Round 11, the halfway point of the season, and Freo were making there first visit to Melbourne, so I thought I'd better make an effort to go see them. The game was played at the Doggies traditional home of Optus Oval, and the forecast was for wet and miserable conditions, so I didn't drag Caroline along with me. As it turned out the forecast of rain was typical Melbourne weather bureau hype, and not a drop fell on me all day, but it was still probably just as well Caroline didn't come along.
For most of the first quarter the game was a pretty even affair. Freo had more possessions, the Doggies had more shots on goal, but there wasn't much in it. There were two big marks in this part of the game. First came one two Grant, who planted his boot in Parker's back and took a big strong mark followed by a goal. Not to be outdone thouugh, Freo's own Satan in Training, Medhurst followed that one with a big grab of his own.
The last five minutes of the first quarter more or less ended the game as a contest. The Doggies suddenly woke up, and piled on 3 more goals, to send Freo from a reasonable 5 points behind at the start of time on to 25 points behind at quarter time. Freo never really recovered, although they managed to stay in the game during most of the second and third terms, and even seemed to be staging a bit of a fight back at the start of the last quarter.
Most of my hopes of a second quarter come back by Freo were dashed by Luke Toia. Toia was playing his first game back in the AFL since he broke his neck in the WAFL last year. I don't know whether he was just out of form on the day, or whether he is still struggling mentally as a result of his injury, but either way, he managed to make two stuff ups of McManus-like proportions, both of which took Freo from good attacking opportunities to conceding a goal.
Kingsley Hunter looked like he was playing on Farmer, and later on Hasleby. The match up on Hasleby especially seemed to be a mismatch. Hunter is about 6 inches taller than Hasleby, and he seemed to be plenty nimble enough to slip away from his man. In fact, Hunter had at least two shots on goal in the third quarter, which he was thankfully polite enough to miss. Freo rallied a bit towards the end of the thrid quarter, and pulled the margin back a bit, but just as the momentum was building, Medhurst took a shot at goal after the 3-quarter time siren, which he put straight into the man on the mark, and that wa that.
As much as anything, this game emphasised to me how little Freo have changed since last season, despite all the hype. Our two boom recruits were Croad and Farmer. Croad didn't seem to have much of an impact. To me he looks a very similar player to Daniel Bandy, (or at least Bandy when he played for Freo) in that he's big, he's fit, he's agile, but he doesn't really look like a match winner. Farmer lasted into the second quarter, I think, before he hobbled off with some sort of muscle strain. Simmonds was handy in the centre, and I would say he's the most useful player that Freo picked up in their trading. Some of the new recruits look slike they could be handy, but Freo seems to always have two or three good young prospects who never quite seem to take that next step. Apart from that, this is pretty much the same Freo side who couldn't win last year, yet they have 5 wins on the board. I guess having a coach with a brain has helped them out a bit, but I think the main thing has been a bit of luck going Freo's way. That didn't happen last season, and it has happened this season, and made most of the difference, I think.
While I am editorialising, I heard an interview with David Parkin on Saturday where he basically said that a team can only be consistent if its leaders and senior players are consistent. Somehow Freo manage to preach the importance of consistency, while at the same time building a senior player list that includes Jeff Farmer, Trent Croad and Clive Waterhouse. I guess that on the plus side of the ledger they have people like Peter Bell, Troy Cook and even Dale Kickett, but a look at the results this year suggests which group is having the bigger influence in the playing group.
Final Score : Footscray 22.13-145 beat Fremantle 12.8-80.
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