Preview Fremantle 2019 Season Preview

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I was a bit fed up with reading finger nail deep analysis from paid journalists who don't appear to have even watched a Fremantle game in the past couple of years. So I thought I'd write my own Season Preview as a Freo tragic hopefully that some other Freo tragics will enjoy...

Overview

Another big off season for Fremantle saw 10 new faces, making it a total of 32 players over the past 3 seasons. I’m not sure why Fremantle didn’t receive greater applause for managing what they did in the last off season? Starting with an unbalanced list and just one pick in the first 4 rounds and still managed to transform a worst in league forward line into one that could quickly become a great one? Nobody should be pencilling in a grand final appearance just yet but the list is certainly in far better shape than it was this time last year. And it looks poised to continue improving year on year for the foreseeable future.

Out: Lachie Neale, Michael Johnson, Lee Spurr, Danyle Pearce, Tommy Sheridan, Cam Sutcliffe, Brady Grey, Michael Apeness, Luke Strnadica

In: Jesse Hogan, Rory Lobb, Reece Conca, Travis Colyer, Sam Sturt, Luke Valente, Lachie Shultz, Brett Bewley, Jason Carter, Tobe Watson

Biggest Loss from the Trade Period?

In a team that finished 16th for contested possessions and 14th for clearances in 2018, losing Lachie Neale's 15.0 contested possessions (2nd behind Nat Fyfe) and team high 7.1 clearances per game is going to be a big hole for Freo to firstly fill and then try to improve upon. But as we've seen at other clubs, what seems a major loss on the surface can become a great opportunity for others to step up and grasp with both hands. It can also create a better sharing of responsibility across a playing list, reduce reliance on key individuals, make things less predictable and abate any loss of players to injury throughout the season. The opening for an in-and-under first possession ball winner has come at precisely the right time for Connor Blakely to put his hand up. Having completed his apprenticeship at half back and improved both his accountability and disposal, he is now ready to play as a full time midfielder.

The injection of numerous forwards onto the list means the rotation of David Mundy, Michael Walters and Harley Bennell into the midfield won’t cripple the forward line when they do. Similarly, Adam Cerra and Andrew Brayshaw's completion of their first full pre-season, allowing them to play longer stints across half back and cameos through the midfield will release Blakely and potentially Stephen Hill (when fit) to spend plenty of time in the middle.

Neale's departure also presents a chance for those assuming his role to provide a greater impact per possession and be more accountable when Fremantle don't have the ball. Reece Conca's stats in 2018 for Richmond would have had him as Fremantle’s clear best tackler (Brayshaw was Freo's best), and 4th best midfielder for score involvements and contested possessions. Impressive given he played mostly off half back. He’s no superstar but he’s a solid footballer that can and will play a role. Similarly with Blakely and Bailey Banfield, if they can get the ball into the hands of better ball users rather than try to do too much, then they'll improve Fremantle’s defensive accountability whilst filling the ball winning void left by Neale.

Which Player Traded in Will Have the Biggest Impact?

Stiff on Rory Lobb, who instantly adds one of the best ruck forwards and contested markers in the competition to Freo's best 22 but bringing in one of the AFL's best young key forwards in Jesse Hogan is a coup for Fremantle. It's not just his 2.4 goals per game (9th in the AFL in 2018) that should excite Freo fans, he was also in the top 10 across all AFL players for score involvements with a massive 7.6 per game. Nat Fyfe was 5th with 7.9 per game. Neale wasn't even in the top 100 AFL players (both Mundy & Walters were). Hogan doesn't just kick goals, he creates them, which is something Fremantle desperately needs to improve its scoring by at least 3 goals per game and start mixing it with the best teams. His presence will improve those around him, and people forget he is still only 23 with plenty of room for improvement.

Which Draftee Will Make an Immediate Impact?

How an elite kick and elite runner in Brett Bewley lasted to pick #59 in the national draft is a bit of a mystery? He's already caught the attention of the coaches, the players, and the training watchers and appears almost a lock to debut in round 1. Knocks on his speed were somewhat disproven when he ran a sub 3 second 20 metre sprint at the combine. Although he has lined up predominantly on the outside in the VFL, his attributes could easily translate to playing more of an inside role at AFL level in time. Freo's forwards should be licking their lips at the prospect of Bewley delivering the ball on a silver platter to them inside 50. The step up to AFL from the state leagues is bigger than most anticipate so expectations should be tempered but Bewley looks an incredible prospect for both Freo and those playing fantasy in 2019.

The Smokey to Debut and Dominate?

