Mzungu risk pays off as Freo shares load
A spread of seven multiple-goalkickers was a critical factor in Fremantle’s comfortable 52-point belting of Port Adelaide at AAMI Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Fremantle veteran Ryan Crowley said the even contribution in front of goal was a major weapon for the team in their dismantling of the Power on their home deck.
“I think that it is crucial, especially with Pav [Fremantle skipper Matthew Pavlich] moving up into the midfield this year,” said Crowley, who gathered 26 possessions in the win.
“We’ve had a couple of guys having great years in Chris Mayne [two goals] and Hayden Ballantyne [one] and these sorts of guys.”
Kepler Bradley continued his remarkable start to season 2011 with three goals against Port to take his tally to 19 for the year. Another six players booted two goals apiece for Freo, creating a nightmare for Port’s defenders who were trying to stem the flow.
“It’s one of our strengths that if somebody is being shut down, somebody else can fill the void,” added Crowley.
Fremantle peppered the scoreboard in the early stages of the game, registering 10 scoring shots to Port’s four in the opening quarter. Fremantle also led the inside-50 count 16 to nine by the first break, resulting in a 31-point advantage for the visitors by quarter-time.
“It was something we concentrated on and it was good to get off to a good start,” said Crowley of Freo’s first-quarter blitz.
“As a travelling side it [a good start] is pretty important, and every time you travel you want to try and keep their crowd quiet and create a bit of momentum.”
Fremantle’s lengthy injury list was a point of concern for Mark Harvey’s men heading into the match, with Fremantle listing a staggering 14 players as unavailable to play against the Power due to injury. But Crowley said the issue, while not ideal, had a silver lining for the playing group.
“The last couple of weeks it [the playing list] has been stretched a little bit,” said Crowley.
“But today we had a lot of young guys playing. Guys like Jesse Crichton and even Tendai [Mzungu] coming in for his first game; he’s not so young but, in terms of experience he’s young.”
“So it does say a bit about our depth and it seems that these guys have come a lot further along that what many might have thought.”
Mature-age recruit Tendai Mzungu was rushed straight into the senior side from a long-term knee injury during the pre-season, prompting many to question whether the 25-year-old was ready to perform at AFL level.
Mzungu made his debut as Freo’s substitute against the Power, but gathered six disposals and looked lively after being injected into the game during the final term.
“It was pretty disappointing for him to do his knee like he did,” said Crowley of Mzungu’s tragic knee injury sustained against West Coast during a pre-season practice game.
“He worked really hard over the pre-season and he probably had the best pre-season out of everyone at the club.”
“But when you’ve waited that long to get your shot at age 25 – what’s another 10 weeks?”
Fremantle coach Mark Harvey knew it was a gamble to bring the untried Mzungu straight into his first AFL match without a stint in the WAFL, but was adamant he could hold his own with a few more games under his belt.
“It was a big risk [playing Mzungu],” said Harvey in the post-game press conference.
“But I think in time you’re going to see this guy be a real weapon for us.”
Harvey also revealed that Tendai is one of the most-liked characters at the club, and teammate Crowley was happy to poke fun at the 25-year-old following his first AFL appearance.
“He’s a great guy, he’s one of those guys that’s really hard not to like,” Crowley said.
“He’s pretty charismatic… I like to call him Lenny ’cause I reckon he looks like Lenny Kravitz,” said Crowley with a cheeky grin.”