Fremantle best equipped for Bulldogs
By Kim Hagdorn
Fremantle coach Mark Harvey has declared his Dockers in their best shape for years to beat the Western Bulldogs in a big ANZAC Day clash on Monday.
The fourth-placed Fremantle have not beaten the Bulldogs since Round 15 of 2005 and have lost the last six clashes, including home engagements in 2008 and ’09.
The Dockers have not been successful over the Rodney Eade coached Bulldogs in four attempts since Harvey took over Fremantle late into 2007.
“The Bulldogs have always been a challenge for us over the last couple of years, I think probably this time in we’re probably the best equipped to play them and be able to handle the way they play,” Harvey said on Perth radio 6PR.
Harvey rejected suggestions that he could rest champion ruck force Aaron Sandilands at any stage of 2011 to keep the gigantic stoppages expert fresh at crucial stages of the season.
Harvey said with two byes, in Round 6 and Round 16 so strategically placed for Fremantle, he is unlikely to consider resting his key big man.
The Dockers are also generating significant back-up ruck drive from versatile utility pair Kepler Bradley and Michael Johnson.
“The fact that you’ve got two byes, once again can relieve the pressure off him and we’ve got Johnson and Kepler that we use in and around those areas at times anyhow,” Harvey said.
The Bulldogs have opted for veteran big man Ben Hudson to almost single-handedly tackle their ruck duties in three outings before last weekend’s Round 4 bye.
Fremantle’s on-ball division has become a significant facet in Fremantle’s rise as a potential AFL force last season when the Dockers played finals for a first time under Harvey and early into 2011 with three wins from four outings.
Fremantle now has one of the most imposing centre-square contingents in the business with champion ruckman Aaron Sandilands, Matthew Pavlich and David Mundy as regulars and dynamic youngsters Stephen Hill and Nathan Fyfe creating havoc.
“Well it is really effective and whilst they’re looking at other players in and around the AFL, like tagging Hill and these sort of guys and probably Fyfe in time and they’ve got to put up with these guys in and around the contest,” Harvey said.
“We’re starting to get different dimensions there which the opposition really has to look at it.”
Harvey also revealed that he is searching for a spread of goal-kickers and not rely on regular supply to just Pavlich who appears set to play more lengthy stints on the ball.
“The real strength of the team is not to have a goal-kicker or a main man to go to,” he admitted.
“Quite often I look at a number of sides that are lower on the ladder and they’ve got a potent full-forward but that can be their weakness in the end.”
Fremantle have established a trusty goal source with exciting advancement of livewire forward-pocket rocket Hayden Ballantyne, as well as high-flying Chris Mayne around Dockers goal.
Ballantyne rivalled Pavlich for best-afield honours in Fremantle’s home ground Round 4 win over a plucky North Melbourne when the feisty forward hammered 4.5 among his 25 possessions.
“It’s unusual for a small player like that to have nine shots on goal like he did,” Harvey said of Ballantyne.
“He provides and enormous amount of pressure. He’s unique. I don’t see too many small players in the game having that sort of effect.”