He's hard to miss at training with his skinny ghost white frame but Sam Sturt brings many of the attributes Fremantle’s new look forward line needs even with the addition of Hogan and Lobb. Like Stephenson showed at Collingwood, you don't need a seasoned AFL body to make an impact if you have elite speed, elite agility and good hands in the air. And especially so if you slot into a forward line with other dangerous targets to draw away the best defenders. Without having yet played a full season of football it's unfair to expect too much from Sturt early on but he's already proven he can step into unfamiliar territory and make an immediate impact after switching from cricket mid-season this year and smashing the TAC Cup finals. With his elite athletic profile and our small forward brigade being less than impressive in 2018, there is no reason he can't earn a debut next season and play a fair few games.

Who is Primed for a Breakout Season?

Some may argue Blakely already has but his move to a prominent position in the midfield will shine the spotlight on him each and every week. He and Fyfe will form a formidable duo. Darcy Tucker, Logue, Cox, Brayshaw, Cerra, Banfield, Switkowski and Duman are in the mix to be the big improvers in 2019.

Who is at the Last Chance Saloon?

Two games in three seasons makes Bennell the clear choice here. Early pre-season signs have been encouraging but his body and his mental state need to hold up well this season for him to remain an AFL player. Shane Kersten, Ethan Hughes, Ryan Nyhuis, Scott Jones and Tucker would all want a good season to retain their spots on the list come the end of next year. Sandilands and Ballantyne are almost certainties to be entering their final season.

How Does Fremantle Need to Improve?

IN THE MIDFIELD

Pressure Around the Ball

Knowing who and when to jump in and win the ball is often the difference between the best and worst midfields. Avid Fremantle watchers will recall the collective crowd sighs in recent seasons when multiple Fremantle midfielders would chase the ball allowing an opposition mid to shoot out a quick handball to one of their many wide open teammates, forcing Freo's outside mids to close the space and leave their man wide open to then receive the ball over the top, run in and make an unpressured kick to a leading forward inside 50.


Good midfields instinctively know whose turn it is to jump in to try and win the ball or failing that, force a holding the ball decision or at least a stoppage. The rest remain spread evenly around the contest to block any outlet passes and locate space to attack into should they win the ball. Teammates must trust that they can each play their roles and work hard in both directions and not leave a burden for others to have to deal with.


Unlike all the other AFL clubs, Fremantle regularly played 1, 2 or sometimes even 3 first year players in the midfield at the same time last season. Given this, the highly critical assessments from commentators have been pretty unfair as relative to experience they probably outperformed expectations last year. Fans should expect considerably improved coordination, pressure, tackling and accountability at stoppages in 2019, and further improvement again in 2020 as Freo’s young midfielders mature both physically and mentally.

Winning the Contested Ball

Fremantle's reliance on Fyfe and Neale to win the vast majority of the ball must shift for them to become more competitive. Those two alone accounted for a quarter of all contested possessions in the games they both played last season. The responsibility to win the ball must be better shared, particularly across the midfield group. With improvement in Freo's 2nd year midfielders and better sharing of load amongst senior midfielders, Freo should win more ball, be better at retaining possession, and not get destroyed on the spread when the opposition has the ball.

IN THE BACK LINE

Intercepts, Intercepts and More Intercepts

Fremantle were 16th for intercept possessions last season. It's one of only a handful of statistics in 2018 were there is some sense of correlation between how they rank versus ladder position. Joel Hamling and Luke Ryan comfortably led Freo's pack of interceptors, which is a positive given it isn't their primary role but also a clear indication Freo could benefit a lot by adding a gun interceptor to the back line. Most suitably playing in that 3rd tall back role and being capable of rolling off their opponent regularly. Early pre-season predictions have earmarked athletic defender Griffin Logue as the most likely to assume that role, having come back in superb shape after missing the whole of last season. However Fremantle also needs their other fringe defenders to improve their intercepting prowess and create pressure for the selection committee.

Having a back line stacked with strong interceptors is futile though if the midfield and forward line aren't providing the necessary pressure down field. Better midfield accountability and stopping opposition teams rebounding out of defence unimpeded will go a long way to not only greater intercept numbers but also turning the pressure valve back on the opposition by causing these turnovers closer and closer to Freo's own forward line. You can always tell when a Ross Lyon game plan is being executed correctly when you see Freo’s defenders spread from the centre line to half forward gobbling up the opposition's pressured kicks out of Freo’s forward 50 and them launching the ball straight back in with repeat entries.

