Dockers v Tigers in Round 11 Survival Match

As much as I would like to see otherwise, I am not liking the possibility of the Dockers pulling off a victory in this weeks match againstRichmond.

The Dockers have had a less than successful history against the Tigers, especially when playing inMelbourne. Regardless of where the two teams are on the ladder,Richmondalways seem to have the upper hand on their home turf, winning the last two by 49 and 19 points respectively. The Tigers have actually won the last three out of four matches against the Dockers and are fast becoming Fremantle’s bogey team.

As it is, this game is a must win for both teams if they want any chance of staying in touch with the top eight. You would think that whomever losses this match can pretty much kiss their chances of being in the finals goodbye. Ross Lyon has swung the axe, getting rid of swing man Paul Duffield, Zac Clarke and Jack Anthony (possibly for the last time) for the match, bringing in Jon Griffin as a back up for Sandilands, Nick Suban after a hiatus back to the WAFL to get some form and Adam McPhee from injury. None of these players are make or break for the team, who will be going in with almost a full strength list of a-graders (minus Nat Fyfe) and will be confident that they can overrun a rampaging Tigers unit.

The only silver lining I could possibly give the Dockers right now is that they might be able to take advantage of the Tigers who are at the peak of a frenzy regarding their form. It could be a possibility that the Tigers have gotten too far ahead of themselves and are expecting the win on Saturday and therefore not playing as hard as they could possibly do, but given their recent form not only against the Dockers but this season, it is hard to see the Tigers give that up easily. A team that has had very limited success in a number of years is not just going to cough up a hot streak without a fight.

While the Dockers are my favourite team and the Tigers my second, it is hard to see Fremantle coming over the top of Richmond, especially at the MSG.

My Prediction: Richmond by 30.

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Match Wrap Up: Fremantle Comeback Not Enough Against Adelaide

As has been the norm with the Dockers this year, a quiet period has cost them the game.

Against Adelaide, I actually thought Fremantle had pulled off an unlikely win. They were down and out of it at half time but came back strong in the third quarter to bring the margin to within two goals. Sitting in the members section behind the cheer squad, there were murmurs of an unlikely victory on the back of an almighty come back. The feeling was that strong that the Freo chant reverberated around the ground during the third quarter break.Fast forward to the fourth quarter and two quick goals had the Dockers in front. The crowd went nuts. The chant picked up again, more forceful and louder then it had been previously.

Then what happened?

The Dockers decided to take a nap in the middle of the fourth quarter when they were just four points in front. It was almost as if they had decided that they had done all the hard work to grab the lead and were now going to sit back and watch the rest of the game unfold. They simply could not get their hands on the ball. After playing reasonably well for three and a half quarters, a 10-minute burst in the fourth quarter slammed the door on their chances of a comeback victory. Adelaide refused to let them pick up the ball, slamming home goal after goal to take the margin to an unsalvageable level.

This is a part of their game that the coaching staff and the players have to address, and address quickly. There has been a trend in the majority of their games this season which sees the Dockers deflate for a quarter. Sometimes it’s the first, sometimes the second, sometimes it’s the entire second half, but the team needs to start putting in consistent, four-quarter football if they want to get anywhere in the coming years. Granted, I went into this season knowing it would be a write off and that it would take the players pretty much all 22 games to get used to Ross Lyon’s playing style, but they need to find away to get rid of these patches where they only score one goal in a quarter and cant get their hands on the ball, otherwise they are going to be losing by a lot bigger margins in the coming weeks.

What I Liked About the Game

Michael Johnson: Based on his performance in the first 10 weeks of the season, if this guy doesn’t win the Doig Medal at the end of the year, I’ll know the competition is rigged. Has without a doubt been in the top three Dockers for every game this season and played his heart out againstAdelaide, collecting 24 important touches.

Matthew Pavlich: Kicked three goals and showed some much needed flare in the forward line. Doesn’t play consistently enough in the forward line this season, but if he plays more games like this one, he’ll soon be back to some of his best form.

Match Wrap Up: Brisbane Torpedo Unravels West Coast

Well, I said in my post last week that in recent history the Lions had the upper hand over the Eagles and it seems history played a big role in West Coast’s loss toBrisbane.

