Soooo, this happened last time. Anyway….. Being that I have the first preview I have the honour of welcoming you all to a new season of AFL, an exciting time full of hope and trepidation. Stars will be made and legends will fade, all in the pursuit of the ever elusive premiership flag. -------------------------------------------- Before we look forward to the game ahead I thought an appropriate start to this preview would be for us to have a look back at the season past. Our champion retired after 17 seasons. Matthew Pavlich 6x All Australian 6x Doig Medallist 8x Fremantle Leading goal kicker 9 years as the captain of Fremantle FC 3x Ross Glendinning Medallist 3x Geoff Christian Medallist 2016 AFLPA Madden Medallist Along with Pavlich we also said goodbye to some other fan favourites. Michael Barlow, Chris Mayne, Matt Doer, Tendai Mzungu, Clancee Pearce, Alex Silvagni, Jack Hannath and Anthony Morabito. -------------------------------------------- 2016 was a train wreck in slow motion. We got hit hardest with injuries, losing star players every second week and unfortunately that wasn’t the worst of it. We played some truly horrendous football, lacking in skill, creativity and a functioning gameplan. It was as Ross said an annus horribilis and a man named ‘Owen’ laughed at us for most of it. Positives for the season were few and far between. After the round 5 disaster against Carlton it was blatantly clear that our season was over. By virtue of being fit and healthy the fringe players and the kids got more game time. The three amigos all took great strides in cementing themselves into the main squad, Crozier finally looked at home off the half back line and Darcy Tucker showed the class that had him rated so highly during the draft. Thankfully we were able to send our champion off into retirement with our 4th win of the season in round 23. The positivity from our final game continued as Peel Thunder won its first WAFL premiership off the back of some stellar performances by Langdon, Blakely, De Boer and more. Our trade period could not have been graded any less than A+, we managed to bring home 4 West Australians all of which look to be lining up for us Round 1 (McCarthy, Hamling, Hill, Kersten) without having the sell the farm. The good times were not to last though, the Yarran fiasco reminded us there were still plenty of people in the media ready to give us a good kick while we were down. The consistent ‘Fyfe is leaving’ rumours grew tiresome and then the unfortunate news that Harley Bennell, Alex Pearce, and Zac Clarke had all had setbacks with their rehab hit us all pretty hard. Throughout all the drama our preseason saw us take a turn back to basics, get the boys running and tune them back into Ross Lyon effort based footy. We moved into our new digs at Cockburn and a rejuvenated Fyfe took his rightful spot at the helm of the ship. Then JLT1 v the Eagles happened…… the less said the better. Our game verse Collingwood was much improved and quite an enjoyable game to boot, Carlton game not so much (apart from McCarthy). ------------------------------------------------------------ Anyway…. Enough is enough, last year was last year and we were just foxing the Eagles during the JLT. It’s time to get real, time to get ready, our round 1 match against the Cats is only 7 days away. v Sunday 26 March, 4.40pm - Domain Stadium Last Time They Met Despite our outs and despite losing Barlow to a season ending shoulder injury we fought on to the very end, eventually losing by only 17pts. As he so often was last year, Dangerfield was the difference with 30+ disposals and 4 goals. We had our chances in the last quarter, peppering the F50 again and again but just couldn't convert them to points on the board. We will be fielding a vastly different outfit come round 1 with a likely 9 changes to the side since we last met. Freo Outs: Pavlich, Mayne, Barlow, Ballas, Taberner, Mzungu, Sheridan, Collins, Suban Ins: Sandi, Fyfe, Johnson, McCarthy, Hamling, B Hill, Tucker, Langdon, Kersten Geelong Outs: Kolodjashnij, Enright, Cowan, Kersten, Ruggles Ins: Thurlow, Stewart, Tuohy, Menegola, Horlin-Smith Best 22: Freo Spurr – Dawson – Hamling Weller – Johnson – Sutcliffe BHill – Neale – SHill Walters – McCarthy – Langdon Kersten – Griffin – Crozier Sandi – Fyfe – Mundy Ibbo – Blakely – Tucker – D Pearce Geelong Thurlow – Lonergan – Stewart Tuohy – Henderson – Mackie Duncan – Guthrie – Menegola Motlop – Taylor – Cockatoo Menzel – Hawkins – McCarthy Smith – Dangerfield – Selwood Stanley – Blicavs – Murdoch – Horlin-Smith Key Matchups Dawson v Hawkins Hawkins doesn’t always look it but he is an A grade forward. Averaged 2.3 goals and 3.4 marks inside 50 a game last season. He is Geelong’s spearhead in the forwardline and they have struggled in the past when he hasn’t fired. Dawson blanketed Hawkins last time keeping him to just the solitary goal and stopped him from marking the ball inside 50 for the entire match, this was the only game in 2016 that Hawkins failed to take a mark inside 50 which is a testament to the shutdown job Dawson did that night. The question of course is can he do it again? Fyfe v Danger The last time these two squared off it was considered a game of the ages. Fyfe took home the chocolates that night and if Freo are to win on Sunday he’s going to have to do it again. Dangerfield’s ability to push forward is a major worry as we don’t have a suitable matchup for him in our backline. Similarly we will need Fyfe to push forward at times to create a mismatch and help us on the scoreboard. The question is are both coaches happy for them to go head to head, or will a hard tag be applied to try to curtail their influence? Walters vs ????? Geelong have always had a fantastic array of tall defenders that have been very capable of cutting off our long bomb special, but one area they have struggled with in the past is locking down on our small forwards. With Ballas out of action it’s going to be up to Walters to put the pressure on the scoreboard for us. Can Geelong find a suitable matchup for Walters? Keys Points to Victory Freo Both teams have A grade talent on the inside. We need Sandilands to be the difference and provide us with an edge. Bombing it inside 50 cost us the game last year. We had double the amount of inside 50’s in the last qtr but they were poor quality and we couldn’t capitalise. We need our better ball users to find space and lower their eyes before delivering forward. If S Hill, B Hill, Mundy, Walters top the list of inside 50’s for the game there’s a good chance we come away with the 4pts. Geelong have a similar forward entry strategy to us, long bombs into the 50. Johnson and Ibbo need to be at their intercepting best to assist Hamling and Dawson in stopping Hawkins, Taylor and their resting ruck from taking easy marks. Big Griff needs to be at his best aswell, as much as we can hope all our entries into the forward 50 are bullets, it’s likely that there will be a fair few up and unders. Griff needs to at the very least make a contest of them. Geelong are masters of dropping a tall in front for the intercept. If he can mark the ball great, otherwises create a contest and we get a chance to press up and lock it in. Geelong Dangerfield needs to outperform Fyfe. Both in the midfield and when he drifts forward. Similar to us they need to lower their eyes when moving the ball forward, spot us the best target rather than reverting to the ‘just kick it to Hawkins’. Get Motlop into the game early. An electric talent who has the propensity for drifting in and out of games. We don’t have a great match for him and he could do some really damage if left unchecked. From what I saw of Geelong in the JLT it looks like Zac Touhy is their main man for rebounding from the half back line. We have struggled defending on the counter during the JLT and if he can provide quick ball movement out of the backline they will cut us up on the rebound. Predictions Life is too short for negativity and football is all about passion and belief. Freo by 17pts Now let's shake hands, hope for no injuries and another Fyfe vs Danger instant classic.