Tag: fremantle aflw

2021 AFLW Preview: Fremantle Dockers

FREMANTLE snuck up on the competition and put together a near-perfect season, eventually only being stopped by a global pandemic and a controversially premature ruling.

2020 RECAP

Fremantle might have lost a number of players to cross-state expansion side West Coast – led by star Dana Hooker – but showed they had more than the required depth to get the job done. Kiara Bowers went from strength to strength, averaging a ridiculous 14.1 tackles per game and falling one short of her century in a short season, while Hayley Miller, Ebony Antonio, Kara Antonio and Gemma Houghton all provided great support. Young guns, Mim Strom and Roxy Roux were among those who caught the eye in standout debut seasons, while Sabreena Duffy backed up her first season with a strong season.

NEW FACES

A quiet trade period in terms of inclusions showed the side to be relatively settled and ready for a second crack at the title, with the Dockers heading to the AFL Women’s Draft instead. They grabbed two elite young talents in Sarah Verrier and Mikayla Morrison, while also bringing in the likes of Maggie Maclachlan and Tiah Haynes who had shown great form throughout the WAFL Women’s season.

ONE TO WATCH IN 2021

Providing she can have a run of luck, it will be exciting to see what Sarah Verrier can provide at the next level. Unfortunately, the teenager had injury issues that impacted her 2020 season, but she has terrific balance between inside and outside traits, and can play just about anywhere on the field. Long-term, Verrier can settle into an already impressive midfield group, and hold her own with her ball-winning ability and high-level skills.

WHY THEY CAN WIN IT

It is fairly straightforward to suggest the Dockers can go all the way in 2021, having been in the best position to do so in 2020 before it was called off. The only undefeated side heading into the 2020 finals series, Fremantle was destroying teams like few others, and while no doubt they could have been pushed by some – as shown by Collingwood – they were a tough, united squad.

QUESTION MARK

Could the Dockers repeat history? Any football season is long and tough, and for Fremantle, they did all the work to go undefeated and then be two wins away from a premiership that few externally saw coming. Internally the belief was clearly through the roof, but now the challenge is getting them back to that position again. They should have the hunger which is a great tick, but how will other clubs adapt to their style that saw their success ultimately unrewarded by season’s end?

FINAL WORD

Fremantle should be considered one of, if not the team to beat. Adelaide, North Melbourne and Carlton in particular all have claims to be a title contender, but the Dockers have not lost since 2019, and have such a well-balanced team that has lost little, but gained some superb young talents. Expect the purple army to be in full force this season, because it would be a shock not to see Fremantle at the pointy end of the season.

2021 AFLW 10 under 10 to watch: #8 Tiah Haynes

IN a unique series for the lead-up to the 2021 AFL Women’s season, Draft Central will look at 10 players who have played under 10 games to watch this year. Whilst it would be easy to pick those who finished high in last year’s Rising Star, or top picks this year, we have opted to look at players who have been around at least two seasons but have only managed to play nine games or less. We continue the countdown at number eight with Fremantle’s Tiah Haynes.

Haynes is the unique one in this list, having only been drafted in last year’s 2020 AFL Women’s National Draft. However the 27-year-old has played the required two seasons at the elite level, representing the Dockers way back in the foundation seasons of 2017 and 2018. There, Haynes managed to play six games – three in each year – before being delisted at the end of 2018. For those that might not know Haynes’ story, the talented defender has had to fight back from adversity to earn a spot back on the Dockers’ list, and has come so far that the club that did not lose a game last year has brought her back.

A hardened midfielder who can play in multiple roles – especially coming out of defence – Haynes has endued both shoulder and knee injuries over the journey, but was able to stand out for Subiaco this year. Playing in the West Australian Football League (WAFL) Women’s competition, Haynes has built up her strength and power, as well as improved her skills since intitially getting a chance at the elite level, and becomes one of the few to get a second crack after being delisted in the early seasons.

