What do you make of Fremantle’s 2017 season? A terrible start, before a mid-season winning streak saw finals speculation commence as they rose to fifth on the AFL Ladder, before a terrible finish saw them finish a long way off the pace. It is simplistic to say that fortunes of Freo rise and fall with Aaron Sandilands, but they still have an unhealthy reliance on the giant ruckman winning 6 of 10 with him and winning just 2 of 12 without him.
“It doesn’t look like it’s going to get better does it?” Dan from The Sportress asked The Pinch Hitters with Boz and Pav, “It just seems like it’s going to get much worse.” It is easy to understand his position when you learn that the three worst losses of Ross Lyon’s coaching career, and four of the worst six, all took place in season 2017. In fact the only six losses of his career of 89 points or worse have happened since Round 19 last year.
“Isn’t this the same coach that said finals weren’t impossible?” Sudi Chandrasekharan, AFL Editor at RealSport101.com, asked The Pinch Hitters. It is a cheeky question but for a coach who has been so deliberate with his words throughout his career, his teams performances haven’t supported the message he has delivered. Luckily for Lyon he has the security of a long term contact and the support of the club to see the club through it’s rebuild, but fans will soon demand that the results and message are closer aligned.
Despite the difficulties the club experienced throughout 2017, there were a number of
bright individual performances. Michael Walters was in great form before a PCL injury ended his season and Brad Hill added some much needed run to the Docker midfield. Captain Nat Fyfe was solid despite constant speculation about his future, but it would be a surprise if Lachie Neale didn’t win another Doig Medal as Fremantle Best & Fairest. One of the leading clearance and contested ball winners in the competition he was a leading light for the Dockers all season. At 24-years-old he is just entering his peak and represents some bright days ahead for Fremantle.
Fremantle defeated just two finals teams in 2017, but it made for a glorious weekend in May when they first defeated Essendon at Subiaco before coming from the clouds to slip past Richmond at the MCG. In a wet autumn afternoon at the Home of Football the Dockers put the Tigers to the sword in the first three quarters to take a 30-point lead into the last change. Having set the game alight to this point, the Dockers slowed to a stop in the last quarter as Richmond surged to the lead with just 21-seconds to play. Despite the Tiger Army roaring at full voice, the resultant Centre Bounce was sharked by Lachie Neale who drove the ball forward to David Mundy 30 metres out from goal. With ice in his veins the veteran kicked truly after the siren to give the Dockers the win and the high point of season 2017.
We’ve got a dual narrative.
We’re aiming high this year, but we all signed off on a four-year rebuild last year – really restump, rewire, replumb – and that hasn’t changed from List Manager, President, CEO, Coach, Football Operations Manager and our Leadership Group.
But it still means in the near term we’re aiming to play better footy than we played today. That’s going to be going on from now until the next four years.
Ross Lyon – The West Australian, February 26th
Unlike many Coaches, Ross Lyon has the security of a long term contract as he sets out on the rebuild of the Docker list. While it is never wise to put too much stock in the inconsistency of a rebuilding side but two 104-point hammerings late in the season, including in the last home game at Subiaco Oval, lend an air of doom and gloom over the season as a whole. It was a long way from the Fremantle team that had their coach refusing to rule out finals when they climbed to 5th place mid-season.
Check out The Pinch Hitters with Boz and Pav Podcast where the boys looked ahead to the finals and passed judgement on the Dockers and all the teams that have already begun planning for 2018.