Attacking from Kick-Ins

With the rule change allowing the player kicking-in to run without needing to play on, expect Nathan Wilson to take full advantage in 2019. Both he and Ryan will also benefit from vastly better contested marking targets to kick to outside Freo’s defensive 50. Fans will be relived seeing far fewer dinky kicks to the pocket from kick-ins, that I assume were attempts to shift the defence but more often than not just added pressure for the receiver to rush their disposal and risk turnovers directly in front of goal. A fit Brad Hill, who only managed 10 games last season, along with Ed Langdon, and the addition of Bewley and Travis Colyer should result in greater confidence and depth to break lines, and a willingness to use the centre corridor to transition the ball from defence to attack quickly and effectively.

Less Borrowing from the Midfield

With 11 fit and available defenders on the list, Fremantle shouldn’t need to bolster the back line as much with seasoned midfielders (eg Blakely and Hill). The core of Alex Pearce, Hamling, Wilson and Ryan, most likely means one or two spots for the remaining defenders to fill plus youngsters rotating via the midfield such as Adam Cerra and Andrew Brayshaw.

IN THE FORWARD LINE

Inside 50 Pressure and Tackles

Fremantle was 18th (last) for tackles inside 50 in 2018. With experienced small forwards Walters, Brandon Matera and Hayden Ballantyne playing 18, 18 and 17 games respectively that is an unacceptable return. Matera has clearly seen the writing on the wall, coming back this pre-season considerably fitter. But the small forward selection door remains plenty ajar for young forward option Sam Switkowski, who ended the year superbly against Collingwood in just his second game, plus new draftees Lachlan Shultz and Sam Sturt who both bring youthful enthusiasm and speed. Formerly a strength of Ross Lyon coached teams, fans should expect pressure inside 50 to vastly improve in 2019.

More Marks Inside 50

Not surprisingly teams that mark the ball inside 50 a lot, get more shots at goal and therefore tend to kick more goals. The addition of Jesse Hogan and Rory Lobb provides two genuine inside 50 marking threats both on the lead and in a contest. They should form a formidable 3 or 4 prong tall attack alongside some combination of Matthew Taberner, Brennan Cox and Cam McCarthy.

Increasing Supply and Efficiency Inside 50

Fremantle were 16th for inside 50s and 14th for efficiency once they got it inside 50 in 2018 and turned the ball over a lot forward of centre, often even before it got within goal range. Many will argue the fault for a lack of inside 50 supply lies with the midfield but the half forwards are tasked just as frequently with receiving the ball and kicking it inside 50. If they either aren’t finding space to receive nor delivering the ball with precision when they do, then the end result is generally a turnover that rebounds quickly in the opposite direction. Fremantle should have a considerably improved half forward line in 2019 and one that is capable of both far greater supply and efficiency inside 50. If Stephen Hill can finally overcome his quad problems then both he and Bewley could turn around Freo’s inside 50 delivery issues from the midfield in a big way.

Possible Best 22

B Griffin Logue ~ Joel Hamling ~ Luke Ryan

HB Nathan Wilson ~ Alex Pearce ~ Adam Cerra

C Ed Langdon ~ Nat Fyfe ~ Brad Hill

R Aaron Sandilands ~ David Mundy ~ Connor Blakely

HF Harley Bennell ~ Jesse Hogan ~ Michael Walters

F Brandon Matera ~ Matthew Taberner ~ Rory Lobb

I/C Stephen Hill ~ Brett Bewley ~ Andrew Brayshaw ~ Reece Conca

There are fair arguments for Cox, Colyer, Banfield, Darcy, McCarthy, Switkowski and Duman to all be in the best 22 as well. Delayed starts due to injuries should see some of them line up round 1.

Depth

Rucks: Sean Darcy, Scott Jones, Lloyd Meek

Midfielders: Travis Colyer, Darcy Tucker, Bailey Banfield, Mitch Crowden, Tom North, Stefan Giro, Luke Valente

Key Forwards: Brennan Cox, Cam McCarthy, Hugh Dixon

Forwards: Hayden Ballantyne, Sam Switkowski, Sam Sturt, Lachlan Shultz

Key Defenders: Shane Kersten

Defenders: Taylin Duman, Ethan Hughes, Ryan Nyhuis, Tobe Watson, Jason Carter

Season Prediction

A refreshed Pearce, a returning Logue and a fitter Cerra should mean the back line takes another step forward in 2019. Not fatiguing in the second half of both games and the season as a whole should mean lower scores against and better attack from defence.

An almost brand new forward line should completely change Freo’s dynamic forward of centre resulting in better supply and efficiency, more shots at goal and higher scores. It may take time for the many new faces to gel but fans should expect improvement as early as round 1.

The midfield is where the big question marks are. Can Fyfe get through a whole season? Can Blakely step up? Can Stephen Hill get over his perpetual soft tissue injuries? Can Walters play an important role through the midfield each and every week? Can Bennell get out and stay out on the field? Will Conca help release Fyfe to become even more damaging? Can Bewley perform at AFL level? Can the young mids each take another step forward with their development and understanding of the game plan? Will pre-season S&C tweaks mean less injuries through the season?

