Sandi’s clearance confidence
Fremantle ruckman Aaron Sandilands admits the team’s clearance struggles have been frustrating this season but says results will come as the players adjust to coach Ross Lyon’s stoppage systems.
Fremantle is ranked 16th in the AFL for clearance differential this season (-5) and has been beaten at the stoppages in each of its past five games, losing the clearances 53-30 against Adelaide last Saturday.
The club recruited highly regarded stoppages coach Mark Stone from the Sydney Swans last September, but the midfield is yet to fire this season as key players build fitness and form.
Sandilands, who will face in-form Richmond ruckman Ivan Maric this Saturday at the MCG, said it would take time for the on-ball group to fully grasp the new set-ups put in place by Lyon and Stone.
“It’s a pretty new system that we’ve got going so it’s just a matter of the whole midfield group and the ruckmen learning that,” Sandilands said on Wednesday.
“There could be 14-15 guys that go through [the midfield] so it’s just a matter of everyone understanding their role in the side.
“You’re always frustrated when you’re trying your best and the figures aren’t quite getting there.
“There’s still a lot of work that we need to do and we are doing that work so hopefully we can turn it around.”
Fremantle will be looking to end a three-game losing streak when it faces the Tigers, who boast one of the competition’s in-form midfields, led by Maric.
The former Adelaide big man has averaged 29 hit-outs and almost three clearances a game this season, polling votes in the AFL Coaches Association player of the year award in each of his past five games.
“He has been in good form. [The mullet] is definitely working for him,” Sandilands said of Maric.
“He’s getting a lot of the ball around the ground, he’s also having an impact around stoppages, so he is one of the in-form ruckmen in the comp.
“We’ve come up against some quality midfielders the last two or three weeks and we know [Richmond] are really good around the stoppages.”
Part of Lyon’s plan to improve his midfield was to move Matt de Boer into an on-ball role, and the 22-year-old impressed against Adelaide, winning a career-high 25 disposals.
De Boer said Richmond had a “formidable” midfield, and Fremantle would need to be wary of players like Trent Cotchin, Dustin Martin and Brett Deledio.
“We’ve got our structures and we’ll stick to them, but obviously they’ve got some formidable midfielders in there that we’ll have to put some time and effort into and make sure they don’t slice us up,” he said.
Fremantle has lost five of its past six clashes against Richmond and hasn’t beaten the Tigers at the MCG since round 12, 2004.
However, de Boer said the team would not be deterred by its record at the ground.
“We know that we can go anywhere and beat anyone if we put a four-quarter effort in,” he said. “That’s what we’re working on.”