Haynes has earned a spot on the list following a strong 2020 WAFL Women’s season with the Lions, but her story of resilience has been one for the ages. She has had to undergo three knee reconstructions, as well as a shoulder injury that curtailed her first AFL Women’s season. One aspect about Haynes that many might have forgotten is the fact she was the first selection in the Hampson-Hardeman Cup exhibition match between Melbourne and Western Bulldogs back in 2014. She was selected ahead of the likes of Darcy Vescio, Emma Zielke, Dana Hooker and Kaitlyn Ashmore who were all picked up in the Top 10.

The then-20-year-old was a rising star coming through the state league level, and now six years older, is ready to use the experience of hardship and setbacks to stamp her authority on the competition. Fully fit, Haynes could very well be a strong player in the AFL Women’s, and no doubt a huge acquisition for the Dockers who have shown great faith in bringing back one of the most talented junior players, and rewarding her for her efforts both on and off the field in the past few years.

Picture credit: Fremantle FC

2020 AFLW Draft review: Fremantle Dockers

NOW the AFL Women’s Draft is over, we take a look at each club, who they picked and what they might offer to their team next year. We continue our countdown with Fremantle, a team that went undefeated in 2020 and were able to add a couple of classy teenagers and a former Docker back on their list.

Fremantle:

#14 – Sarah Verrier (Peel Thunder/Western Australia)
#30 – Mikayla Morrison (Swan Districts/Western Australia)
#46 – Tiah Haynes (Subiaco)

Fremantle went into the draft with the luxury of being able to pick best available after not losing a game in 2020. With their three selections the Dockers were able to add two of the most talented kids in Sarah Verrier and Mikayla Morrison, as well as running defender, Tiah Haynes. All three have different traits and provide some exciting capabilities at the top level.

Haynes is a former Fremantle player, drafted way back in the inaugural 2016 AFL Women’s Draft with Pick 36. She played six games across two seasons before being unfortunately delisted at the end of 2018. She went back to the WAFL Women’s competition where she was able to ply her trade and become a standout for runners-up Subiaco, and now the 27-year-old gets a second crack at the elite level.

Verrier has been long touted as a top West Australian prospect. The balanced midfielder has clean skills but can play inside or outside, and even off a flank if required. Her ability to win the ball is superb, and whilst she had some setbacks through injury in 2020, she was still a key member of Peel Thunder in their remarkable premiership year. She was raised as the Dockers’ first pick for some time given the link through their Academy, and once she was left on the table by the Eagles, it was an easy choice.

Morrison has been building for a couple of years now not only at WAFL Women’s level, but through the AFL Women’s Under-18 Championships too. The East Perth product went to Swan Districts this season in order to play League with the Royals just having an Under 18s side. There she showed enough to suggest it will not be long before she breaks through in the AFL Women’s, with velcro-like hands at ground level or in the air, and hardly impacted on wet days.

As a whole, the Dockers were able to bring in three players that fitness providing, will push for a spot in the best side, but as a tough team to crack into, they will be made to work for it. Expect the Dockers to again challenge for a flag in 2021.

Picture: Fremantle FC

2020 AFL Women’s season review: Fremantle

FREMANTLE entered its fourth AFL Women’s campaign with little fanfare despite a six-win season in 2019, but backed it up with an unblemished 6-0 run to deliver what would have been a second straight preliminary final appearance. Having undergone a heavy list turnover in the wake of West Coast’s introduction to the league, the Dockers proved their resilience and shrewd list management skills to finish as the competition’s first ever undefeated side. With coach Trent Cooper adjudged the AFL Coaches Association Coach of the Year, and four stars named in the All-Australian squad, there is plenty to dissect out of the highs and lows of Fremantle’s season.