It was hard not to laugh in incredulity when the Eagles lost the game in the last minute. There has been a few games where the Eagles have just crawled over the line in close games, namely against Richmond and Hawthorn, and I kind of got used to the idea that they were incapable of losing the close ones; that they would just find a way to win the game. That’s why I couldn’t help but laugh at the way the Eagles actually lost the game; a massive 60+ metre torpedo from a Lions’ midfielder which bounced through a vacant goal square and into the goals. It was almost as if fate WANTED the lions to win, guiding that ball through the goals however it was kicked. Im pretty sure one of theBrisbaneplayers could have kicked an over-the-shoulder ball and it still would have gone through the big sticks.

In the end it was an unlucky loss by the Eagles, but despite a few minutes in the third or fourth quarter, they never actually looked like winning. Even when they were out to their biggest margin of the match, I still had the inkling thatBrisbanewasn’t done with yet. It isn’t every week that we have that many upset wins and im sureBrisbanewould have taken some spirit from theMelbourneand Port Adelaide wins to drag them over the line. While the Eagles fought valiantly, I think they just did not try hard enough, if that makes sense. It’s almost as if they anticipated an easy win over Brisbane because of their standing on the ladder and didn’t actually put any effort into achieving that win.

The Eagles have the bye this week, which I think is perfect timing for them, giving them a chance to rest up before they take onCarltonat home next Thursday night.

What I Liked About the Game

Chris Masten: Put in another solid showing with 27 possessions and a goal. I’ve noticed this year he is becoming a much more consistent player then he was and finally showing his true potential. If he can keep it up the team will be better for it.

Matt Priddis: Probably one of the most underrated midfielders in the competition. He pulls in huge tallies week after week and continued this with 27 possessions againstBrisbane. Flies under the radar quite a bit, which can only be a good thing.

Things I Would Like to See at:

Fremantle v Adelaide (June 2, 2012)

Luke McPharlin: Will no doubt be played on one of the inform forwards of the competition in Taylor Walker. Currently sitting equal second on the Coleman Medal tally with 23 goals,Walkeris on fire in front of the sticks and McPharlin will no doubt have his work cut out for him. McPharlin relishes the massive opponents however, and you can be sure he will work towards keepingWalkerto his smallest contribution yet.

Jack Anthony: Anthony is one of the players the supporters love to heckle. Has been very inconsistent when he has played this season. Needs to kick a bag to not only prove he is capable and should keep his spot but also to help alleviate some of the forward pressure the Dockers seem to have created.  

Hayden Crozier: Looking forward to seeing how the youngest player on the team takes to the challenges he will face on his first game. Its hard to forget the massive hanger he took at this oval last year playing forVictoria and if he can produce some of the same fireworks and kick some goals, expect him to be a fast crowd favourite.

Dockers v Crows in Round 10 Anything Can Happen Game

As an almost fanatical Fremantle supporter, it pained me to see the last two games and the thrashing the team received in both. Even so, I still think the media maul on Ross Lyon has been a tad over the top.

It is hard to expect a new coach, after just six months at the helm, to have the team at a position where they are challenging for the premiership in his first year. When Lyon moved to Freo he brought with him a new game plan. Granted that game plan has its detractors, but it is very hard for a group, who has been used to running a particular game plan for years, to suddenly switch over to a completely different mindset. In my opinion, it will take most, if not all, of this season and the next pre-season for the team to feel completely comfortable running this particular type of game.

And before the detractors start going on about how bad the game plan is, I agree. Most games I’ve been more than a little bored watching. But the point is, after nine rounds, the Dockers still have a positive win-loss record with 5 wins 4 losses, which is why I don’t quite understand the call for blood. As I said before, it is going to take a lot more than 9 games for the team to feel completely comfortable and enthusiastic about a new style of game.

In saying that, there are a some tweaks that need to be made now in order to avoid further blow out losses. The biggest is the goal-kicking problem, and what scares me most is that there doesn’t seem to be a clear fix for it. Chris Mayne has done alright this season, but a team cant rely on a small defensive forward to kick most of their goals. It is a problem that needs fixing asap if they want to get back on the winners list. The second is their midfield. They have some big names running through there, but they seem to be ineffective. Fremantle’s midfield is continuously being beaten for the ball and the fact of the matter is, if the midfield doesn’t get the ball, its virtually impossible for the forwards to kick goals.

