Fremantle coach Mark Harvey launches defence of Stephen Hill
Fremantle coach Mark Harvey launched another spirited defence of Stephen Hill after the youngster was held to just seven touches for the second match in a row in Saturday’s loss to Sydney.
A week after after being towelled up by North Melbourne veteran Brady Rawlings, Swan Rhyce Shaw was Hill’s latest tormenter, holding the line-breaker to five kicks and two handballs.
Harvey said he did not believe a blast from football legend Leigh Matthews aimed at Hill’s lack of “competitiveness” had weighed on the 20-year-old’s mind, saying he was enduring the normal ups and downs like all young players.
“Not at all. He’s a kid that’s just learning the game. Just give him some breathing space and I’m sure all these people that want to … well I know they’ll regret what they say about Stephen,” Harvey said.
“I’m still trying to look at other second-year players and whether they’re dominating the game. They all go through their highs and lows and Stephen’s no different.”
The Dockers let slip the chance to book a home final with the nine-point loss, left to rue a clearance mauling from the Swans that resulted in the home side being held to just 32 inside-50s.
Fremantle persisted and led by two points at the 29-minute mark of the final term only for Sydney to stage a remarkable recovery with a double-strike in the final three minutes.
Harvey lamented both the Swans’ midfield control and the way they strangled the run that has been a signature of the Dockers’ surprise surge into the top eight.
“You’re probably not going to win too many games when you have (32) inside-50s,” Harvey said.
“They monstered us in the ruck. They’re actually what you’d call a stoppage team. We’re still learning our craft in that area, particularly when you haven’t got your No. 1 ruckman.
“We couldn’t capitalise on the low-possession, low inside-50 rate that we had.”
The coach criticised his players for ball-watching and said poor decision-making proved crucial.
“Some of our younger players just need to work through when the game becomes telling and their understanding of that,” Harvey said.
“We just need to make better decisions going forward. Some of our players sometimes when we need to move the ball quick are choosing to move the ball slower. Now we need to address that.”
Harvey also rued the Dockers’ lack of dominant tall targets up forward, with versatile skipper Matthew Pavlich required to put in virtually a full shift on the ball in the face of the clearance carnage.
“Obviously we’d like him forward, absolutely,” Harvey said. “We just think with some younger ruckmen that we needed him in and around there so he carries that load.”
Defender Roger Hayden said the Swans were able to dictate terms.
“It’s pretty much the way Sydney play. They lock it down and you’ve just got to fight and scrap all day,” he said.
“I thought we did that. We had a lot of young guys in and showed a bit of heart. We pride ourselves at home, but Sydney came over and played the way they wanted to play it and kept it close all day and got over the line.
“We tried to use the ball well and move it quickly and sometimes we didn’t do it. “We’re disappointed, but we’ve just got to get back on the horse and look forward to next week.”