Former Fremantle hard man Troy Cook has compared the Dockers to Sydney’s 2005 premiership team and urged supporters to accept the unfashionable playing style which has given them one of their best starts to a season.

The Dockers have revamped the way they play under new coach Ross Lyon and closed down the chances for the opposition to score.

They lead the league for stoppages around the ground, are ranked second for the fewest inside 50s conceded and have one of the stingiest defences with just 76 goals kicked against them in seven matches.

But the tactics attracted the ire of fans during Sunday’s win over Port Adelaide as the ball was kicked sideways and backwards.

Fremantle board member Ben Allan defended the approach while commentating for SEN radio, saying it was preferable to losing with an attractive style.

Cook agreed and pointed to Sydney’s 2005 premiership as an example of how a winning game plan is more important than an entertaining one.

“With the style of play, they clog it up with a lot of stoppages and it seems to be winning games at the moment,” Cook said. “They’ve got to cut them a little bit of slack. If they weren’t winning games they have probably got a case to answer.

“But it’s like Sydney a couple of years ago. They won in ’05 and the whole league was bagging Sydney for ugly footy.

“The next thing they have to do is consistently find avenues towards goal so they can kick that winning score. They probably should have won by more yesterday.”

Fremantle are sixth with five wins from their seven games. They have kicked just four fewer goals than at the same point of last season but have reduced scoring against them by 20 goals and 27 behinds.

Sydney’s game style was criticised by AFL chief executive Andrew Demetriou in 2005 before they played in successive grand finals against West Coast. Lyon was a Swans assistant coach and helped St Kilda to the 2009-10 grand finals with a similar brand of play.

The Dockers set a record in round three when they restricted Brisbane to just 20 inside 50s. They have conceded an average of only 62 points a game in the past five weeks.

Port Adelaide managed just 36 inside 50s and seven goals from 12 scoring shots on Sunday and Power defender Jackson Trengove said the Dockers were one of the hardest teams to score against.

“They’re one of the best at it,” Trengove said. “They bring pressure and hem teams in.

“They got it inside their 50 and it was hard to get it out.

“They press as good as anyone. Ross Lyon has obviously brought that over from St Kilda because they were really good at it too.

“This ground is different to the other grounds so that works in their favour too. It’s a bit narrower than the other grounds. It’s easy for them to narrow us in.

“They turned it up in that second quarter and we battled to get it out. We needed our skills to be a lot better. We couldn’t get it out of there.

“Our skill errors cost us in the end. We missed kicks to our targets and they got on the end of it and kept kicking it in.”

Fremantle’s scores would be significantly higher if they had kicked accurately at Patersons Stadium.

They kicked 16.9 against Geelong in round one but have since booted a combined 27.46 at home.

The conversion interstate has been much better with 40.27.

Lyon said he’d like Fremantle to be more accurate but was happy that the dominance of possession inside 50 was giving the forwards so many opportunities.

“We always want to take better opportunities and have a little bit more chemistry from the kicker and the leader at times,” Lyon said.

“We give them a few more uncontested marks. We’re far from perfect but we will keep improving … 55 entries to 36 – we’d take that most weeks.”

Fremantle will get a chance to consolidate their position in the eight when they face Hawthorn in Launceston on Saturday.

Their past two games at Aurora Stadium have been packed with drama. They lost to the Hawks by 116 points in 2010 after resting most of their stars.

The AFL Commission awarded Fremantle a win against St Kilda in 2006 after the Saints tied scores when the umpires didn’t hear the siren and allowed the match to continue.

FREMANTLE IN 2012

Inside 50s conceded: 44.1 (second-fewest in AFL)
Goals conceded: 10.9 per game (fewest in AFL)
Opposition scores from inside 50: 41.4% (lowest conceded in AFL)
Points against: 72.4 per game (second-fewest in AFL)
Stoppages: 73.9 per game (most of any side)

Record so far: 5 wins, 2 losses
Total scores: 83.82 (580) to 76.52 (508)

After seven games in 2011: 4 wins, 3 losses
Total scores: 87.103 (625) to 96.79 (655)Source Link

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