This weeks game is a must win in every sense of the word.Adelaideare flying this year, and will be looking to bounce back after losing to Collingwood last week. Fremantle have the home-ground advantage and will need to take full advantage of this and runAdelaideinto the ground if they want to take away the four points.

My prediction: Crows by 14.

Things I Would Like to See at:

West Coast v Brisbane (June 3, 2012)

Young v Old: The Brisbane midfield is young and continuously improving. The West Coast midfield has been together for years and is well drilled. TheBrisbaneboys will get a good sense of where they are in terms of skill when they come up against their more mature midfield opponents, and the Eagles would be wary of the explosive pace of the younger guys.

 Second Stringers: The Eagles have named Brown, Lycett, Stevens and Swift, along with Hams, back into the squad for this weeks match. Whether or not they will all get to play is yet to be seen, but in a team travelling this well, these players will need to stamp their authority all over this game in a bid to try to retain their position. Hams is probably the only one in the group who would be considered an automatic inclusion in the starting 22.

Don’t Let History Repeat: Given the recent form of both teams, the Eagles haven’t had too much success overBrisbanein recent years. The last time they met in Round 23, 2011 at the Gabba, the Eagles just scraped through to win by eight points. In the three matches before that, twice in 2010 and once in 2009, the Lions have taken the win by 5, 32 and 9 points respectively. The Eagles will be hoping to bring the odds back in their favour with a win.

Eagles v Lions in Round 10 Mauling

West Coast v Brisbane. What to say about this game that could give any insight into the match? Eagles are on top of the ladder, Brisbane, despite a brave come back against North Melbourne last week, continue to flounder near the bottom, where they have found themselves for the last few years.

There is not much the Eagles need to be prepared for. Yes, it is an away game and playing at the Gabba is never easy, but the difference between the class of these two teams means it should be an easy one for the Eagles to win. I think they will attack this game hard. They pretty much have to with Essendon snapping on their heels. Every game they play where they come across opponents on the second half of the ladder, such as Brisbane, they will need to smash. A win wont satisfy them, they will need to give them an absolute mauling. Every game now is a battle for percentage to keep the top spot. Capitulate to a lesser team, even if they win, and it could mean Essendon leapfrog them and take top spot. With the Dons taking on Melbourne this week, it will be the team who hands out the biggest hammering that will take top spot on the 2012 ladder.

There is not much to their game plan that the Eagles have to change. The only issue I think Worsfold will bring up is their waywardness in front of goal last week. That is twice in two home games that wayward kicking has been a major factor in the game. If they can start kicking accurately, it is hard to see the Eagles not winning by a large margin.

My Prediction: Eagles by 44.

Match Wrap Up: West Coast Annihilate Fremantle

It was like the Western Derby on the weekend was split into two entirely different games.

The first half was the type of game we have come to expect in Western Derbies. It was hard, tough, physical, virtually impossible to score and neither team looked dominant over the other. The result was a tied game at half time and it looked like this game was going to be another of those massively close, edge of your seat games.

But in the second half, there was only one team running around on the field. The Eagles had come out all guns blaring while the Dockers were seemingly still in the rooms. I do not think a Fremantle player touched the ball in the third quarter that’s how rampant the Eagles were, running rings around their opponents. The third quarter is the premiership quarter, and to finish the quarter having only added one point to your half time total spoke volumes about how impossible it was for the Dockers to get anywhere near the ball, let alone score.

In the end, the Eagles produced a comprehensive walloping while the Dockers produced their lowest ever score at home. The result shows exactly how far apart both teams are in terms of playing class. The Eagles are well drilled under John Worsfold and riding on a huge wave of success from the past two seasons, despite a number of injuries to key players. The Dockers are still coming to grips with a new game plan under a new coach, and it will take the better part of this season for them to come to grips with that. Unless they fix their goal kicking problems though, it is going to be a very long season for the team.

What I Liked About the Game

-Matt Rosa: Probably single handedly demolished the Dockers for the entire game. I got dizzy watching the Dockers swap opponent onto opponent on him, only for him to smash them all. Finishing with 43 possessions, he was a deserved winner of the medal.

-Josh Hill: Has continued his recent form in front of goal, kicking three goals in a game where, despite the easy win, the Eagles were wasteful in front of goal. Has fit into the team nicely since his travel over from the Western Bulldogs and looks set to continue his form in coming games.

