Its been nine weeks and eight games since my last review of a Fremantle Dockers game. Fremantle lost another two games before Damian Drum was sacked as coach and Ben Allan was appointed for the rest of the season. In true Freo style the sacking of Drum was handled abysmally, with the media ambushing Drum as he left a planning meeting. Not that the decision was a complete shock to him, but it was a little disappointing that pretty much everybody heard the news before him.
Drum's sacking has obviously had the desired effect, with Freo going on to lose all of their games since then. In fact Ben Allan's big contribution to the club so far has been to coach the team to much larger losing margins. Oh, and he has made a few tactical decisions that make me wish Drummie would come back, which is saying something. But more on that later.
Bearing all of this in mind, it was with very little hope in my heart that I took the lovely Caroline along to Docklands for this game. Sure there were some reasons for hope: The Bulldogs had lost their previous two games by a combined total of 139 points, whereas Freo's combined losing margin for the previous two games was only 138 points. And I still think that Freo play better at Colonial than anywhere else in Victoria. Besides it was Daniel Bandy's 100th game for the Dockers, making him the 4th to achieve that feat, after Dale Kickett, Shane Parker and Justin Norrish. From all reports it looks like it will wind up being Tony Modra's last game as well.
We got to the ground with a little time to spare, but I was able to waste that walking most of the way round the ground to get a seat on the less crowded Docklands side of the ground. If I'd thought about it I would have realised that this was a wasted effort, as there were only 15,000 people there all together, so no part of the ground was really crowded.
The less said about the first 20 minutes of the game the better, in my opinion. Ben Allan decided that this would be a good time for the younger Dockers to learn to cope without some of the older players being out there, so he started with Fletcher, Kickett and Norrish on the bench. Footscray responded to this by kicking the first 6 goals of the game before Freo even looked like entering their forward 50. To Allan's, and the team's, credit they rearranged the centre players, Bandy replaced Longmuir who had been slaughtered by Darcy, and the Dockers managed to at least look competitive for the rest of the quarter.
The second quarter was a much better effort from the Dockers, or possibly just a much worse effort from the Doggies. Its hard to tell which it was, but the Doggies fans were definitely not too happy with their boys' efforts come half time, and they booed them off the ground. Either way, the Dockers were able to add 4 goals while keeping the Bulldogs goalless, so that they were only 11 points down at half time.
The third quarter was a tight, low-scoring tussle. The Bulldogs probably had more scoring chances than the Dockers, but they were still having a lot of trouble putting the ball between the big sticks. Freo were only 8 points down at three-quarter time, and the Doggies fans gave their boys another round of booing at the break.
The MMM commentary were quite critical of Tony Modra's performance up to three-quarter time, and they reported that he had a reasonably heated exchange with the Freo coaches at three-quarter time. How much of a beat up that was, I don't know, but he looked much more lively at the start of the final quarter. In the light of events since then, it is my belief that he made the decision that this was his last match at three-quarter time, and decided to make a good showing and stuff the consequences. From memory the Doggies kicked the first goal of the quarter through Darcy, before Modra twice marked on the lead and twice missed goals from about 40m out, pretty much dead in front. After the second miss he more or less gave up his hopes of going out in a blaze of glory, and the Dockers more or less gave up the game. The Doggies kicked away from there, even managing to find some accuracy, with both Hudson (1.6) and Brown (1.5) managing their goals for the game in this final part of the game.
For the Dockers, I thought Bell was actually pretty good. I still don't reckon he was worth recruiting back to the club, but he did perform in this game. Leigh Brown was pretty mych teh only shining light up forward in the first parts of the game. According to the radio James Walker was Freo's best on ground, but I'm not convinced he was that important.
It is a little disappointing to see that if Freo had kicked 19.11 instead of 11.19, but the the Bulldogs fans can be equally disappointed with their teams' efforts in front of goals. Freo seemed to have a game plan aimed at coping with the Bulldogs flood. One part of that plan was to try to move the ball forward quickly and in waves - in fact the Gerard Neesham gameplan. Another choice seemed to be to use Shane Parker to bomb the ball from outside 50. They tried this a couple of times in the first half; the first one fell short, the second one went through for a behind. Maybe they should have hung onto Mark Gale after all. Gerard Neesham has been quoted as saying that he had a lovely long kick, and from a set shot you'd think he'd be able to hit the target more often than not.
Final Score : Western 16.23-119 defeated Fremantle 11.19-85.
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