- Oct 12, 2019
- AFL Club
- Other Teams
- South Fremantle, Hull City
From Mongrel Punt
The Fremantle Dockers made a statement on the road as their pressure football, combined with a solid defence and the best tackling midfielder in the game… not just the AFLW, provided the impetus for an outstanding win over a team many consider a contender in 2021.
How complete was the Dockers’ dominance of the two-time AFLW premiers? How effectively did they shut down the vaunted Crows midfield? And how brilliantly did they put the clamps on a forward line as good as any in the competition? Well, that’s my job to get to the bottom of, but if we’re going to start anywhere, it has to be with the best, so let’s do just that.
On paper, you look at the Kiara Bowers v Anne Hatchard clash and you may be tricked into thinking it was a close contest. Bowers had 23 touches to Hatchard’s 21 and whilst neither hit the scoreboard, both had moments where they looked like they were getting the better of the other.
But you’d be wrong if you put it down as a draw – this was a comprehensive win to Bowers and continued to enhance her reputation as one of the best players in the game.
The Fremantle pocket-rocket was a tackling machine.. a statement that should surprise no one, but it may have come as a rude shock to Hatchard, who was on the receiving end of four Bowers tackles in the first quarter. When Bowers latches onto you, it’s game over. You simply do not break her tackles.
I’ve seen Hatchard, a woman with immense power, wade through the tackles of others, but when Bowers wrapped her up, Hatch was going nowhere fast. One of Bowers’ vice-like tackles even had the Adelaide running machine very slow to get to her feet. This will probably be looked at, but she is the best and most consistent tackler in the game – she knows what she is doing. I reckon the AFL will give her a fine, particularly given Hatchard got up and kept playing.
Defence is this aspect of Bowers’ game that probably deserves to be spoken about in more glowing terms than it already does. She is a stopper as well as an accumulator. She turns uncontested touches into very contested touches for her opponents through sheer will alone. At half time, she had recorded 24.3% of her entire team’s tackles. Whilst you would have heard the commentators grant Gemma Houghton the ‘superstar’ label during the game, Bowers is the one who should have it bestowed on her. Not only did she get as much of the footy as anyone on the park, her defensive work and willingness to put her body on the line cannot help but inspire those around her to do the same.
Bowers’ name is well and truly in the mix for the competition MVP award after three games. Yes, Ellie Blackburn has been excellent and deserves all the attention she is getting as leader of the Dogs, but Bowers has been monstrously good, both offensively and defensively this season. Averaging a ridiculous 22 touches and 13 tackles in an undefeated team, it’s high time her excellence was acknowledged.
THE SMALL FORWARD MASSACRE
Here are a few numbers.
Eloise Jones – Five touches
Danielle Ponter – Five touches
Ash Woodland – Four touches
These are the players that bob up for the Crows, kick a goal or two (or three in Ponter’s case) and run riot in the forward fifty.
There will come a day when the Jones’, Ponters and Woodlands of the world will once again reign. There will come a day when the ability of these players will rise to the top…. but it was not this day.
That was from Lord of the Rings for those playing along at home.
On this day, they ran into a defensive set up so well-drilled that they could not find any room to move. When they touched the footy, they were beset by Freo defenders. When they leapt at the footy, they were accompanied by the fists of spoiling defenders. When they looked for opportunity, they had it snuffed out.
The work of players like Mikayla Hyde, Laura Pugh (loved her bump on Erin Phillips), Matilda Sergeant, Janelle Cuthbertson and Sarah Verrier is the sort of task-focused defence that normally only coaches would point out in the review. However, seeing how closely they stuck to the task of nullifying the Adelaide forwards, it is nigh-on impossible to ignore their efforts. They were very bit as responsible for this win as the efforts from Houghton, Sharp and Duffy up forward.
Throw in the electrifying run and abundant confidence of Ebony Antonio to take the game on from half-back and you have a defensive unit that not only goes in for the kill, but gives you a good kick once the job is done just to make sure you’re dead.
THREE OUT OF ELEVEN AIN’T BAD
I know that Meatloaf is persona non grata in AFL circles these days, but maybe a reworking of one of his famous tunes is in order for this game. Allow me to paint a picture for you to give some context.
