Dockers dealt a tough hand
Fremantle’s equal best ever start to an AFL season is set to come under threat in coming weeks by a playing schedule that is blatantly unfair.
The Dockers, who have won five of their first six matches for only the second time since joining the competition in 1995, find themselves in the top four after six rounds and have clearly been the most improved team in the competition so far in 2010.
But they face a huge test of character not to mention endurance in the next fortnight.
The Dockers not only face fellow leading contenders Brisbane and Collingwood in the next two rounds but will have to do so coming off consecutive six-day breaks.
Now while consecutive six-day breaks between games for AFL teams are not uncommon – indeed St Kilda pulled off a magnificent win against the Western Bulldogs last Friday night after coming off its second successive six-day break – they are very rare when combined with the kind of travel burden the Dockers face in the next fortnight.
It’s hard for those of us based in the eastern states and Melbourne in particular to comprehend the amount of travelling involved for the two Western Australian clubs in the competition given their closest away venue in Adelaide is still a two and a half hour flight from Perth.
That is why the AFL never schedules the Dockers or the Eagles to consecutive away games with the teams rotating home games at Subiaco throughout the season.
However the Dockers have still been dealt an incredibly rough hand as far as their travel burden goes in the next fortnight.
This week the Dockers, coming off just a six-day break after what is always a gruelling western derby against West Coast, have to make the long flight to Brisbane.
This is the longest flight any team faces in the competition – right across Australia from Perth to Brisbane, a five hour plus journey which can even be longer on the way back when flying into Australia’s prevailing trade winds.
Yet the Dockers have to make this trip after a six-day break coming off arguably the most intense rivalry in the competition.
Then to make matters even worse they face another six-day break after flying back from Brisbane before facing Collingwood in a much-anticipated home game in Perth.
Now while six-day breaks and sometimes even consecutive six-day breaks are unavoidable for all teams given the complexities of the AFL draw, surely the Dockers deserved special consideration in this case given the consecutive six-day breaks are centred around one of the longest road trips in world sport.
And while it gets slightly easier after the Collingwood game when the Dockers will at least have an eight-day break before their next fixture, they will then still face another marathon plane trip to face Sydney.
So if the Dockers start to struggle in the next three weeks, don’t fall for the mistake of thinking it’s a case of Fremantle going back to its usual losing ways but rather a team trying to do the best it can under the kind of travel burden that Victorian clubs in particular simply cannot comprehend and don’t have to put up with.