Close calls show we thrive under pressure: Harvey
Fremantle coach Mark Harvey says close calls such as the weekend’s game with Carlton again showed his team can cope under pressure.
Harvey and skipper Matthew Pavlich yesterday pushed aside concerns the team lacked a killer instinct heading into its first finals campaign since 2006.
As the Dockers focus on Saturday’s clash with Hawthorn at Subiaco Oval, the team’s support and sponsorship base has reached new heights with club sponsor Woodside unfurling a “Go Freo” banner near the top of its highrise city headquarters.
The Dockers faced a litmus test of sorts in last Friday night’s mini-final against Carlton at Subiaco Oval, holding off the fast-finishing visitors to clinch a home final against Hawthorn.
It wasn’t the first time this season the side had almost coughed up a healthy lead – having led Melbourne by 39 points at half time several weeks earlier – before holding on to claim the points.
Both Harvey and Pavlich did not believe their relatively young team lacked a killer instinct heading into September, rather the tight finishes showed they could cope under intense pressure.
“Once again it’s been a trait of us most of the time that we’ve been able to respond under that pressure, and once again they were coming at us,” Harvey said. “We understand sometimes we may get run over but more often than not this year we’ve held sway.”
Pavlich, who said his ankle was fine after resting the week earlier, believed the spells on the sidelines may have caught up with some of the players late in the match.”I think having our best side out there as possible on the weekend showed that we were capable of getting to a certain point in the game,” he said.
“But a couple of guys needed to run to get back to a certain amount of fitness and match levels so from that perspective that may have had an impact on what happened on the weekend.
“But we’re very confident that if we play the way we value we need to play, it doesn’t matter what position we’re in, we can win.”
Pavlich was hopeful this would be the first of many finals series to come for the club, especially going by the impact of the team’s first- and second-year players.
“There’s certainly some building blocks there that we’ve established this year,” he said. “The great thing about the youth of the side is they’re so enthusiastic, they’re so ready and driven to create more opportunities for themselves.”
Harvey was satisfied with the way his players passed Friday’s test, as they showed the coaching staff what they could do after the week-long build-up, while making note of first-year player Anthony Morabito’s Rising Star nomination.
“There was a lot to gain out of the game in the way it was played, it was intense, a tug-of-war and what was pleasing was a lot of our players that have fought their way through this season appeared to be in good form,” he said.
In Harvey’s eyes, Hawthorn have, along with Collingwood, been the best team in the second half of the competition. The coach was grateful to have the luxury of playing against a “dangerous” team at a ground that’s “been like a steel curtain for us in many ways.”
“(Two weeks ago), we saw Hawthorn and they didn’t necessarily see us,” he said. ” … We certainly know what we’re up against.”
Harvey said he would only make changes to the side should injuries strike. It did this weekend with Hayden Ballantyne, who will miss the rest of the season with a bone fracture in his left foot.
Ryan Crowley, who kicked seven goals for Subiaco in the WAFL, is in the mix along with Clancee Pearce, Alex Silvagni and Zac Clarke.
“You don’t want to be making too many changes now,” he said.
Harvey said the season could only be considered a success if the team “can capitalise” on its opportunities.
“I think we’ve captured the imagination of us emerging, but in reality we need to make sure that we assert ourselves during this time,” he said. “We never set any goals for the end of the season, we set them more on a weekly basis, that was our goal and we more often than not achieved that.
“We never mentioned finals, we never mentioned anything like that and I think that that’s held us in good stead.”