Far too many what ifs for grandiose predictions but fans should still expect improvement across all lines. In regard to finishing ladder position, a lot will depend on where other clubs are at with their lists and although there are quite a few ageing teams, that in theory should decline, there are no guarantees. There are also some young perpetual cellar dwelling teams that might finally find the spark to improve however like us in recent seasons, key injuries could quickly cripple most of them.

Fremantle should be aiming to sneak into the finals or at the very least just miss out in 2019. If they don’t, the writing may well be on the wall for Ross. But fear not fellow supporters as the list’s future outlook will not be as dire no matter the result next season. Freo’s trading and drafting has been top shelf in the past three seasons – a stark contrast to the off seasons prior to that, and we should all see the benefits of that in the coming years.

Don't book your flights to the GF but get excited to watch some better football in 2019 Fremantle fans!
 

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#2
Thanks WTG - nice write up.

Interesting comment from Ross in yesterday's article - said that Matera is really fit & doing a lot of small forward running patterns.
Hopefully, we play him as a specialist small fwd this season (rather than a poor midfielder) & get some value out of him.

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freoextra

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#4
Really enjoyed the write up, hopefully the journos reading this (only Duffield exempted from this comment) will take the hint and put a bit of thought into their Freo articles (especially you numbnuts in the East who amaze with your total lack of investigation or analysis).
 

poshman

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#5
Great to see a thorough write up... thank you!

I think our trading and recruiting for the past three seasons has been borderline unbelievable. Not many teams pick up:

2x top 5 mids - both have shown they can influence games
1 top line KPD
1 ruck/forward - young, mobile and very good.
1x 23 KPF - who has a great goal average and can play well up the ground.
2x quick and long kicking small backs.
1 x top line outside running mid
1 x hybrid beast athlete who can at the very least play 3rd back but potentially could roam and be a nightmare for opponents.

Add to that Cox and Darcy as young guns who have shown they can be A graders.


while still expecting to see more from McCarthy and Matera.

Seriously great 3 off seasons!
 

FreoMonocle

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#8
Love your work.

Waytogo.com.au would be a favourite read on the interwebz...
 

theGav56

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#9
Thanks WTG - nice write up.

Interesting comment from Ross in yesterday's article - said that Matera is really fit & doing a lot of small forward running patterns.
Hopefully, we play him as a specialist small fwd this season (rather than a poor midfielder) & get some value out of him.

On [device_name] using BigFooty.com mobile app
The players recruited this off-season seem to have been done with an eye on a double benefit.
  • Conca should allow more midfield time for Blakely and sHill.
  • Lobb should see the end of Fyfe and Taberner in the ruck.
  • Colyer and Bewley will mean Matera plays as a forward.
  • Lobb and Hogan gives McCarthy the opportunity to play in the better suited 3rd/4th tall forward role.
That is a fair bit of reshaping of the best 22.
 
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#10
The players recruited this off-season seem to have been done with an eye on a double benefit.
  • Conca should allow more midfield time for Blakely and sHill.
  • Lobb should see the end of Fyfe and Taberner in the ruck.
  • Colyer and Bewley will mean Matera plays as a forward.
  • Lobb and Hogan gives McCarthy the opportunity to play in the better suited 3rd/4th tall forward role.
That is a fair bit of reshaping of the best 22.
Conca has largely been a defensive midfielder though? not a HBF?
 

Tayl0r

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Moderator #11
The inside fifty work is critical. We used to be top four for scoring from stoppages (most of which is inside fifty) but we simply don't produce enough stoppages inside attacking fifty because we turn the ball over too much. Is that because we use the ball poorly in the middle or because we don't have genuine targets up forward to create a contest? We will find out.

I expect we only need someone to bring the ball to ground for us to drastically improve in this regard. See Jones up forward during the Port Adelaide game, even purely as a ground taking exercise.

Ideally we would have 40 inside fifty marks a game but if we can have ten with 30 spillages that either result in a stoppage or another snap on goal then we should win most games.
 

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Fyfster

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#13
I was a bit fed up with reading finger nail deep analysis from paid journalists who don't appear to have even watched a Fremantle game in the past couple of years. So I thought I'd write my own Season Preview as a Freo tragic hopefully that some other Freo tragics will enjoy...

Overview

Another big off season for Fremantle saw 10 new faces, making it a total of 32 players over the past 3 seasons. I’m not sure why Fremantle didn’t receive greater applause for managing what they did in the last off season? Starting with an unbalanced list and just one pick in the first 4 rounds and still managed to transform a worst in league forward line into one that could quickly become a great one? Nobody should be pencilling in a grand final appearance just yet but the list is certainly in far better shape than it was this time last year. And it looks poised to continue improving year on year for the foreseeable future.

