The Fremantle Dockers are the surprise packets of 2022, sitting in second place behind reigning premiers Melbourne after five rounds.
But even after “destroying” Essendon away from home with a 48-point win, the critics are still questioning if Fremantle are the real deal.
They had one of the easiest draws to start 2022 – playing the four teams currently sitting between 13th and 16th, and the Saints for their 4-1 start.
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Only a Max King-inspired St Kilda prevented a perfect start for the Dockers, but it’s Fremantle’s game style that has impressed after five rounds.
Coach Justin Longmuir, now in his third season as head coach, spent his first two seasons implementing a defensive mindset. In 2022, his focus has turned into attack.
“Four and one now and they are sitting second on the ladder. They are travelling really well,” Fox Footy’s Leigh Montagna said.
“Justin Longmuir built the brand off defence, last year they tried to add in a bit of offence and they lost their way a little bit trying to get the balance right.
“They have a back six now that are playing a fair bit of footy together.
“They have a really strong team defence system, that has been ingrained in them and now they are adding an offence.”
Andrew Brayshaw is having a big year, sitting equal fourth in the inside 50s count, new recruit Will Brodie is also impressing, sitting fifth in ground ball gets after five rounds.
The Dockers are currently sitting fourth in intercepts in the AFL, but the stat Longmuir will be most pleased with is their tackles inside 50 – sitting fifth.
Fox Footy’s David King said teams were struggling to get the ball through the Dockers’ zone in 2022.
Without the footy, the Dockers are ranked number one in the competition, while they are the best finishers in the AFL – winning all five last quarters with a whopping percentage of 230 after five rounds.
“Last year, they only kicked 100 points once – they’ve kicked that twice in three weeks. Now they are starting to improve that with the footy numbers,” Montagna said.
“Watch out – I think they are the real deal this year Fremantle. Not necessarily to win it, but I think they’re playing finals.
“The way they are playing stacks up.”
THE PLAYER WHO STEPPED UP
Fox Footy’s Mark Robinson said Matt Taberner’s improvement as a forward was one of the big reasons Fremantle’s attack looked dangerous – after he kicked seven goals against the Bombers.
“He’s been a really good player for several years now. He just didn’t get the kudos he deserves,” he said on AFL360.
“I think he’s a top level key forward.”
Robinson said the Dockers were “starting to become a more complete team” in 2022.
“Fremantle deserve all the accolades that they are getting,” he said.
“On the road is the key word – you’ve got to win out of your home state.
“They’ve got things happening.
“They destroyed Essendon – they’ve got gears Fremantle.”
WHERE TO NOW…
Footy analyst Gerard Whateley said the Dockers were “unstoppable” when they put on 10-straight goals against Essendon in Round 5.
“They’ve set themselves a great position from which to attack from,” he said.
The Dockers have racked up four wins in five games despite the absence of skipper and dual Brownlow Medallist Nat Fyfe.
The midfielder isn’t expected to return before May after back surgery, while David Mundy has also missed matches due to Covid.
The Dockers, without defenders Heath Chapman and Hayden Young due to Covid protocols, will now take on Carlton on Saturday.
They then travel to Geelong to face the Cats, get North Melbourne at home on a Friday night and play Gold Coast away before a run of three straight against top eight teams – Collingwood, Melbourne and Brisbane.