McPharlin’s efforts inspire Anzac win
If an Anzac Medal had been awarded at the end of Fremantle’s thrilling seven-point win over the Western Bulldogs on Monday night, Luke McPharlin’s merits would have been seriously debated after keeping Barry Hall goalless.
While Bulldogs captain Matthew Boyd (45 possessions) was a clear best on ground in the Len Hall Game, Fremantle surely could not have snatched the important win without McPharlin’s tireless defensive efforts.
The 29-year-old dominated the aerial battles with Hall, restricting him to two marks and five disposals, while winning 19 possessions himself.
And while he chipped away at the visitors’ spirit with every spoil, he lifted Fremantle with a courageous effort running back with the flight of the ball in the third quarter.
It was an effort noted by coach Mark Harvey at three quarter-time and Fremantle clearly responded, emerging from the last break to kick three straight goals and build a 20-point lead.
“We spoke about courage and sacrifice in our game – in the air and at ground level – well he provided that moment,” Harvey said. “He just got up as if nothing really had happened.”
Monday night’s win ended a six-year, six-game losing streak for Fremantle against the Dogs, with a humiliating 82-point loss at Etihad Stadium last year still fresh in the players’ minds.
McPharlin, who conceded four goals to Hall in that match, said he’d set himself for a big game on Anzac Day against a forward he rates among his toughest five opponents.
“He’s a tremendous player and he’s kicked some goals on me in the past,” McPharlin said.
“I knew I’d have the job pretty early in the week and just knowing that he’s kicked some goals on me in the past and given that it was on our home turf and such a big occasion, I set myself for a big game.
“Pressure up the field is really what makes my job a lot easier and I certainly had some help in that area.”
The Bulldogs’ delivery forward on a slippery night at Patersons Stadium did Hall no favours and Harvey noted after the match that the former Swan had not appeared fully fit.
Fremantle defender Antoni Grover and utility Garrick Ibbotson, who played his first full game for the season, also enjoyed strong performances and McPharlin said the back six was in good shape.
“We set ourselves for these first few rounds and we wanted to show that we can stamp our authority as a backline,” he said.
“We seem to be doing that so far and hopefully we can continue that form through the season.
“The good thing is that myself and Antoni (Grover) have played together for a long time now, so we certainly work well together and feed off each other.
“We knew we had a pretty tough start to the season, so to be sitting 4-1 is a great start for us and something we can build on.