RECORD: 1st (B), 6-0 (1-0 finals), 154.7%

RESULTS:

R1: defeated Geelong by 16 points
R2: defeated West Coast by 45 points
R3: defeated Collingwood by 3 points
R4:
defeated St Kilda by 1 points
R5:
defeated Brisbane by 18 points 
R6:
defeated Western Bulldogs by 15 points
SF: defeated Gold Coast by 70 points

While the 6-0 regular season record may make Fremantle’s season seem relatively straightforward, there were plenty of talking points to come from each fixture. Geelong provided a test first-up but could not hang with the Dockers for longer than three quarters, while West Coast supplied even less resistance in the maiden AFLW Western Derby. Fremantle’s second real test spawned a somewhat sketchy mid-season run, with Collingwood only just falling short of the sturdy home side, while St Kilda were unlucky not to come away with at least two points in a thriller at Moorabbin. It meant Brisbane had every chance to get up in Round 5’s clash between undefeated teams, but the Dockers duly returned to their best before another barnburner against the Bulldogs and an emphatic finals win against Gold Coast. For all the impressive form, it would have been interesting to see how the Dockers would have fared against the next-best sides among the final four; North Melbourne, Carlton, and Melbourne.

SEASON HIGH: Stamping authority in battle of the conference leaders

There was much hype surrounding the Round 5 fixture between Fremantle and Brisbane, with either side the only two left in the competition to boast undefeated records as leaders in their respective conferences. In the fortnight leading in, the Dockers let Collingwood and St Kilda within a goal of victory, so a big lift was required. At home, the hosts delivered a game-breaking first term with five goals to two to set up an unassailable lead, coasting home by 18 points to keep their perfect record in tact.

SEASON LOW: Being robbed of the opportunity to achieve more

This may seem like somewhat of a cop-out, but it is genuinely difficult to pinpoint any real lowlights among Fremantle’s season given the positives shown by its playing list, and the ultimately unblemished record. The only thing which takes away from it all is that the season was cut short, leaving an asterisk next to the feat of becoming the league’s first ever undefeated side, and the lingering unknown of whether the Dockers would have gone all the way for premiership success. While they were the undeniable flag favourites and already achieved so much, we cannot say for sure that the Dockers would have won it all – unfair is an understatement.

FIVE KEY PERFORMERS:

Kiara Bowers (17.6 disposals, 2.6 marks, 14.1 tackles, 3.7 clearances, 3.6 inside 50s, 4.9 intercept possessions, 323 metres gained)

Voted by her peers as the competition’s most courageous player, the Fremantle vice-captain enjoyed another stellar year as one of the elite midfielders to earn All-Australian squad status. Bower’s effort in leading the competition for tackles – one shy of 100 in total – and her side for disposals, metres gained, contested possessions, intercept possessions, and inside 50s was remarkable, helping her blossom from an underrated workhorse to an bonafide star.

Ebony Antonio (12.1 disposals, 71% efficiency, 3.3 marks, 4.3 tackles, 2.7 inside 50s, 3.4 score involvements, 4 goals)

One of the classiest players in Fremantle’s squad is Antonio, who continued to bring her game-breaking ability to the fore in her fourth AFLW campaign. The foundation Docker was again lively going forward, mixing her time between half-forward and the midfield to good effect across all seven of her side’s games. The 28-year-old hit the scoreboard in four seperate outings, earning All-Australian squad honours in the process.

Sabreena Duffy (8.3 disposals, 1.4 marks, 1.6 tackles, 1 inside 50, 4 score involvements, 12 goals)

In what was a stellar season for the second-year forward, Duffy finished as the competition’s leading goalkicker (12), while also being named in the All-Australian and 22 Under 22 squads – all at just 20 years of age. A live-wire around the big sticks, Duffy may undergo quiet patches, but proved her match-winning ability with three bags of multiple goals across seven games. The most impressive was her 4.4 effort against Brisbane, with all-but two of her 10 disposals registering a score.

Gemma Houghton (11.1 disposals, 3.7 marks, 2.9 tackles, 3.1 inside 50s, 271 metres gained, 4.9 score involvements, 4 goals)

While forwards are sometimes only as good as the service provided from midfield, Houghton shredded the old adage as one the most important players to Fremantle’s structure this year. The 179cm forward target possesses great athleticism, using it to dominate in the air and double back quickly towards goal to match the Docker’s transition style to a t. The 26-year-old may still prove quite raw in her finishing, but has all the makings to continue as a dominant new-age key forward.