Last men’s season, Richmond played a game where none of their players really stood out, picking up a win with no player topping twenty disposals. It was almost unheard of in a stats-driven competition, that a team could come out and play a simply team-oriented game that would see an equal contribution across the board. No cheap possessions, no stat-padding with unnecessary one-two handballs – just potent footy when they had the ball in hand, with each player pulling their weight.
And now we look at today’s numbers for the game – eight of the top ten disposal gatherers were wearing Crows colours. Amazing, huh? In such a demolition, the Dockers didn’t dominate possession and didn’t monopolise the footy. They just played effective football when they had it and made sure all the Crows’ touches came under pressure.
I’ve covered Kiara Bowers above. She had an equal game-high 23 touches, but after her it was Hayley Miller and Steph Cain with 15 each that made the top 11 players on the park in terms of disposals. Eight Crows sat in that top 11. Amazingly, the Crows also had five of the bottom eight disposal gatherers, meaning they were both really good at the top end and really poor at the bottom end in terms of staying involved.
Yes, Freo have a powerhouse in Bowers. Yes, she will be the best and fairest on this team and perhaps the number one player in the league by the end of the season, but they have a team balance that should be applauded. They have contributors all over the park and a bottom six as good as any in the league.
Teams of champions rarely win flags, but champion teams… well, that is what Fremantle are in the process of creating right now. Ten wins on the trot and three in a row this season – the Dockers are eyeing off the flag they very well should have won in 2020.
I would not bet against them based on this performance.
NOT ALL BAD?
The Crows had a couple of good take-aways from this hit out, but really, after the arm wrestle that was the first quarter, the genuine winners for their team were few and far between.
Rachelle Martin was a dynamo, and there could be a few Adelaide stars that will watch her efforts as part of the review and be shamed by how hard she worked to win the footy and curtail the efforts of her opponent. She was in her second game, but looked like a player that ate the pressure that came her way and spat it back at her opponents.
Stevie-Lee Thompson seemed to drift forward a bit at points and looked like the one Adelaide player that could potentially break the game open. To commence the third quarter, her repeated shots on goal were ultimately fruitless, but you could see just what a difference her clean ball handling and great reading of the play could make.
Chloe Scheer making it back and getting through the game would have quite a few people breathing a sigh of relief. It was her first run around since the 2019 Grand Final, so for her to get through unscathed was great to see.
The other ones worth pointing out were Hannah Button and Teah Charlton, bith of who gave a strong accounting of themselves. Charlton had a real crack in the last quarter and demonstrated why she was such a high draft pick, whilst Button was in amongst it most of the day.
In the AFLW system since 2017, Haynes may have been considered done for after not playing a game through 2019-20, but she has fought her way into this Freo side and looks as committed to the cause as anyone out there.
In this one, she made some timely intercepts and provided clean hands as he played the link role for the running Freo brigade. Her work in the second quarter to sneak forward and get on the end of a Kiara Bowers kick resulted in a goal to the Dockers and was one of the better passages of the day. It was one of those moments where you could feel the Crows players dropping their heads.
As anyone who plays footy knows, you can sense that kind of thing on the ground. You can see it in the faces of your opponents, even if only briefly. It must have felt sweet for Haynes to put that one on the chin of the Crows.
The Dockers still have some improvement, yet. Gabby O’Sullivan was down in this one. Returning just six touches, she struggled to get into the contest across half-forward all game.
A bit of a poor outing for Justine Mules, a week after I thought she played some of her best footy to date. A couple of moments of miscommunication with teammates led to two goals for Ash Shar, who was very quick to capitalise.
It might be a bit harsh to point out Mules here, as several of the Crows seemed intent on move=ing the ball on without a lot of thought at times. It was unfortunate that Mules’ errors led almost directly to goals.
Loved the first half of Hayley MIller and thought she was second to only Bowers at that stage. Her attack on the footy was first class and she did not shy away from any physical contact at all.
The Foley v Houghton clash? Foley obviously had the better of Houghton early but you just do not want to allow Houghton to get goal side of you. She has some set of wheels once she gets moving.
And that’ll do. A monster win by the Freo girls of an opposition that has been there and done that. Quite a statement to make as we put Round Three in the books. If they were not flag favourites before, they’d have to be now.
With Round Three of the 2021 AFLW season in the books, The Mongrel Punt team dives deep into each game with the weekly review