19/04/2024

The Dockers returned to finals in 2022. (Photo: AFL; Design: Will Cuckson)

2022 saw the building blocks Fremantle have been placing over the past few years start to truly form, as the Dockers reached their finals series since 2015.

In a season littered with highlights, 2022 will be looked upon warmly, with Fremantle fans feeling optimistic for 2023 and ahead.

Despite having one of the youngest lists in the league, Fremantle demonstrated that its time is now, reaching the finals for the first time since 2015.

Finishing position: Fifth (15 wins, six losses, one draw – semi-final)

What worked?

The acquisition of Will Brodie proved to be a success, strengthening the Fremantle midfield after the loss of Adam Cerra. Brodie averaged 27 disposals, five tackles and six clearances, and was a consistent contributor, playing every game this year.

Jordan Clark arrived from Geelong and demonstrated what he could do with more playing time. Clark averaged 21 disposals, five marks and led all Fremantle defenders in score involvements, averaging 3.1 per game.

Similarly, another half-back in Hayden Young took a leap this year. Young in 2021 averaged 15.9 disposals and 5.6 marks, increasing that to 22.8 disposals and 7.5 marks. His marks, contested marks and intercept marks were ranked as elite for a general defender.

Lachie Schultz and Minairo Frederick will cause headaches for opposition coaches in the years to follow, kicking 30 and 28 goals respectively this year.

Caleb Serong had 32, 33 and 34 touches in his final three games of 2022, planting his flag as one of the league’s best young midfielders.

Yet, it was Andrew Brayshaw leading Fremantle in 2022. Brayshaw’s incredible 2022 was rewarded by his peers, voting him as the AFLPA MVP, amidst his 1st All-Australian season. Additionally, the 22-year-old shared fourth place honours in the Brownlow, finishing on 25 votes with Clayton Oliver

Brayshaw averaged 29.3 disposals, 6.2 tackles, four clearances and six score involvements per game, including 12 goals for the year.

What didn’t?

Come the end of the home-and-away season, Fremantle ranked 12th for points scored, and had the least of all teams playing finals.

In games which Fremantle lost or drew, it only scored an average of 43 points. Since Matthew Pavlich, Fremantle has always desired a key forward of his calibre, yet, they’re still left longing six years later.

To inspect the issue further, we should take a more introspective view at the Fremantle key forwards.

Rory Lobb led all goalkickers for Fremantle this year (36), however, the Western Bulldogs called his name, and when Round 1, 2023 opens, he won’t be wearing purple.

Matt Taberner registered just 23 goals this year, with his only three-plus goal hauls coming against Essendon and West Coast. Bailey Banfield kicked 18 goals, including four against Brisbane, yet stands at just 190cm tall.

Jye Amiss kicked four goals in his three game rookie season, yet was tasked with playing in both of Fremantle’s finals, in favour of Taberner.

Fremantle was also left with the limited availability of Nat Fyfe. The captain was restricted to just seven games, and was subbed out of the draw vs. Richmond in Round 19. Additionally, Fyfe missed both finals, due to a hamstring injury suffered in training during the pre-finals bye.

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Furthermore, having only played two games between Rounds 9 and21, Sam Switkowski was sorely missed in the Fremantle forward line. Switkowski led Fremantle in goal assists, and was third for pressure acts.

More AFL Season Reviews:

AFL 2022 Season Review: Brisbane Lions

AFL 2022 Season Review: Richmond Tigers

AFL 2022 Season Review: Western Bulldogs

Breakout stars:

Between James Aish and Blake Acres, Fremantle had one the best wing partnerships in the league. The two had their best season in purple as combined, they averaged over 40 disposals, 10 marks and 6 inside 50s per game in 2022.

Heath Chapman had a star-making moment in the opening round, spoiling the ball over the line in the dying seconds to secure the win against Adelaide. In Round 8, Chapman was awarded a Rising Star award nomination for his performance against North Melbourne.

Brennan Cox had a career best season, in which he was named in the All-Australian 44 man squad. Cox was of only two Fremantle players to be selected.

Nathan O’Driscoll and Neil Erasmus both were able to break into the Fremantle midfield, with O’Driscoll playing 12 games and featuring in both of Fremantle’s finals.

Highest point:

Melbourne looked at the peak of its powers heading into Round 11, flag favourites by some margin, yet, Fremantle walked into MCG and stunned the Demons.

Down by 25 at half time, Longmuir’s men surged for a massive eight goal to one third quarter. Melbourne was floored by the Fremantle foray, with the Dockers kicking four more unanswered goals in the final quarter.

Fremantle’s 38 point victory cemented the ‘Flagmantle’ fever out west, as the Dockers moved to third on the ladder.

Sean Darcy celebrates after kicking a goal against Melbourne at the MCG. (Image: AFL)

Lowest point:

It was a rough end to July for Fremantle, only taking two points from 12 amidst some tough matches against ‘flag fancies’.

Losses at home to Sydney and Melbourne came either side of a draw to Richmond, which stifled Fremantle’s chances of finishing in the top four.

These dropped points proved detrimental to Fremantle’s season, as the Dockers finished in fifth, just half a game behind those who finished second-fourth.

Where to next?

It was a volatile off-season for Fremantle, with multiple trade requests away from the club. Blake Acres, Rory Lobb, Griffin Logue and Darcy Tucker have all departed for Victorian sides, as has ruck option Lloyd Meek.

Both Logue and Tucker joined North Melbourne, Acres has chosen Carlton, Meek Hawthorn, and Lobb has become a Bulldog, despite much postulating about his contracted status. Notably, in 2021, Lobb unsuccessfully sought a trade back to GWS.

Connor Blakely and Joel Western have been handed their pink slips and won’t play for Fremantle in 2023.

Yet, the biggest exit coming out of Fremantle was the retirement of David Mundy. The Fremantle champion retires having played 376 games, the current eighth most of all time.

Turning our eye to who is incoming, the Dockers gained the services of Gold Coast’s Josh Corbett. The out of favour Sun seems to be a well fitted replacement to add some forward depth.

Having requested a trade back to Western Australia, the Dockers ended up winning the services of ruck/forward Luke Jackson over the Eagles.

He will slot right into Lobb’s role, and should make a strong tandem pairing with Sean Darcy.

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