Out: Lachie Neale, Michael Johnson, Lee Spurr, Danyle Pearce, Tommy Sheridan, Cam Sutcliffe, Brady Grey, Michael Apeness, Luke Strnadica

In: Jesse Hogan, Rory Lobb, Reece Conca, Travis Colyer, Sam Sturt, Luke Valente, Lachie Shultz, Brett Bewley, Jason Carter, Tobe Watson

Biggest Loss from the Trade Period?

In a team that finished 16th for contested possessions and 14th for clearances in 2018, losing Lachie Neale's 15.0 contested possessions (2nd behind Nat Fyfe) and team high 7.1 clearances per game is going to be a big hole for Freo to firstly fill and then try to improve upon. But as we've seen at other clubs, what seems a major loss on the surface can become a great opportunity for others to step up and grasp with both hands. It can also create a better sharing of responsibility across a playing list, reduce reliance on key individuals, make things less predictable and abate any loss of players to injury throughout the season. The opening for an in-and-under first possession ball winner has come at precisely the right time for Connor Blakely to put his hand up. Having completed his apprenticeship at half back and improved both his accountability and disposal, he is now ready to play as a full time midfielder.

The injection of numerous forwards onto the list means the rotation of David Mundy, Michael Walters and Harley Bennell into the midfield won’t cripple the forward line when they do. Similarly, Adam Cerra and Andrew Brayshaw's completion of their first full pre-season, allowing them to play longer stints across half back and cameos through the midfield will release Blakely and potentially Stephen Hill (when fit) to spend plenty of time in the middle.

Neale's departure also presents a chance for those assuming his role to provide a greater impact per possession and be more accountable when Fremantle don't have the ball. Reece Conca's stats in 2018 for Richmond would have had him as Fremantle’s clear best tackler (Brayshaw was Freo's best), and 4th best midfielder for score involvements and contested possessions. Impressive given he played mostly off half back. He’s no superstar but he’s a solid footballer that can and will play a role. Similarly with Blakely and Bailey Banfield, if they can get the ball into the hands of better ball users rather than try to do too much, then they'll improve Fremantle’s defensive accountability whilst filling the ball winning void left by Neale.

Which Player Traded in Will Have the Biggest Impact?

Stiff on Rory Lobb, who instantly adds one of the best ruck forwards and contested markers in the competition to Freo's best 22 but bringing in one of the AFL's best young key forwards in Jesse Hogan is a coup for Fremantle. It's not just his 2.4 goals per game (9th in the AFL in 2018) that should excite Freo fans, he was also in the top 10 across all AFL players for score involvements with a massive 7.6 per game. Nat Fyfe was 5th with 7.9 per game. Neale wasn't even in the top 100 AFL players (both Mundy & Walters were). Hogan doesn't just kick goals, he creates them, which is something Fremantle desperately needs to improve its scoring by at least 3 goals per game and start mixing it with the best teams. His presence will improve those around him, and people forget he is still only 23 with plenty of room for improvement.

Which Draftee Will Make an Immediate Impact?

How an elite kick and elite runner in Brett Bewley lasted to pick #59 in the national draft is a bit of a mystery? He's already caught the attention of the coaches, the players, and the training watchers and appears almost a lock to debut in round 1. Knocks on his speed were somewhat disproven when he ran a sub 3 second 20 metre sprint at the combine. Although he has lined up predominantly on the outside in the VFL, his attributes could easily translate to playing more of an inside role at AFL level in time. Freo's forwards should be licking their lips at the prospect of Bewley delivering the ball on a silver platter to them inside 50. The step up to AFL from the state leagues is bigger than most anticipate so expectations should be tempered but Bewley looks an incredible prospect for both Freo and those playing fantasy in 2019.

The Smokey to Debut and Dominate?

He's hard to miss at training with his skinny ghost white frame but Sam Sturt brings many of the attributes Fremantle’s new look forward line needs even with the addition of Hogan and Lobb. Like Stephenson showed at Collingwood, you don't need a seasoned AFL body to make an impact if you have elite speed, elite agility and good hands in the air. And especially so if you slot into a forward line with other dangerous targets to draw away the best defenders. Without having yet played a full season of football it's unfair to expect too much from Sturt early on but he's already proven he can step into unfamiliar territory and make an immediate impact after switching from cricket mid-season this year and smashing the TAC Cup finals. With his elite athletic profile and our small forward brigade being less than impressive in 2018, there is no reason he can't earn a debut next season and play a fair few games.

