The goal – a happy ending
Watching Fremantle leaves you frustrated and confused. The Dockers opened up the season beating reigning premier Geelong in a brutal contest that had it all. The Dockers were in the Cats’ faces, taking it up to them in the physical stakes and on the scoreboard when they kicked the first six goals of the game.
The Dockers took the game on with hard running, physical tackling and free scoring, kicking more than 100 points in that match, which was the only time they have achieved that this season.
That was March 31 and that was the last time we’ve seen Freo play in that fashion over four quarters.
Fremantle has made it clear that it is in the market for a power forward. Travis Cloke is the man sought from 2013 and beyond.
A $1 million dollar offer is there for him to sign, if he wants to take it.
Cloke would be a massive signing for any club, particularly the Dockers, but in the meantime Fremantle needs to utilise and challenge current captain Matthew Pavlich.
He can provide right now exactly what it is looking for in Cloke.
Pavlich, who turned 30 late last year, has a contract with the Dockers on huge money until the end of 2014.
That is 60 games of football and Ross Lyon and Pavlich have to work out how he can best have an impact on games in the twilight of his career.
Pavlich isn’t as explosive as he once was but Freo would kick far bigger scores if it kicked long and direct to him. The Dockers should look to win some games by applying scoreboard pressure, not just strangling the opposition. As we saw last week, a quality opposition such as Hawthorn will put you to the sword if you’re not putting its back line under enough pressure.
The days of a player playing permanently out of the goal square are gone but I think Lyon needs to give Pavlich the responsibility of resurrecting an ailing forward half that has averaged just 80 points a match this season. Chris Mayne leads the Dockers’ goal-kicking with 14 goals this season, while Pavlich has kicked just 11 majors from his eight games.
That’s not a great return, considering Mayne and Kepler Bradley led Fremantle’s goal-kicking with just 25 last season.
Let’s not forget, Pavlich has now kicked 500 career goals and he kicked more than 60 goals in every season from 2005 to 2008. No one else on the Dockers’ list is capable of doing that.
Pavlich loves to get up the field and into the midfield to win a centre clearance or just to feel the leather in his hands but at 30 and with greater midfield depth, his priorities must change. Pavlich isn’t a physically strong forward but he is athletic and as smart as they come.
It frustrates me that he can often run around picking up 20 midfield possessions when he’s kicking it into a forward line of Mayne, Hayden Ballantyne and Matt de Boer and the ball gets repelled straight back out.
Getting over a trip to Western Australia to play a game of football usually took me an extra day or two.
We did that twice a year, while Pavlich has been doing it 11 times a season for 12 long years.
That shouldn’t be underestimated by his coaches and I think the Dockers need to think long and hard about how they get the most out of their six-time club champion in the latter part of his career. If I was in Lyon’s shoes, I would be telling Pavlich it’s time to let David Mundy, Nat Fyfe, Stephen Hill, Michael Barlow, Tendai Mzungu and a fit Anthony Morabito take permanent control of the midfield, and that his greatest value to the side is creating a contest from the goal-line to 70 metres out from goal.
His role would be not only to kick and create five or six goals a game but to give some direction to the smalls – Ballantyne, Lachie Neale and Mayne.
It’s pretty hard to get front and centre when there is no obvious target to gravitate to.
Pavlich is a big man, in fact, at 98 kilograms, he’s been a phenomenal athlete for someone so big.
This year, he has spent more time forward than in 2011 but to be dominant in the forward-50 arc you have to be aggressive at the contest, because you are always outnumbered.
Pavlich has had just two contested marks inside 50 and his contested possessions are well down on last year, when he was mainly in the midfield due to Fremantle’s injuries.
Winning centre clearances for his side when it is struggling is what he should do occasionally, but seeing him chipping the ball across the half-back flank and getting uncontested possession through the midfield isn’t how Pavlich should end his career.
The big man is losing his impact on games and the rest of the Fremantle side is crying out for someone to straighten it up. This role should be given to Pavlich, and on a permanent basis.
The Dockers go into today’s western derby as massive underdogs against West Coast. John Worsfold will love seeing Pavlich run far and wide for his possessions; he, on the other hand, will have Dean Cox, Nic Naitanui, Quinten Lynch and Jack Darling all ready to create havoc in a traditional forward line set-up.
Note to Ross Lyon: kicking 12 goals or less against the Eagles or any other quality side just won’t cut it. If your Dockers do make the finals the way they are currently playing, they will just be making up the numbers.