.
Luke Ryan: (11 games). Excellent mature aged recruit. Strong in the air, confident and a beautiful kick. (Pictured with Peel coach Cam Shepherd.)
Aaron Sandilands: (10 games). Another year ruined by injury. Might still have a couple in him.
Tom Sheridan: (nine games & two goals). He’s been around for a while and still hasn’t convinced anyone he’s good enough. Worked hard for Peel.
Lee Spurr: (16 games). There were signs this year that things were catching up with him. Strong in the air and always brave but disposal became an issue. (Right)
Nick Suban: (12 games & four goals). Identified as part of the ageing issue early in the year but made it back and showed he’s capable of carrying out a defensive job. He’ll do anything to stay, it’s the way he’s always been.
Cameron Sutcliffe: (13 games). Getting 100 games out of the number 71 draft pick is a good result for the player and the recruiters. Unfortunately his disposal is not up to AFL standard.
Matthew Taberner: (eight games & 11 goals. What a tease. He’s the big, mobile forward the team desires but just doesn’t deliver consistently. The last game of the season was a case in point. He moved and marked well but missed two vital shots for goal and gave away silly free kicks. He lacks confidence and doesn’t work hard enough when the opposition has the ball. Can coaches sort out stuff like that?
Darcy Tucker: (19 games & eight goals). An interesting and regular member of the team. Has nice skills but his main issue is that he doesn’t get the ball enough. My tip is that he will improve as the team improves – if it does.
Michael Walters: (17 games & 22 goals). His late season injury was sad because it cost him an All Australian berth, a Doig Medal and Fremantle’s leading goal kicker honour. This was the year he showed he could play in the midfield – the team’s best player in 2017.
Lachie Weller: (22 games & five goals). Has played every game for the past two years. Adds valuable pace to the back line and generally kicks well. Just needs to be in a more organised team.
Josh Deluca-Cardillo: (four games & two goals). Had some chances but seemed to find issue with the pace of the game.
Taylin Duman: (no AFL games). Skinny kid who shows a bit at times in the WAFL. Will benefit from Peel’s finals campaign.
Brady Grey: (14 games & 10 goals). A goer who was laid low by injury at an inopportune time. Can kick a goal and does the kind stuff fans love and some coaches like.
Ryan Nyhuis: (four games & five goals). Had the four-goal debut but struggled to hold his place in the team. Has promise as a defender.
Luke Strnadica: (no AFL games). Found himself in the Peel reserves. We thought he was a key forward but he’s been playing in the ruck and has had a couple of good games in the league team.
Matthew Uebergang: (no AFL or WAFL games). Looked a star on the rise in the WAFL last year but has been cut down by injury.
The top 10 in 2017 (in my opinion)
- Michael Walters
- Nathan Fyfe
- Joel Hamling
- Lachie Neale
- David Mundy
- Bradley Hill
- Michael Johnson
- Connor Blakely
- Stephen Hill
- Lachie Weller