Who is Primed for a Breakout Season?

Some may argue Blakely already has but his move to a prominent position in the midfield will shine the spotlight on him each and every week. He and Fyfe will form a formidable duo. Darcy Tucker, Logue, Cox, Brayshaw, Cerra, Banfield, Switkowski and Duman are in the mix to be the big improvers in 2019.

Who is at the Last Chance Saloon?

Two games in three seasons makes Bennell the clear choice here. Early pre-season signs have been encouraging but his body and his mental state need to hold up well this season for him to remain an AFL player. Shane Kersten, Ethan Hughes, Ryan Nyhuis, Scott Jones and Tucker would all want a good season to retain their spots on the list come the end of next year. Sandilands and Ballantyne are almost certainties to be entering their final season.

How Does Fremantle Need to Improve?

IN THE MIDFIELD

Pressure Around the Ball

Knowing who and when to jump in and win the ball is often the difference between the best and worst midfields. Avid Fremantle watchers will recall the collective crowd sighs in recent seasons when multiple Fremantle midfielders would chase the ball allowing an opposition mid to shoot out a quick handball to one of their many wide open teammates, forcing Freo's outside mids to close the space and leave their man wide open to then receive the ball over the top, run in and make an unpressured kick to a leading forward inside 50.


Good midfields instinctively know whose turn it is to jump in to try and win the ball or failing that, force a holding the ball decision or at least a stoppage. The rest remain spread evenly around the contest to block any outlet passes and locate space to attack into should they win the ball. Teammates must trust that they can each play their roles and work hard in both directions and not leave a burden for others to have to deal with.


Unlike all the other AFL clubs, Fremantle regularly played 1, 2 or sometimes even 3 first year players in the midfield at the same time last season. Given this, the highly critical assessments from commentators have been pretty unfair as relative to experience they probably outperformed expectations last year. Fans should expect considerably improved coordination, pressure, tackling and accountability at stoppages in 2019, and further improvement again in 2020 as Freo’s young midfielders mature both physically and mentally.

Winning the Contested Ball

Fremantle's reliance on Fyfe and Neale to win the vast majority of the ball must shift for them to become more competitive. Those two alone accounted for a quarter of all contested possessions in the games they both played last season. The responsibility to win the ball must be better shared, particularly across the midfield group. With improvement in Freo's 2nd year midfielders and better sharing of load amongst senior midfielders, Freo should win more ball, be better at retaining possession, and not get destroyed on the spread when the opposition has the ball.

IN THE BACK LINE

Intercepts, Intercepts and More Intercepts

Fremantle were 16th for intercept possessions last season. It's one of only a handful of statistics in 2018 were there is some sense of correlation between how they rank versus ladder position. Joel Hamling and Luke Ryan comfortably led Freo's pack of interceptors, which is a positive given it isn't their primary role but also a clear indication Freo could benefit a lot by adding a gun interceptor to the back line. Most suitably playing in that 3rd tall back role and being capable of rolling off their opponent regularly. Early pre-season predictions have earmarked athletic defender Griffin Logue as the most likely to assume that role, having come back in superb shape after missing the whole of last season. However Fremantle also needs their other fringe defenders to improve their intercepting prowess and create pressure for the selection committee.

Having a back line stacked with strong interceptors is futile though if the midfield and forward line aren't providing the necessary pressure down field. Better midfield accountability and stopping opposition teams rebounding out of defence unimpeded will go a long way to not only greater intercept numbers but also turning the pressure valve back on the opposition by causing these turnovers closer and closer to Freo's own forward line. You can always tell when a Ross Lyon game plan is being executed correctly when you see Freo’s defenders spread from the centre line to half forward gobbling up the opposition's pressured kicks out of Freo’s forward 50 and them launching the ball straight back in with repeat entries.

Attacking from Kick-Ins

With the rule change allowing the player kicking-in to run without needing to play on, expect Nathan Wilson to take full advantage in 2019. Both he and Ryan will also benefit from vastly better contested marking targets to kick to outside Freo’s defensive 50. Fans will be relived seeing far fewer dinky kicks to the pocket from kick-ins, that I assume were attempts to shift the defence but more often than not just added pressure for the receiver to rush their disposal and risk turnovers directly in front of goal. A fit Brad Hill, who only managed 10 games last season, along with Ed Langdon, and the addition of Bewley and Travis Colyer should result in greater confidence and depth to break lines, and a willingness to use the centre corridor to transition the ball from defence to attack quickly and effectively.

Less Borrowing from the Midfield

With 11 fit and available defenders on the list, Fremantle shouldn’t need to bolster the back line as much with seasoned midfielders (eg Blakely and Hill). The core of Alex Pearce, Hamling, Wilson and Ryan, most likely means one or two spots for the remaining defenders to fill plus youngsters rotating via the midfield such as Adam Cerra and Andrew Brayshaw.