Hayley Miller (13.9 disposals, 2.9 marks, 4.1 tackles, 4 clearances, 3.6 inside 50s, 300 metres gained)

The perfect fold for Bowers in the engine room, Miller returned career-best numbers in almost every key stat in her fourth AFLW season as a mainstay through midfield. The 24-year-old has the 171cm frame to suit her inside midfield role, and led Fremantle for clearances and inside 50s to show her ability to keep up with the competition’s best in her vice-captain. With her rate of development on the up, Miller is gaining on the elite group of midfielders.

THE STALWART:

Kara Antonio (11.4 disposals, 76% efficiency, 3.6 marks, 5.1 tackles, 1.7 rebound 50s, 1.9 inside 50s)

If there is anyone across the whole competition who deserves the ultimate team success, it is Fremantle skipper, Antonio. The 28-year-old inaugural Docker worked tirelessly once again on the outside for her side, making the wing her own in each of Fremantle’s seven games. As an experienced head, Antonio provided great class on the ball to lead her side for disposal efficiency (76 per cent), while returning a terrific back-end to the season.

THE BIG IMPROVER:

Katie-Jayne Grieve (10.6 disposals, 1 mark, 7.3 tackles, 4 clearances, 2.3 inside 50s, 257 metres gained, 2 goals)

One of the quiet achievers among Fremantle’s midfield group is Grieve, who returned a much-improved campaign in her third AFLW season. Another strong body in the engine room, Grieve was an equal-leader for her side for clearances, while finishing second for tackles to Bowers across the entire competition. The 23-year-old is another who looked to be coming into her own in 2020, almost doubling her output in every key stat as a great forward driver.

THE YOUNG TALLS:

Roxanne Roux (6.7 disposals, 2.2 marks, 2 tackles, 5 hitouts, 2.5 inside 50s, 5 goals)

There is just something about Roux, who enjoyed an exciting debut AFLW season having previously staked her claim as an outstanding junior. The high-marking, athletic key forward/ruck showed she has all the tropes to be a real star of the future, earning a Rising Star nomination in Round 2 and missing just one game (rested) to eventually be named in the 2020 22 Under 22 squad.

Mim Strom (7 disposals, 1.4 marks, 3 tackles, 1.6 clearances, 1 inside 50, 16.3 hitouts)

Fremantle’s second pick in last year’s draft, Strom quickly became an integral part of the Docker’s line-up, taking up the primary ruck spot in the wake of injuries and hardly missing a beat across all seven games. A consistent performer, the 184cm tall played her role well throughout the season and impressed with her ability to follow up at ground level after her ruck craft was won and done. Will form a formidable partnership with Roux for years to come.

VERDICT:

There is not much to nit-pick from Fremantle’s roaringly successful season, with the Dockers making history in a year unfortunately cut short. With some exciting youngsters, developing prospects standing up, and some hardened leaders through the middle, the Dockers should fare well again after consecutive six-win campaigns. It would have been great to see them compete against the remainder of the final four, but Fremantle’s status as the competition’s benchmark this year cannot be denied.

AFLW premiership race opinion: What were the options?

UNFORTUNATELY the hasty end to what has been a terrific AFL Women’s season through a COVID-19 pandemic that no one prior to the season could have seen coming, has forced the league to scrap an end result from the books and leave 2020 as a blank line. In this AFL Women’s feature, we take a look at the options that were on the table and the reasoning behind each one.

Option 1 – No premier awarded

This option was the one ultimately chosen by the league in fairness to the four competitors left. The league was left in a lose-lose situation with both Conference leaders having a right to demand the title in different ways, and even the other two remaining finalists also having a stake in the say. When we say they were left in a lose-lose, had they opted for the one-off Grand Final then they would have been hounded by fans of the second placed clubs who had deserved to reach the finals that were originally put on the table. If they had opted for the original finals series, then it was heartbreak for the two fourth placed teams remaining in the running, especially Collingwood who had knocked off two of the teams quite convincingly that had made it in a tough draw that would have seen them face two sides – Geelong and St Kilda – who in fairness to those sides, the Magpies would have been favoured to beat and sneak into the top three. Ultimately once the finals system was chosen, there was nothing that could be done if the competition was stopped. In saying that, was this a safe way of not upsetting any clubs by ruling them out of finals and denying them a chance that had been outlined at the start of the season for finishing in the top three?

