The Fremantle Dockers rolled out their annual intra-club scratch match last night ahead of their February 19 NAB Cup pre-season opener and it gave fans their first chance to see the boys after last year’s disappointing campaign.
There were a few big outs, one of which included 30-year-old key defender Luke McPharlin who rolled his ankle at training during the week. Also missing were Alex Silvagni, David Mundy and Anthony Morabito.
Divided into white and purple, both sides got off to a shaky start but at the half the purple team, led by Michael Barlow and Nat Fyfe had a 25-17 advantage. The star duo controlled the middle against Stephen Hill and Hayden Ballantyne, the latter of which was having his first run in midfield, an experiment under new coach Ross Lyon.
Because of the sweltering Perth heat the game was played in shorter eighths, as opposed to quarters, allowing players to keep their fluids up and get in plenty of rest without over doing it.
Barlow looked reasonable but not yet back to his rookie form after a gruesome 2010 leg break and Fyfe was excellent for the first half of the match but was dragged from the field numerous times by the coaching staff and he didn’t appear very pleased with the entire process. Both players looked in excellent condition.
The midfield looked pretty disorganized throughout, but Ballantyne, after a quiet start, won a bit of the footy, showed that great ability to evade oncoming defenders and pushed the ball forward. Hill did a lot of running and while he didn’t win a lot of contested possessions he was very clean with the ball, showed his amazing pace and kicked a beautiful goal.
Former All-Australian ruckman Aaron Sandilands dominated the clearances but played the majority of the night against WAFL level opponents. He did look to be finally healthy and it will be interesting to see if his health remains.
Another former AA, Matthew Pavlich, didn’t have a spectacular night but he did look in great condition and could be in for a big year. He probably didn’t do enough whilst playing against a few inferior defenders but his presence will be vital in 2012.
Disappointments included new acquisition Zac Dawson who manned the full back position for the white team. He was outmuscled and outplayed for the majority of the match and wasn’t much of an influence. Zac Clarke was also not up to scratch. There is so much potential in that long, athletic body but the ruck was outmuscled and didn’t do a whole lot. He spent some time on the bench with ice behind one knee after being thrown to floor at a marking contest. The injury didn’t appear to be too serious though.
Tendai Mzungu was great and may have been the man-of-the-match, Paul Duffield showed some of that old run and carry game, and Kepler Bradley kicked a few nice goals.