IN THE FORWARD LINE

Inside 50 Pressure and Tackles

Fremantle was 18th (last) for tackles inside 50 in 2018. With experienced small forwards Walters, Brandon Matera and Hayden Ballantyne playing 18, 18 and 17 games respectively that is an unacceptable return. Matera has clearly seen the writing on the wall, coming back this pre-season considerably fitter. But the small forward selection door remains plenty ajar for young forward option Sam Switkowski, who ended the year superbly against Collingwood in just his second game, plus new draftees Lachlan Shultz and Sam Sturt who both bring youthful enthusiasm and speed. Formerly a strength of Ross Lyon coached teams, fans should expect pressure inside 50 to vastly improve in 2019.

More Marks Inside 50

Not surprisingly teams that mark the ball inside 50 a lot, get more shots at goal and therefore tend to kick more goals. The addition of Jesse Hogan and Rory Lobb provides two genuine inside 50 marking threats both on the lead and in a contest. They should form a formidable 3 or 4 prong tall attack alongside some combination of Matthew Taberner, Brennan Cox and Cam McCarthy.

Increasing Supply and Efficiency Inside 50

Fremantle were 16th for inside 50s and 14th for efficiency once they got it inside 50 in 2018 and turned the ball over a lot forward of centre, often even before it got within goal range. Many will argue the fault for a lack of inside 50 supply lies with the midfield but the half forwards are tasked just as frequently with receiving the ball and kicking it inside 50. If they either aren’t finding space to receive nor delivering the ball with precision when they do, then the end result is generally a turnover that rebounds quickly in the opposite direction. Fremantle should have a considerably improved half forward line in 2019 and one that is capable of both far greater supply and efficiency inside 50. If Stephen Hill can finally overcome his quad problems then both he and Bewley could turn around Freo’s inside 50 delivery issues from the midfield in a big way.

Possible Best 22

B Griffin Logue ~ Joel Hamling ~ Luke Ryan

HB Nathan Wilson ~ Alex Pearce ~ Adam Cerra

C Ed Langdon ~ Nat Fyfe ~ Brad Hill

R Aaron Sandilands ~ David Mundy ~ Connor Blakely

HF Harley Bennell ~ Jesse Hogan ~ Michael Walters

F Brandon Matera ~ Matthew Taberner ~ Rory Lobb

I/C Stephen Hill ~ Brett Bewley ~ Andrew Brayshaw ~ Reece Conca

There are fair arguments for Cox, Colyer, Banfield, Darcy, McCarthy, Switkowski and Duman to all be in the best 22 as well. Delayed starts due to injuries should see some of them line up round 1.

Depth

Rucks: Sean Darcy, Scott Jones, Lloyd Meek

Midfielders: Travis Colyer, Darcy Tucker, Bailey Banfield, Mitch Crowden, Tom North, Stefan Giro, Luke Valente

Key Forwards: Brennan Cox, Cam McCarthy, Hugh Dixon

Forwards: Hayden Ballantyne, Sam Switkowski, Sam Sturt, Lachlan Shultz

Key Defenders: Shane Kersten

Defenders: Taylin Duman, Ethan Hughes, Ryan Nyhuis, Tobe Watson, Jason Carter

Season Prediction

A refreshed Pearce, a returning Logue and a fitter Cerra should mean the back line takes another step forward in 2019. Not fatiguing in the second half of both games and the season as a whole should mean lower scores against and better attack from defence.

An almost brand new forward line should completely change Freo’s dynamic forward of centre resulting in better supply and efficiency, more shots at goal and higher scores. It may take time for the many new faces to gel but fans should expect improvement as early as round 1.

The midfield is where the big question marks are. Can Fyfe get through a whole season? Can Blakely step up? Can Stephen Hill get over his perpetual soft tissue injuries? Can Walters play an important role through the midfield each and every week? Can Bennell get out and stay out on the field? Will Conca help release Fyfe to become even more damaging? Can Bewley perform at AFL level? Can the young mids each take another step forward with their development and understanding of the game plan? Will pre-season S&C tweaks mean less injuries through the season?

Far too many what ifs for grandiose predictions but fans should still expect improvement across all lines. In regard to finishing ladder position, a lot will depend on where other clubs are at with their lists and although there are quite a few ageing teams, that in theory should decline, there are no guarantees. There are also some young perpetual cellar dwelling teams that might finally find the spark to improve however like us in recent seasons, key injuries could quickly cripple most of them.

