Sunday 18 February 2018 / 09:27 PM

Move Aside Essendon, September is Close!

This article is an Essendon free zone!!!!!!!!

Like most people, I believe enough analysis has been done on the subject without me needing to intrude.

The flogged horse is dead, the saga has been overcooked, and the race has been run and won.

It’s time to talk about finals football.

Yes sports fans, it’s nearly that magical month of September.

You are forgiven if you didn’t realise it as you may have lost track of the season in the fog and smog of the supplements saga.

Eight teams will fight for the premiership and it shapes to be an interesting race.

Hawthorn and Geelong remain consistent and strong, Sydney is limping towards the finals series, while Richmond and Collingwood are a mystery bunch.

Hawthorn and Geelong are rightfully favourites amongst the punters; the team to watch out for in my opinion is Fremantle.

Once a laughing stock now the good stock, the Purple Haze have shed the tag of being the competition’s ugly duckling.

They are now ruthless, competitive and a premiership contender.

The appointment of Ross Lyon while controversial has done the club wonders.

For a club that has lacked discipline and structure on the field and stability off, Lyon has brought in the powerful structure that took St. Kilda to three Grand Finals.

And the results are positive.

Forget the ‘boring’ tag; Fremantle should have the ‘playing Premiership football’ tag ascribed to them.

All winning sides start with a solid backline and Fremantle certainly have that.

Michael Johnson and Tendai Mzungu should be in All-Australian contention while the much-maligned Zac Dawson has improved considerably in the last 12 months.

Their stinginess is reflected in the stats with Fremantle number 18 in average points conceded at a level not seen in years.

Freo concede around 65 points per game, which is the lowest since Adelaide in 2005 when they conceded around 69.

In midfield, there is a mix of grit (Michael Barlow and Ryan Crowley) and style (Nate Fyfe and David Munday).

The Dockers are number fifth in tackles made with only Geelong, Sydney, Port Adelaide and West Coast tackling more.

But the most underrated aspect of Fremantle’s squad is their forward line.

Most experts and fans deride Fremantle for their lack of scoring and their focus on defence.

It is true that Freo are light on the scoreboard with their average goals scored per game nothing spectacular (for the record, the rank joint 6th).

However, with Pavlich, Ballentyne, De Boer and Hannath in the forward line, they have the capabilities to produce goals.

You only have to look at last week against Port Adelaide; the danger and potential of Fremantle’s attacking prowess was evident.

In a match against a Port side who have a reputation for being giant killers, they scored 10 goals in a half while restricting the Power to just one goal.

While their reputation for starvation is renowned, they’ve got the attacking instincts and flair needed to break opposition teams down.

They also have played most of the season without their best 22.

Sandilands, Ibbotson, Clancee Pearce, McPharlin and Walters all have something in common.

Apart from being in the same team, they also are all on the Dockers injury list and will be back in time for the finals.

If I were an opposition coach looking at that injury list, I’d be very wary of the Dockers come September.

And so should you football fans.

Hawthorn may have the most talent; Geelong may be the more consistent; and Sydney may have the best team culture – but none of them play football the way Fremantle do.

Ruthless, driven and strong, they play premiership football every week whether they are playing 1st or 18th.

Add to that their talent and you have a formidable squad in good form heading towards September; not to mention they are brimming with confidence.

This may finally be the year that Fremantle finally lose their premiership virginity.

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John Hunt

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