Fremantle midfielder Andrew Brayshaw weighed in on criticisms surrounding teammate Caleb Serong’s tag on Zach Merrett after his off-ball treatment of the Essendon midfielder in their clash at Marvel Stadium on Sunday.
Second year player and Rising Star award recipient Caleb Serong was tasked with neutralising Merrett’s output, successfully doing so, limiting him to 22 touches, eight below his season average.
In addition, Merrett was reduced to just four contested possessions, which is also uncharacteristically low for him.
Post match, Essendon coach Ben Rutten took issue to tactics used behind play to suppress the star midfielder, but acknowledge it did give them an edge on the scoreboard.
“The stuff around the ball, I think Zach (Merrett) can take but there were a few incidents off the ball we were able to get free kicks for downfield and hit the scoreboard. It’s good to see those frees get paid,” Rutten said.
However, speaking to the media on Wednesday morning, Brayshaw came to his teammate’s defence.
“Essendon were a really fierce team on the weekend and so were we,” he said.
“We put a good player on a good player. Caleb (Serong) went to Merrett and I think just playing AFL footy, that’s the sort of aggression that comes out of games from both sides.”
However, he acknowledged that some of the tactics and antics behind the ball may have harmed the Dockers in their seven point defeat.
“When you’re giving away free kicks that definitely hurts the team,” Brayshaw said.
“But to a degree, it’s stand up for your teammates. We definitely don’t want to get pushed around.
“I think we toed the line and so did they.”
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The final free kick count read 17-13 in Essendon’s favour, with a handful received from infringements on Merrett and other Essendon players.
Not only were Fremantle punished through free kicks, but also through the Match Review Officer.
While Serong has all the focus on him, the fine went to fellow midfielder Darcy Tucker. His pockets are $3000 lighter after pleading guilty to rough conduct against Zach Merrett in the first quarter. It was ruled as intentional conduct, low impact, body contact.
Having received attention earlier this year against Hawthorn and Carlton, Brayshaw stated it was “part of the game”.
“When players are getting off the chain in the weeks leading up to the game, teams are going to start putting attention them,” he said.
“I experienced that earlier in the year and we put that attention into Merrett on the weekend.
“I think it’s just part of it and both teams just have to respond.”
On Monday night, past players Garry Lyon and Jonathan Brown spoke on the clash on FOX Footy, agreeing that the battle between Serong and Merrett was “good to watch”.
“It was a good story throughout the game,” Brown said.
“They both went hard at each other.”
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