Fremantle should be aiming to sneak into the finals or at the very least just miss out in 2019. If they don’t, the writing may well be on the wall for Ross. But fear not fellow supporters as the list’s future outlook will not be as dire no matter the result next season. Freo’s trading and drafting has been top shelf in the past three seasons – a stark contrast to the off seasons prior to that, and we should all see the benefits of that in the coming years.

Don't book your flights to the GF but get excited to watch some better football in 2019 Fremantle fans!
Best pre season article written about Freo i have ever read , You have missed your calling , Very well thought out .
 
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#14
A great write up, thanks for putting the effort in. Going to take my first opportunity to stick up for my new 2019 buddy in Tom North, I think he will surprise a few and play 7-10 games this season.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 

theGav56

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#15
Conca has largely been a defensive midfielder though? not a HBF?
From what I have read he has more been playing from the HB line in the most recent seasons and far less in the midfield.
 

eastfreo75

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#16
The players recruited this off-season seem to have been done with an eye on a double benefit.
  • Conca should allow more midfield time for Blakely and sHill.
  • Lobb should see the end of Fyfe and Taberner in the ruck.
  • Colyer and Bewley will mean Matera plays as a forward.
  • Lobb and Hogan gives McCarthy the opportunity to play in the better suited 3rd/4th tall forward role.
That is a fair bit of reshaping of the best 22.
A lot of robbing Peter to pay Paul last year.

Totally agree, that the trade/draft period will allow players to play their best roles instead of filling gaps.
 

Walkingwounded

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#17
The players recruited this off-season seem to have been done with an eye on a double benefit.
  • Conca should allow more midfield time for Blakely and sHill.
  • Lobb should see the end of Fyfe and Taberner in the ruck.
  • Colyer and Bewley will mean Matera plays as a forward.
  • Lobb and Hogan gives McCarthy the opportunity to play in the better suited 3rd/4th tall forward role.
That is a fair bit of reshaping of the best 22.
One thing that has been evident is that more emphasis is placed on the character test in the drafting process.
 

Scatter

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#18
Just adding my thanks and praise for this write up, very impressive. I agree with almost all you said, and my best 22 was almost identical.
 

Steinfreo

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#19
This is getting copy pasted into so many word documents for afl season 2019 previews.
 

anchor man

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#20
Great look at our team for 2019.Well done.
One from last year, I think, Hugh Dixon seems to be being overlooked by many.He came to the club with big wraps, but like a few other, injury held him up.I think he came good at Peel in the latter part of the season.He could be a smokey.
But I liked the way that Sam Switkowski played in his couple of games last year.There will be many spots up for grabs and it will make life interesting down Peel way.
 

theGav56

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#21
Great look at our team for 2019.Well done.
One from last year, I think, Hugh Dixon seems to be being overlooked by many.He came to the club with big wraps, but like a few other, injury held him up.I think he came good at Peel in the latter part of the season.He could be a smokey.
But I liked the way that Sam Switkowski played in his couple of games last year.There will be many spots up for grabs and it will make life interesting down Peel way.
What dominoes do you think would need to fall for Dixon to get a run? I think he is an outside chance this season .
 

M_rash

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#22
WTG claiming to not be a journo yet this article has all the hallmarks of a highly paid professional - mainly in that it’s clear most of the ideas come from BigFooty posts that get written into an article without any reference whilst sounding like they are the original musings of the author. Are you Hackdorn???? :D
 

Walkingwounded

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#23
WTG claiming to not be a journo yet this article has all the hallmarks of a highly paid professional - mainly in that it’s clear most of the ideas come from BigFooty posts that get written into an article without any reference whilst sounding like they are the original musings of the author. Are you Hackdorn???? :D

WTG just has a control of the English language and a clear and concise thought process..

What makes it different to a Journo article is that it’s not sprouting rumours to get click bait!
 

dockerfemme

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#24
WTG claiming to not be a journo yet this article has all the hallmarks of a highly paid professional - mainly in that it’s clear most of the ideas come from BigFooty posts that get written into an article without any reference whilst sounding like they are the original musings of the author. Are you Hackdorn???? :D
I would say that WTG sounds nothing like a journo. His writings are clearly expressed and seem to be factually correct. These are things Robbo and Hagdorn hardly ever achieve.
 

M_rash

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#25
WTG just has a control of the English language and a clear and concise thought process..

What makes it different to a Journo article is that it’s not sprouting rumours to get click bait!
I would say that WTG sounds nothing like a journo. His writings are clearly expressed and seem to be factually correct. These are things Robbo and Hagdorn hardly ever achieve.
Very true. Was just having a dig at journos for their blatant poaching of ideas from big footy. WTG is clearly at a level journos could only dream of.
 
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