Option 2 – Fremantle awarded the premiership

This option is one of those options Fremantle fans certainly felt they deserved and I think most fans would be in the boat of “yeah I get that, but it’s not entirely fair” in a begrudging kind of way. There is no doubt if they had to award a premiership, Fremantle was the obvious option – six wins from six games, undefeated on top of Conference B which was the stronger conference, and smashing Gold Coast in the first final to show why they were deserving premiers. The knock on the Dockers – and I think this is why they simply could not award them the flag – is because they did not play any of the three teams remaining. In the final two rounds they had Calrton and Melbourne to come, and had we been in the same boat say week one of finals and the Dockers had defeated both those sides, then I would say we’d be looking at the 2020 Premier. But having been denied the chance to face them – through not fault of their own – as well as North Melbourne, the Dockers winning the premiership would have left some question marks given the other clubs had all had to play each other.

Option 3 – One of the other teams awarded the premiership

This was never really an option and would create mass uproar, but the reason we have put this option in here is to show why they could not have given it to an individual club. North Melbourne was in a similar boat – they had only played Melbourne and actually lost – though that was way back in Round 1 and while they beat up on every side along the way, again you could not simply award them the flag having not beaten one of the top sides. The Dees could have had a great argument having actually beaten North Melbourne, but then got toppled by Carlton in the final round of the home and away season to slide to third. That would rule the Dees out of winning it, while Carlton only had the one loss – but that was fairly comprehensive to Collingwood. The Magpies pushed the Roos all the way in the semi-finals, so you could not have handed the flag to Carlton either. Basically, if it went to an individual side, it had to be Fremantle or bust, and realistically the unknowns given the draw meant the Dockers could not have been an option without some kind of query from opposition clubs and fans.

Option 4 – They play out the season

This is the option that makes the most sense but was not utilised. Player contracts and the off-season moves obviously make it difficult, but there is no reason why they could not bump it back, especially for three games. They have four sides across those three games which could all make it, and with an entire AFL season pushed back, it seems strange not to have at least had a contingency plan to put the remainder of the season on ice. This option is the only option that all four clubs – and indeed the entire supporter base – would be happy with. Now no one would say put the sport ahead of public health, but with the AFL looking to come back in June – keeping player contracts in mind and surely in this unprecedented time we could make it work – they could fit in three AFL Women’s games to conclude the season and put a full stop on the 2020 season. It will not happen now the league has ticked off the “no premier” option, but it just seems a bit strange having picked the eight-team option to keep all realistic clubs in the running of finals happy, to then pull away the chance for a title.

Summary:

In my shoes I would play out the season. If you can fit 17 rounds of AFL (which again looks doubtful based on everything else going on around the world) in for the rest of the year, you can fit three games of AFL Women’s. In fact, they realistically should have been given priority to finish if anything, because no AFL club could expect to be awarded a premiership just a round into the season. An option that could have been looked at was like an old fashioned finals series where teams might play two games within a week – the semis are played back-to-back followed by the final a few days later. I would host the series in Western Australia, handing Fremantle the deserving home ground advantage as the top team, and all sides could remain bunkered down for the week and just get it done. That way, it answers all the questions, results in a premier and there aren’t four sets of supporters who wonder ‘what if?’. If the Dockers did win the flag, they were deserving, if they got knocked off in the semi-finals by Melbourne, then the final would be at a neutral venue anyway – problem solved. Playing out the finals series was the obvious option and one that I’m sure could have been done even if down the track, or if it had been acted upon fast enough. Now as AFL Women’s fans we’ll never know, and I can understand the distaste from Dockers fans because of all the teams they did not have a blip on the radar. But I can also understand the logic of the other three sides supporters, whom would not have got a crack at the premiership, or argue that they were never tested by a top four side. But now we have been denied of a result and there will always be a question mark surrounding 2020.