Tall mids the go at Freo
Fremantle might be missing its giant ruckman Aaron Sandilands, but height in the midfield still shapes as a match winning factor for the club this season.
David Mundy (192cm), Michael Barlow (191cm), Ryan Crowley (190cm) and Nat Fyfe (190cm) were all influential in Saturday’s 28-point win over West Coast, overpowering an opposition midfield that didn’t boast one player over 190cm.
Mundy and Barlow shared the Ross Glendinning Medal as best afield at Patersons Stadium, winning an identical 27 possessions (14 contested) and combining for 13 clearances.
Crowley held important Eagles midfielder Luke Shuey to 12 disposals while Fyfe had 21 possessions (13 contested) and four clearances.
Fyfe acknowledged that height and strength were assets for the Fremantle midfield, which was well served by ruckman Jon Griffin in the absence of Sandilands.
“Obviously there’s going to be teams that are small and really fast outside players, but we think having that inside body strength and obviously the ability to mark overhead is going to hold us in good stead,” Fyfe told AFL.com.au.
“We feel that’s a strength in our midfield now with Dave (Mundy), Mick (Barlow), Ryan (Crowley) and myself all being 190cm-plus.”
Speaking after the club’s round-one win, coach Ross Lyon said it was his preference to have big bodies in the midfield and the formula had been proven by premiership teams Geelong and Collingwood in recent seasons.
The challenge now, according to Fremantle stoppages coach Mark Stone, is learning how to best utilise the group’s height.
“That’s part of the development and growth, learning how to complement each other,” Stone said.
“Just understanding each other and knowing when to change and maybe get forward at times.
“We’re still a developing midfield in terms of bringing some players in there who haven’t got a lot of experience.
“We’re trying to blend them in as quickly as we can and build understanding and chemistry so that they know each other’s habits and strengths and also their weaknesses.”
While Fremantle’s monsters did their best work in tight against West Coast, Stephen Hill and Danyle Pearce were game breakers on the outside, combining for 11 inside 50s, with Pearce also kicking two goals.
Fyfe, who has become one of the AFL’s leading clearance players in the last 12 months, said he could play his role confident that there would be strong support from the team’s runners.
“[Winning the contested ball] is complemented well by the outside run of Stephen Hill and Danyle Pearce,” he said.
“The bigger guys like Dave Mundy, Mick Barlow and myself can really get to work inside knowing that we’ve got that support on the outside.”