Freo must change after horror show: Walls
A key mentor to Ross Lyon has urged the Fremantle coach to compromise on his rigid defensive structures and build a more attacking game plan or risk losing hordes of supporters.
Carlton’s 1987 premiership coach Robert Walls, who coached Lyon as a player at both Fitzroy and Brisbane, said the poor offensive output in a thrashing from West Coast on Sunday highlighted midfield and forward problems that required significant surgery.
He also said not even the lure of more money than Collingwood could offer would tempt key forward Travis Cloke to join the Dockers.
On a day when AFL legend Kevin Bartlett declared Fremantle “unwatchable,” attempts by The West Australian to speak to Fremantle chief executive Steve Rosich were unsuccessful. A Dockers official said Rosich was unavailable.
Fan website Dockerland was flooded with messages from irate supporters critical of Lyon’s game plan after Fremantle were restricted to 5.6 in their 48-point hiding from the Eagles – their lowest score in 18 years at Patersons Stadium.
The Dockers slipped from eighth to 10th and face third-placed Adelaide at Patersons Stadium on Saturday, then a rejuvenated Richmond at the MCG before a bye in round 12.
Walls said Lyon, who had aimed heavy criticism at his under-performing midfield in the past fortnight, had to work on immediately improving his team’s forward structure.
Walls urged the Dockers boss to shelve his midfield experiment with Hayden Ballantyne and return him to his regular role as a small forward.
“As a coach, he certainly needs to start to think about scoring more because you just turn your fans off if you’re only kicking five goals,” Walls told Melbourne’s SEN radio.
“In perfect conditions, they only kicked five goals, supporters are going to walk away. I say this all the time – if you lose, that’s one thing, but when you lose and you give your supporters nothing to get excited about, well, everybody soon starts to get pretty down and out.”
Walls said hidings from Hawthorn and West Coast would force Lyon to change his style.
“I think eventually he will have to,” Walls said.
“His No.1 premise is defence and not just with your back line, but all over the field, players being defensive and being able to be accountable for an opponent, run hard to cover, that sort of thing.
“But, in order to be able to kick a score, you’ve got to play with a bit more dash and flair and not be as defensively minded.
“Be prepared to run forward of the play. I think, particularly on that ground over there, on that big, spacious Subiaco ground, you’ve got to be prepared to do that.
“I don’t think he’s got the talent at Fremantle that he had at St Kilda and that’s why they have to recruit for some speed through the midfield, more than anything.”
Walls didn’t believe the Dockers would secure Cloke’s signature.
“The only reason he would entertain going to Fremantle is for an extra $200,000 a year,” Walls said.
“Spread over five years, say it’s a million bucks all up. I would say Collingwood’s offer would be about $800,000 and Fremantle would be a million, so would it be worthwhile having that extra $200,000 to move west? I think not.”
Brownlow medallist Mark Ricciuto, who called the derby for Fox Footy, said the interrupted pre-seasons of David Mundy and Michael Barlow robbed the midfield of class and the team didn’t have enough quality on-ballers to seriously compete in finals. He said the club needed to recruit some quality players.
“They need an extra gun midfielder,” Ricciuto said.
“I like Mayne but they could probably do with another good, quality forward there. They’ve got the basis for a good squad, they probably just need a bit more class and depth in the midfield and a key forward.”
Ricciuto said five wins from nine games meant the situation wasn’t “all doom and gloom”.
Lyon has compared the team’s displays from earlier in the year with the way it played in the derby and believed it wouldn’t take many changes to fix the problems.
“We’ll talk to the players and present what we think are some simple solutions,” Lyon told 6PR.
“There was a lot to like on the weekend with great effort and intensity and hardness. But clearly we butchered the ball a bit and structurally, in front of us on turnover wasn’t exactly what we’d like.
“We’ve got a couple of simple solutions to take us back to where we were, so we’re really quite confident that we can move forward pretty quickly.”