Sport AFL Why you shouldn’t rule out the Dockers just yet

Why you shouldn’t rule out the Dockers just yet

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If you came from another planet you would wonder about footy analysis sometimes.

Hawthorn is fourth on the ladder but apparently a certainty for the three-peat.

Meanwhile, Fremantle is on top, having lost just two matches – including one to the defending premier – and is listed as a has-been, washed up.

As the song goes, It’s a Mad World

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Too much is read into recent form at the wrong time of the season and judgments are made by overly emotional people with the memory span of a goldfish.

Hawthorn monstered Fremantle last week - but it was just one game. Photo: Getty
Hawthorn monstered Fremantle last week – but it was just one game. Photo: Getty

Thus, they are skewed. It is the way of the industry, where even calm, rational people lose the plot.

Yes, Hawthorn looks good, will take a power of beating, and yes, the Dockers are ailing a little of recent times, their scoring power frozen.

But the idea that they are gone is laughable. The challenge is for Ross Lyon to find a better way.

Fremantle is No.1 in defence, conceding just 67 points a game, a staple of their diet and in line with the philosophy of Lyon, unequivocally a defend-first coach.

But offensively the Dockers have slipped to No.10 in the competition, averaging 84 points. It is not good enough, and Lyon knows that only too well.

Last year, when Lyon said Fremantle needed to “find” two goals a game, the Dockers were seventh in scoring and fell short when it counted.

In 2013, when they went all the way to the club’s first Grand Final, they were 12th in scoring.

In short, you are going to need to defend incredibly well to win games that way, especially against a team with the spread of options like Hawthorn, who kick 17 goals a game on average.

Lyon’s teams have a history of being closed down in big finals, incapable of moving the scoreboard in gripping struggles.

Notably, in Grand Finals at St Kilda and Fremantle, they have scored nine, 10, seven and eight goals in four attempts at winning the big one.

These numbers don’t look good on the surface but they need to be taken in the context that Lyon never had the best team, as such.

Lyon has plenty of thinking to do. Photo: Getty
Lyon has plenty of thinking to do. Photo: Getty

The closest he came was in 2009, when St Kilda with its forward press finished on top of the ladder, but Geelong was in the midst of a great era, and in wet conditions that did not suit the Saints with their emphasis on their big forwards, the Cats prevailed narrowly.

In 2010, Collingwood had overtaken everyone and was by some margin the best team, but Lyon and St Kilda almost pinched it in the drawn Grand Final.

In 2013, Fremantle was plucky but Hawthorn was a far more rounded team, stung by defeat the previous year.

Like Malcolm Blight at Geelong in the 1990s, Lyon has managed to get slightly inferior teams to within striking distance but fallen short against better teams.

It does not mean that his method is fatally flawed, or that he can’t win one.

Actually, on the basis that a coach is judged by what he extracts from his resources (ie: team), then he is coaching brilliantly.

But once again, he’s trying to cover up deficiencies.

What’s missing? Another big forward to help the 33-year-old Matthew Pavlich has been and should have been on the shopping list for Fremantle.

The failure of the club to find a way to chase one down may haunt Fremantle as it tilts at the flag again, and it is no surprise to learn that the Dockers are in the chase for Gold Coast’s Charlie Dixon.

What is interesting is that Matt Taberner, 22, appeared to be identified as the guy, but has been in and out of the side as he develops.

It’s the missing link for the purple haze.

Potentially, it could stop Fremantle in 2015. But whatever you do, don’t count out Lyon from finding a way.

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