Have the umpires overcorrected?
Last weekend the umpires department began their Alastair Clarkson led crackdown on holding the ball. After watching the Fremantle v St Kilda game it would be hard to find anybody aside from the master coach who would be happy with where they have ended up.
Players from both sides were left completely frustrated a number of times as ‘prior opportunity’ was completely thrown out the window. The two most ridiculous decisions were paid against Nick Coffield and Rowan Marshall in the first and third quarter respectively. Thankfully for the contest, Fremantle was unable to convert either of these gift wrapped goal scoring opportunities.
How the Game Was Won
It would be too simplistic to suggest this was a match won by grit and a never say die spirit but both were present in large quantities in Fremantle’s six point victory over St Kilda. Gone for all money at quarter time when they trailed by 36-points, they outworked, outran, and outplayed their opponents for the remainder of the match to claim a famous win.
After stepping outside their own structure in the face of the Saints pressure in the first quarter, they recommitted themselves to it in the second. Rather than again falling into the trap of kicking long where their opponents were set up to rebound, Fremantle backed their own system of maintaining possession through short passes.
Slowly but surely, having deprived the Saints of possession and territory the Dockers began to get their rewards on the scoreboard. Remarkably, despite having two players out of the game through injury, they ran out the second quarter better and with two late goals had the margin down to 13 points at the half.
Both sides pressure to begin the third term was off the charts but the Dockers surety with ball in hand proved the difference. Holding the Saints scoreless for the term they wrestled the lead from them 15-minutes into the term. If there was one negative about their performance after quarter time it would be in the minutes that followed taking the lead when they missed three gilt-edged chances to goal that may well have sealed the contest.
As a result they would need to call upon all their resources one last time when the Saints levelled the scores with two minutes to play. Lachie Schultz would prove the winner in the end with his late goal ultimately sparing the blushes of Michael Walters who had gifted the Saints the game tying score.
What the Coaches Said
An understandably pleased Justin Longmuir expressed a sense of pride when asked how he felt post match. “Really proud. Really proud of the effort,” he said. “Really proud of their ability to get back on task and get the game played our way, how we wanted it played. Clearly the first quarter wasn’t what we came in trying to do. We didn’t get it right, but the way they adjusted, the way they stuck to their task, to get us in front, and then when it was level again, our ability to execute and do the basics well, I couldn’t be any prouder.”
He also told reporters that the match had taught him about his team’s spirit. “It just reinforced that we’ve got real ticker,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of players who just never give up. We’ve showed that pretty much all season but it was just reinforced today when our backs were against the wall at quarter time, we just never gave up.”
A frustrated Brett Ratten didn’t mince his words post match. “We showed our best and our worst in one day in two different quarters,” he said. We just dropped away a little bit and they handled our pressure better than we handled theirs.”
A week after praising the team’s game management against Carlton he admitted it was an issue on Saturday. “We are going a bit too quick at times when we can just cool our jets a bit and control the footy and play with a bit more composure in our game.”
The Saints boss also made it clear that the club had brought the entire list for a reason and that every player should be on notice after this performance. “We’ve brought a full squad up here, so we’ll play players who are in form. If you’re not in form and your form’s tapering, you might be in a bit of trouble,” he said.
“Our wins have been built on everybody contributing and today I thought we just had a few blokes who contributed, and others didn’t really have much influence on the game. We just had too many blokes that we carried today.”
FREMANTLE 1.2 6.4 9.7 12.7 (79)
ST KILDA 7.2 8.5 8.5 11.7 (73)
Fremantle: Taberner 2, Fyfe 2, Schultz 2, Darcy, Lobb, Bewley, Tucker, Serong, Banfield
St Kilda: Membrey 3, Jones 2, Billings, Kent, Butler, Lonie, King, Gresham
Fremantle: Walters, Brayshaw, Taberner, Fyfe, Lobb, Tucker
St Kilda: Steele, Membrey, Billings, Jones, Battle
Fremantle: Young (ankle), Darcy (concussion), Cox (hip) replaced in selected side by Duman.
St Kilda: Nil