Freo came to Melbourne for the second time this season, and once again it was Optus Oval for the game. This time I was accompanied by the lovely Caroline, but only about 8,000 other people bothered to show up. After all the whinging and fuss created by the Victorian football fans, it seems that they don't actually like going to suburban footy grounds to watch the game, especially on days like Sunday when its grey and cold and threatening rain.
So onto the football. At the end of the game there was just one question to be asked: How can a team that was 18 points up over half way through the third quarter manage to lose by 39 points? Good question, and one that the entire Dockers outfit are hopefully asking themselves about now.
Fremantle absolutely dominated the first half of the game. Simmonds was everywhere, and the Dockers seemed to be able to lock the ball in their forward line pretty well. The main problems in this period were that they insisted on taking shots from at or beyond the 50m arc, and that they seemed to believe that Medhurst was the full forward. Instead of kicking to his leads, they should have been kicking to full forward, where Longmuir was, and let Medhurst either rove the pack, or fly over the top, depending on how he's positioned.
At half time the Dockers had a 16 point lead, and probably should have been further in front. I wasn't really comfortable though, partly because they hadn't really made the most of their opportunities, and partly because a lot of their lead was due to St Kilda stuff ups. In short, St Kilda could only improve, while Freo could have improved, possibly, but were already playing about as well as I've seen them play any time since Gereard Neesham was the coach.
In the third quarter that started to turn around a bit. St Kilda looked better, and Freo didn't seem to be able to move the ball foward quite as easily. Still, they were able to hold off the Saints for a while, and there was still reason to hope.
In the last quarter all hell broke loose. The bigger St Kilda players, like Hammill, Gehrig and Spider Everitt, who had been quiet up until then, suddenly started finding more of the ball. Even Stewie Loewe managed to find some of the ball. For some reason Simmonds got moved out of the ruck, and Everitt apparently got injured, so the centre ruck duel became Leigh Brown against Loewe. Neither of them looked too convincing, but the change certainly didn't work in Fremantle's favour.
And, as is customary for me, I'll have a bit of a whinger about the umpiring while I'm at it. Yes, I know it probably smells of sour grapes, but its therapeutic, so try to bear with me. I'll limit myself to decisions that happened close to where I was sitting, and to ones that directly cost Freo goals, and still I can find 3 to whinge about. The first came at the start of the last quarter. St Kilda won the ball out of the centre, but kicked it straight to Luke McPharlin, who took a clean grab before someone (Hammill?) jumped on his back. The umpire decided it wasn't a mark for some reason, so McPharlin had to shovel the ball out to the side, where it was picked up by a rinning Saints player who booted a goal. The second one was a free kick paid to Peter Bell, inside the Freo defensive 50. The umpire at first signalled advantage, but then, just as the ball had reached Pavlich, on his own, at the back end of the centre square, the umpire decided there really wasn't any advantage, and the ball would have to come back. The resulting kick barely cleared the defensive 50, so the resulting goal probably wasn't entirely the fault of the umpire, but he certainly didn't help. The third one was a 50m penalty (or possibly two?) paid against Shaun McManus. Stewie Loewe took a mark out on his on the wing, and turned around to handball it off. McManus tackled him, but the umpire decided that Stewie had just been flexing or something and paid the 50. McManus gave the umpire a good spray on his way back, and its a bit unclear whether a second 50 was paid for that, or if the umpire just paused midway through his count. If it was a double 50, it was a pretty short one. At the end of the 50, Leigh brown took McManus's place on the mark. The umpire looked away for a few moments, I think to get another spray from McManus, and while he did that Brown snuck up a couple of metres on the mark. Loewe wasn't too happy about that, and pointed it out to the umpire who basically shrugged him off. So at least there was a small moral victory for Freo there.
Overall, I thought Freo were pretty good, at elast in the first half. In the last quarter there was very little for me to get excited about. The third quarter was reasonable, although St Kilda seemed to get a bit of a run on as it went on.
Final Score : St Kilda 18.10-118 beat Fremantle 11.13-79.
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