Adelaide vs Fremantle
Friday, 14 September 6:40pm
Adelaide come into the game against the best defensive unit in the AFL after being held to 42 points by the Swans, who with their strangling, tight and contested footy rushed the Crows into wasting their opportunities.
Fremantle somewhat shocked the footy world, and provided great relief for Hawks fans, by outclassing September specialists Geelong. With Aaron Sandilands and Matthew Pavlich near unstoppable when on song, and a firing midfield, the Dockers have every chance of giving the flag a shake.
Historically since the adoption of the McIntyre top 8 system, most of the teams that have lost their Qualifying Final have bounced back in their Semi, though the Crows position in the top four has been surrounded by doubts regarding their ‘soft’ draw. Crows coach Brendan Sanderson said through the week ”I would be lying if I said it didn’t bother me that people, especially interstate, didn’t rate the Crows”.
Ross Lyon was the recruiting move of the season, and after initial teething troubles, where his side dropped to 11th place with 5 and 5, the Dockers have won nine of their past ten games, and importantly 7 out of 11 interstate.
Last time they met
The Crows have beaten Fremantle twice this season, by 29 and 28 points in rounds 10 and 20, both time the side kicking 17 goals. The round 20 defeat was the first time the Dockers had lost since June.
Where it will be decided
Fremantle’s disposal douser Ryan Crowley has been the only opponent to keep prolific Crow ball winner Scott Thompson under twenty possessions this season, a feat he managed twice in what were Thompson’s two lowest possession games (18 and 16) for the season. Adelaide midfielders have vowed to help shake the Crowley tag, with Rory Slone stating through the week “we will have a real team focus to help [Thompson] out, as we always do with whoever cops a tag”.
The upset win over the Cats was only Fremantle’s third finals win, yet significantly, was their first outside Perth. Their sheer dominance early in the game saw them kick the first seven goals of the match and take a 48 point lead in the second quarter. Their livewire midfield, given the luxury of first use with another typically dominating effort in the centre circle, meant the service to Pavlich was on a platter, and his five marks and three early goals could easily be repeated.
Ross Lyon has bought the intense forward pressure with him, and the players efforts resulted in a number of goals from wayward and rushed disposal from the Cats backline.
The Crows back six will need to be precise in their decision making and disposal, while their forward entries will have to counter a full-strength Dockers midfield willing to work back and fill gaps in their backline, yet are also devastatingly adept at bring it out quickly. The unavailability of Crows defender Daniel Talia due to injury could prove crucial, as it was he who kept Pavlich quiet in the previous game between the sides. Andy Otten or Luke Thompson may be recalled to the side to take on the Docker’s skipper. Hayden Ballantyne and Michael Walters have been equally as damaging as their skipper in the past month, the trio contributing 32 goals between them.
The Crows have come out on top of the clearances in the two team’s previous two encounters, by 17 in round 10 and 21 in round 20, when Sandilands – who has averaged 38 hit outs a game since his return – and young gun Dockers midfielder Nat Fyfe were out injured.
Patrick Dangerfield has averaged 33 disposals in the two games against Fremantle, and chimed in with three goals. Taylor Walker kicked four against Fremantle in the round 20 win and will need to reverse his poor form against the Swans where he managed 11 disposals and 1 goal 3.
Fremantle come into the game full of confidence from their stirring win over the Cats, and will take heart from the fact they have Sandilands and Fyfe both in, and in form over the team that lost to the Crows in round 20. The Crows have no obvious match up for Pavlich, who was kept to two goals by Rising Star Talia in round 20.
Despite history being on the side of the top four team, and the form on the board against the Dockers, they were just too overawed against the Swans, and their untesting lead up to the finals have left them a step off the pace when needed.
Fremantle to continue the fairytale by 8.