Fremantle opened their account in style against my beloved Dogs on Saturday night.
It was terrific, tremendous win in front of the Purple Army and gave supporters hope for the 2017 season.
A lot of people were saying “it was the kids, it was the kids” who were the catalyst for the turnaround in form. However, while the Dockers youngsters were okay, it was really the senior players who took control of proceedings.
The kids – like Griffin Logue, Harley Balic and Ethan Hughes – weren’t anything special but they played their roles well.
Guys that have been down on form proving they’ve still got it, Michael Johnson and David Mundy in particular, were the major reason why Fremantle got over the line.
And they needed to have big games. Both were pretty lucky they weren’t part of the cull.
Despite the win, I still have a huge question mark about Fremantle and I’m not totally convinced they’re back just yet.
What the Dockers have to is back it up – they cannot come to Melbourne and give a ‘flat pancake’ performance.
If they do that, what they achieved the week before will count for very little.
Fremantle has got to fancy their chances against a Melbourne side missing three of its most important players – Max Gawn, Jesse Hogan and Jordan Lewis.
One way they can do this is to exploit Gawn’s absence with Aaron Sandilands.
Sandilands was dominant against the Bulldogs and should get a really good shot at it again this week, most likely against the inexperienced Jake Spencer and Jack Watts who’s a utility not a ruckman.
It’s not about the amount of taps he gets but hit-outs to advantage.
Sandilands gave Fremantle’s midfielders ‘silver service’ on Saturday and if he can replicate it will go a long way to helping the Dockers beat the Demons.
What Melbourne has done is a good blueprint for Ross Lyon to follow – Fremantle need to be where they appear to be right now.
While the Demons have been a shade disappointing in 2017 they will still figure in the clump of teams that will finish anywhere from the bottom end of the eight to 12th.
It would be a real scalp for Fremantle if they can win this one and help the club’s fans feel they really are on the right track.
When the Dockers were very good, from 2013-2015, they were producing the type of performance they delivered against the Bulldogs 16 times a year.
It’s hard to be at the top of your game every single match but to produce that once every five to six weeks isn’t good enough.
If the Dockers are going win more games they need to aim to score 100 points every week and I don’t know if they have got it in them.
They certainly haven’t shown they can kick that many points this season, with totals of 73, 56 and 89 in three rounds so far.
The days of strangling games are almost over, particularly away from home.
You won’t win a game of football away from home unless you are capable of kicking between 85-100 points.
Fremantle are 1-2 and mathematically – they’re still in the fight but they won’t make the eight.
If they keep trying to play the best team they have right now to keep the fans interested at some stage it’s going to come and bite them.
They need to have a suck and see year.
Once finals have faded from the horizon, or even sooner, the rest of the Dockers year has purely and simply got to be about finding out what they’ve got.
They know what their deficiencies are going to be in the future – no Sandilands, no Mundy, no Johnson, no Lee Spurr or Danyle Pearce.
They need to find blokes are going to stand up, not just in the interim, but for next year after some of the aforementioned players retire or aren’t offered another contract.
With this in mind, at some stage this year the rest of the Dockers youngsters need to be tested.
If their form doesn’t warrant it then it’s a no-brainer for the Dockers to drop those senior players and give the younger players a go and see what they have got.
This means unfortunately, and I know I’m in the minority here, Zac Dawson’s career is probably done now.
I thought Dawson was unlucky to be dropped and his performance against Port wasn’t that bad even though he had four goals kicked against him.
He was accountable for his man and it wasn’t his fault he had no help.
However, with Alex Pearce a near-automatic inclusion once he returns from injury, Joel Hamling impressing on Travis Cloke and the need to develop Griffin Logue, Dawson probably won’t be required again.
It’s also worth giving Sam Collins a go to see what he’s got, even though he is a little way back in the queue.
If Michael Johnson gets injured before Pearce is ready, or Fremantle mathematically can’t make finals, then there’s no doubt Collins deserves a shot.
However, despite the AFL trend of playing team defence, the current crop of defenders still needs to learn to be similarly accountable as Dawson when required.
Speaking of youngsters, I’m not sure Matt Taberner has what it takes to make it at AFL level despite dominating for Peel Thunder in the opening four rounds.
*Editor’s note: Taberner is currently equal second in the WAFL for goals scored with 11 and third for marks with 31 at an average of just under eight a game.
WAFL might be his level – he is one of those guys who plays very well at the lesser level but may never strike gold at the highest level.
I just don’t see enough out of him and I’ve only seen him play two good games, both at the Gabba against lowly Brisbane.
He doesn’t do the simple things well. Drops marks he should take and misses goals he should score.
Ross Lyon recently said Taberner needs to improve his ruck craft in order to earn a position in the senior team but, it’s just not in his nature.
He’s as much chance of being a ruckman as me and you and I don’t even know if he can develop his competitive nature enough to be a forward.