Bradley relishes opportunity
Fremantle forward Kepler Bradley was given a clear-cut job to perform against the Western Bulldogs on Sunday: keep defender Brian Lake out of match-winner Matthew Pavlich’s way.
Lake leads the AFL in marks this season, averaging more than eight a game, and his ability to peel off his opponent and take intercept marks or spoil a contest was seen as a hurdle for Fremantle at Patersons Stadium.
Bradley, who returned to play his first game since round three, made a dubious start as Lake racked up eight disposals and took five marks in the first quarter.
However, the Fremantle big man recovered to play a crucial decoy role as Pavlich kicked six goals and Lake finished with nine more touches and four more marks for the game.
“My job was pretty much to try and get Lake out of Pavlich’s space,” Bradley said.
“He gets two and three defenders against him every week and wherever I can help the champion out I will.
“I felt in the first quarter Lake probably got in his space, but other than that I think I did a reasonable job.
“You’ve just got to lead smarter and see where ‘Pav’ is at times, so when a high ball comes in Lake doesn’t have that space to run into.
“I just tried to do that for the day as well as get my own ball.”
Bradley was one of Fremantle’s better players against the Bulldogs, finishing with 21 disposals and seven marks, also winning 11 hit-outs as ruck support for Jon Griffin.
He said he had cherished the opportunity to play at AFL level again after being sent back to the WAFL to find form and then suffering a four-week leg injury.
“I haven’t been back for about 12 weeks now, so to run out there and hear the crowd again, it’s a big change to WAFL footy,” he said.
“I love it. Whenever you get a chance to play AFL footy, you don’t know when your last game’s going to come, so I just cherish every moment I get.
“I got dropped for reasons so I’ve just been trying to get back and work on the things I was told to work on – play as a tall, lead at the footy and take marks, and if I don’t mark the ball, try and bring it to ground and provide opportunities.”
Fremantle’s forward line functioned well on Sunday, with Chris Mayne kicking four goals, Greg Broughton playing a strong defensive role and Hayden Ballantyne working up the ground to have an equal team-high five inside 50s.
Coach Ross Lyon said the set-up had helped Pavlich to play his match-winning role, but the club was still searching for another tall option.
“We’d love to have Zac Clarke in there as well and I thought when Luke McPharlin went forward it looked a lot more dangerous,” the coach said.
“Early in the year we had three [tall forwards] but for form and injury it disappeared. The structure’s working for Matthew but we’d like a bit more support.”