AFL Mid-Season Review: Fremantle – Can the Dockers make some noise in September?

Fremantle players celebrate Jye Amiss' first goal against North Melbourne. (Image: @freodockers - Twitter; Design: Will Cuckson)

As we hit the bye rounds in the AFL season, The Inner Sanctum will be conducting our mid-season reviews of all 18 clubs and assessing the first half of the season and what fortunes may lie ahead.

Up next, Fremantle.

Snapshot:

It’s been a long time since Fremantle fans have been able to say that their team could be a genuine contender in finals. But here they are.

Currently sitting third on the ladder, with a record of 10-3, the Dockers are looking dangerous. Not to mention they have also defeated both the Demons and Lions, the two teams above them on the ladder, in consecutive weeks. Freo fans have a lot to be excited about right now.

What’s Worked:

A lot has gone right so far this year for the Dockers, but perhaps the most impressive area of their game is the work they have done defensively.

Fremantle is one of the best defensive teams in the competition, alongside last year’s premiers Melbourne who have been notoriously effective at that end of the ground in recent history. Conceding only 63.9 points per game, the Dockers have been consistently stopping the opposition from scoring, sitting fourth in the league for intercepts.

Adding to this, Fremantle ranks first for tackles, which shows its ability to apply pressure around the ground and make the opposition turn the ball over.

With multiple defenders having career-best years, including Alex Pearce, Heath Chapman, and Hayden Young, the Dockers’ backline is becoming very difficult to beat, and this is something they will want to keep up moving towards the end of the season.

What Hasn’t:

You would think that based on the important wins Fremantle has secured against the likes of Melbourne, Brisbane, Geelong, and Carlton, it would be comfortable against teams that are placed much lower on the ladder.

However, that hasn’t always been the case. The occasional slip-up has perhaps been the most frustrating part of the Dockers’ season, and it is something they need to work on.

The first would be excusable at face value, given it came against St Kilda who currently sits sixth, but at certain points in that game, Fremantle wasn’t playing anywhere near the level that we’ve come to expect now.

The two consecutive losses against the Suns and Pies, who are both around the edge of the top eight were completely out of the blue given how the Dockers had played in prior weeks and especially given the two wins that followed against the Demons and Lions.

The Dockers almost saw another slip up in Round 13 when they played the Hawks and trailed by 10 points at half-time. It would have been an awful turn of events after beating the two teams above them, but thankfully they secured the win.

It isn’t easy to tell why these slip-ups (and near slip-ups) tend to happen, but it’s something that Fremantle need to clean up as it edges closer to finals footy.

Biggest Improver:

Will Brodie. End of sentence. No, but in all seriousness, how good has this guy been?

He’s probably the obvious choice for the most improved player in the whole competition, let alone the most improved at Fremantle.

Brodie is in career-best form, and Gold Coast, despite all the impressive, young talent it has, would be spewing that it let him go for so little.

Especially given the absence of captain Nat Fyfe, as well as David Mundy who is still an extremely important player, Brodie has been a brilliant addition to the Dockers’ midfield. A huge relief for Dockers fans, who in previous years would have dreaded losing either of those two experienced campaigners in the middle.

Will Brodie celebrates a goal against Collingwood in Round 10. (Image: @freodockers – Twitter)

Fremantle’s small forward brigade also deserves a mention for how heavily they have contributed, and how much they have improved this season.

The likes of Lachie Schultz, Michael Frederick, and Sam Switkowski have been so important this year, with all contributing at least a goal per game and providing lots of defensive pressure inside forward 50.

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Who needs to lift?

There isn’t an obvious answer to this question, given the way the Dockers have been playing. However, Fremantle could still do with a little more from its key-forwards.

In that case, Rory Lobb is the man in the firing line, given his partner in crime Matt Taberner has missed most of the season to injury.

Lobb has managed just 21 goals, which is a far cry from the numbers that the key forwards from some of the teams around them are managing. Thankfully, the Dockers’ small forwards, as previously mentioned, have been firing on all cylinders this year.

If Lobb can kick a few more goals in the second half of the year, it could go a long way in determining where the Dockers fall when it’s all said and done.

Best and Fairest Contenders:

Star midfielder Andrew Brayshaw is the obvious choice to take home the Doig Medal, given he is also shaping up as a contender for the Brownlow Medal as well. He has been brilliant week in and week out for the Dockers, averaging 31.1 disposals (9.5 contested), 22.1 effective possessions, 5.4 inside 50s, and a massive 446.6 meters gained per game.

Aside from the 22-year-old midfielder, the aforementioned Will Brodie has also been brilliant and deserves a mention in this conversation given how well he has played. Ruckman Sean Darcy has also been ever-present in their success this year, and will surely finish well in their Best and Fairest count.

Expectations for the second half of the year:

As previously mentioned, the Dockers aren’t immune from a terrible slip-up, so they need to continue to back up their good performances and avoid playing the way they did in those defeats.

Some of the losses that they have suffered have been completely out of character, given the way we have gotten used to the Dockers playing. Thankfully those two particular wins against the Lions and Demons, along with the difficult win against the Hawks, have provided the club with a much-needed surge of momentum going into the second half of the year.

The Dockers have some huge games coming up against sides who currently sit in the top eight, with the Blues, Saints and Swans all looking to claim a scalp and jump them on the ladder. If Fremantle can hold strong in those games and beat the teams it’s expected to beat, there is no reason it won’t be serious contenders at the end of the year.

Prediction:

3rd (and a Preliminary Final at the very least)

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