What Went Right?
There really aren’t too many positives to talk about for the Dockers in 2018. Although they only finished 14th, and granted the four teams finishing below them aren’t exactly quality, the Dockers are much closer in playing level to those four teams than the four teams that finished above them, much closer.
Fremantle did show some fight when playing at home, and managed some decent wins when conditions favoured themselves. The Dockers had six of their eight wins at home, their only away wins coming against Carlton and Gold Coast – which was played at Optus Stadium due to the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast.
They did manage to beat four sides above them on the ladder at home, which shows they can play when the ball is in their own park so to speak. But take the Dockers anywhere away from Optus Stadium and there’s plenty of room for improvement.
What Went Wrong?
Plenty. The Dockers’ season was a wreck from start to finish with very few high points on the rollercoaster. The Dockers’ 2018 was either all quite frankly beyond their best, or too inexperienced, with only shining lights Nat Fyfe and Lachie Neale finding any real consistency.
The Dockers play some of ugliest, least attacking, most shutdown football in the competition, although that in itself isn’t a bad thing, the plan they’re running with just isn’t working. Fremantle aren’t attacking focused and it’s killing them as soon as an opposition figures out their defence.
Because their forward line isn’t very strong, in 2018 we saw on numerous occasions the Dockers get killed by teams moving quickly and directly when they themselves were just trying to set up and constantly defend bombardments for high class attacks. Freo need to learn how to attack a lot better, they just can’t score enough if they want to be competitive.
As before mentioned, only really Nat Fyfe and Lachie Neale had years’ worth writing home about, and before his suspension came against Collingwood, Fyfe was a real hot chance to add a second Brownlow Medal to his cabinet.
Fyfe has been Freo’s dominant player over the last four season’s at least, with a club struggling around him, Nat continues to win huge one-on-one matchups, and show off his star quality in nearly every game he plays.
Averaging nearly 29 touches and five marks a game, Fyfe also posses a quality that few in our great game do – the fact that he can win a game entirely off his own boot. He has a serious X-factor about him that cannot be matched by many, and plenty have him down as the league’s best player, another terrific season from the champ, just a bad one from his club.
Fremantle haven’t exactly pulled off too many huge victories this year, and their heavy defeats stand out far more than any wins in reality. But perhaps their best win came in round 17 against Port Adelaide, just as the Power were looking to secure a place in the top eight.
The game was low-scoring, scrappy and downright ugly, but the Dockers walked away with the chocolates at home, beating Port by nine points. David Mundy and Lachie Neale starred for the Dockers who claimed a rare win against what many thought was a quality side.
The result would have massive ramifications for Port, who ended up dropping out of the eight, despite many expecting them to play finals. For Freo it would prove a good morale boost, even though the rest of the season to come would be rough.
Improvements for 2019
Fremantle need to start a fresh. There’s no point continuously rebuilding if it amounts to nothing, this side is in denial if thinks it’ll be anywhere near the top of this league within five years. Their young players coming through are no match for those we’re seeing at fellow struggling club Brisbane, and the Lions will almost certainly leapfrog the Dockers in 2019.
Freo needs a whole attitude readjustment, and personally I think they need a new coach too. Ross has had far too many chances and achieved so little at this club. If Ross is to stay he needs to pull in some ready-made talent to teach his new youngsters some footy smarts. He also needs to find a way to improve at both ends of the ground.
His midfield looks fine on paper, that is if he manages to keep Lachie Neale who it seems is up for the prospect of exploring greener pastures, but both Freo’s forward line and defence look undermanned and vulnerable to quality. We saw in round 22 how easily they were destroyed by a hungry Geelong side, losing by 133 points.
With veterans Michael Johnson and Danyle Pierce calling time, that backline is even more empty than it was before, now with almost no proven class at all. Fremantle also lacks a real quality class tall forward. Ryan Nyhuis, Matt Taberner and Michael Apeness have all had cracks at filling the role left by Matthew Pavlich but none are even ten-percent the footballer Pav was.
There needs to be either some significant time sunk into one of these men, or they need pull across a proven 100 plus gamer with enough talent and leadership ability to make their forward line work just a little better. They cannot keep scoring eight goals a game.
There’s not a lot of positives about Fremantle right now. Five years ago, this side played in a Grand Final and looking forward to 2019 I think they’ll finish bottom four, what’s happening right now isn’t working and the Dockers are moving backwards.
Final Grade: E