-Michael Barlow and Michael Johnson: The only two shining lights in an otherwise pretty dismal Fremantle team. Racked up 50 possessions between them and were solid distributors of the ball, yet again. Johnson is fast on his way to a Doig Medal if he continues his cracking form, while Barlow is slowly but surely returning to his damaging, high-possession best.

How They Can Win It

In the placew of my usual “Things I Would Like to See at” column, I thought I would list the ways in which I thought both teams could win this game.

FREMANTLE

Attacking Pressure: The Dockers are amongst the best in the league in getting the ball in their forward 50 and locking it inside. The likes of Matthew De Boer and Chris Mayne provide intense tackling pressure on the opposition defenders and if they continue their dominance from the past few years it could provide difficult for the Eagles backs to get the ball out.

Jon Griffin: Much is said about the massive dominance of Aaron Sandilands in the ruck but how that has not translated to clearance wins for the Dockers. I think it would be a smart move, even for just the first half, for Lyon to run with Griffin in the ruck to make it a little less predictable, and keep Sandliands and nimble big man Zac Clarke in the forward line. Providing two massive targets in the forward line for midfielders to bomb it into could just address the kicking-for-goal woes of the Dockers.

Defence, Defence, Defence: One part of the team that is working almost perfectly in this team is the defenders. Luke McPharlin, Michael Johnson and Paul Duffield have found their form after an off 2011 season and are absolutely running amok in the backline. With the publisied forward-troubles the Eagles supposedly have, if these guys gel, they could make it super tough for the remaining forwards to have much of an impact.

 

West Coast

Fill-in Forwards: With the injury problems, Jack Darling and Josh Hill have found themselves taking on the burden of being the go-to forwards. Darling especially looks like he is uncomfortable running around with the opposition team’s number one defender. One thing that works in their favour is a sense of unpredictability for the opposition defenders to match up on, being less-then knowledgeable on their opponents then if it were Josh Kennedy and Mark Le Cras. This unfamiliarity could work in their favour, especially given Fremantle’s trouble converting goals down the other end.

Midfield: Probably the area where they have the biggest advantage over the Dockers. They are set, a well oiled machine that has played together for a long time and can pretty much read each other’s thoughts. While the Dockers have David Mundy and Michael Barlow back, they are still trying to work themselves back into form following injury, and if the Eagles can continue to snipe the clearances, they will run over the top of the Docker’s midfielders.

Cox + Naitanui: Cox is having another blinding season while Naitanui is continuing to improve with every game. I still dont think Naitanui has earned the massive praises lauded at him by the media, but this game will go a long way to proving me otherwise. If These two men can get over the top of the Docker’s big men, the flow on effect for the rest of the Eagles team will be huge, and could just prove the difference between a win and a loss

WESTERN DERBY 35 IS HERE!

Its without a doubt the biggest day in the WA sporting calendar. West Coast v Fremantle. Regardless of where the two teams are on the ladder, its virtually IMPOSSIBLE to pick a winner out of this game.

Today is a massive day for both clubs. The Eagles are sitting on top of the ladder but have some fierce competition from Essendon, who after killing Greater Western Sydney last night, have leap frogged the Eagles by percentage to sit in the number one position. West Coast will want to notch another win under their belts, especially against their cross town rivals, to take back that number one mantle ahead of an away game against the lions next week. Every victory they score while their injury list is the way it is will be a massive psychological victory for the Eagles and an important stepping stone to get as far as possible in the finals.

For the Dockers, this game is a must win to keep them in the premiership race. At the moment, they’re sitting in the massive group of five teams currently sitting on 20 points and one of about seven teams that, come the end of the season, will be fighting for those last three spots in the top eight. It is no secret that the defensive structure of the Dockers has resulted in them playing some dull football, but they are renowned for lifting the intensity during these cross town games and will need to do so today to take the points away from the Eagles.

This is a game where positioning doesnt matter. Both teams might as well be squaring off in round one. The Dockers wont care that the Eagles have only dropped one game this season, and The Eagles will be wary of a team that could sink Geelong and St Kilda and who took it to Sydney and Carlton.

Picking a winner out of this game is going to be tough. Even at three quarter time, if the margin is three goals or less, it would be hard to choose who would win. Despite the history between these two teams, they have never played out a draw. In fact, the Dockers have NEVER had a drawn game since their inception. As much as I would love a draw, I thinking the Eagles might just pip them.

My Prediction: Eagles by 8.