Duffield: Freo attacking signs that should thrill fans

Nat Fyfe was imposing and he was not alone as Fremantle‘s attack stepped up against Port Adelaide, writes MARK DUFFIELD.

Let’s run through Fremantle’s pre-season checklist.

Backline? Still stingy. An imposing Port Adelaide forward line that boasted Charlie Dixon, Mitch Georgiades and Todd Marshall the Power were restricted to 8.12 and their most dangerous forward was Sam Powell Pepper. Dixon was restricted to 10 disposals and a goal and some of those touches were gathered on the ball. Marshall had nine and was goalless; Georgiades eight, also goalless.

Midfield? The four blokes that sustained them for much of last year – Sean Darcy, Andrew Brayshaw, Caleb Serong and Will Brodie warmed up for round one with strong performances. Darcy had 38 hit outs and 14 disposals. Brayshaw and Brodie had 36 disposals each and Serong 32. Recruit Jaeger O’Meara gradually built his game to finish with 22 disposals. James Aish looks likely to claim one wing berth and finished with 19 disposals. Either one or both of Ethan Hughes and Liam Henry look likely for the other and had 18 and 16 touches respectively.

Attack? If this is the area where Fremantle has most questions, it was also be the area that gave coach Justin Longmuir most pleasure as Fremantle kicked clear of Port Adelaide for a 13.14 (92) to 8.13 (61) win in the club’s last warm up before round one.

Nathan Fyfe was imposing. His tally of 3.2 did not include two brilliant goal assists for fellow forward Matt Taberner in the final term. The only question mark would have been a rudimentary set shot he missed late. Hopefully the ghosts of 2021 when he kicked 6.21 aren’t stirring.

But Fyfe wasn’t the only factor Longmuir would be pleased about.

The Dockers are coming up with some options – some expected and some unexpected.

With Luke Jackson, Michael Walters and Michael Frederick all sidelined and likely members of a Fremantle forward line in Fremantle’s best 22, the Dockers lost the territory battle with Port running up 58 inside fifties to 45 but the Dockers took 14 shots on goal to seven for a two goal half time lead.

Fyfe’s shift forward was expected, and his three goals delivered on the promise. He narrowly missed a third from out on the boundary and his midfielder’s tank proved a handful a few times for Dan Houston and Tom Jonas who had to work up the ground and then get back quickly as Fyfe got goal side of them.

The third goal in the third term was a result of a poor Darcy Byrne-Jones kick which left ruckman Scott Lycett with too much to do low down.

To add insult to his own inaccuracy, Byrne-Jones rushed over to clean up the mess, only to cop a fierce “don’t argue” from Fyfe before he snapped the goal.

Sam Sturt has represented great promise for several years without delivering, but his pressure to create turnovers stood out as an improvement, while the ball use he has always had was there when he spotted O’Meara inside attacking fifty for Fremantle’s second goal of the game.

There was nothing spectacular about his statistics – eight touches. But he laid two desperate tackles to turn the ball over inside his team’s attacking fifty, was credited with the score assist for the kick to O’Meara and finished with two of his own, one a brilliant last quarter sneak up smother on Byrne-Jones before a bomb launched form outside fifty.

This is the small forward’s lot in life in modern day footy. Midfielders have to be about quantity, forwards have to be about quality. Make the tackle, force the turnover, pile on the pressure, create the opportunity, take the opportunity. It has taken Sturt time to learn this and it has kept him out of the team.

There were signs on Thursday night that the penny might have dropped.

Mark DuffieldStaff Writer

Mark Duffield has had a career in journalism spanning more than 40 years after starting at the South West Times in 1982. As the Senior AFL writer at The West Australian he was a five time winner of the Geoff Christian Award for outstanding AFL coverage in WA. He was the recipient of the MEAA’s Clarion Award in 2022 for outstanding contribution to journalism in WA. He has also spent five years in Melbourne covering AFL football as a football writer and was The West Australian’s Melbourne Bureau chief in 1995.

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