Toby McLean Returns To Battle Fremantle In Round 3


Written by Josh Lloyd (@redrock_bball)on 06 April 2017   

The Western Bulldogs are undefeated. The Fremantle Dockers are winless. But that doesn’t mean that their Round 3 clash is a fait accompli. Aside from a Round 1 demolition in 2016 at Etihad Stadium, the Dockers have won four of the last five against the premiers with the Bulldogs last win in Western Australia against Fremantle coming eight years ago, in the opening round of 2009.

Doubt would be a foreign concept to these Bulldogs, though, especially after their resounding 47 point victory against the Eagles in the Elimination Final last season at Domain Stadium, a bludgeoning that added fuel to the fire that was a historic premiership march. All we have to do though is look two weeks earlier than that, when the Dockers gave their retiring legend, Matthew Pavlich, a worthy sendoff, leaving the crippled Bulldogs licking their wounds, handing out a 20 point loss in Round 23.

If it weren’t for the insipid performances of the Gold Coast Suns and the fact that both Collingwood and Sydney have the ol’ goose egg in the win column, the Dockers would be feeling a lot more heat. Over in Perth, they are no doubt in the crosshairs after succumbing to Port Adelaide in a laugher by 89 points, which probably wasn’t that close. Speculation over Nat Fyfe’s future has put this team, and coach Ross Lyon and his seemingly archaic gameplan, under the blowtorch and they will be keen to show their professional pride with a competitive and victorious performance over the Bulldogs - a win which would alleviate a lot of the pressure.

Last Time They Met

Round 23, 2016

Goals

Behinds

Points

Fremantle

10

9

69

Western Bulldogs

6

13

49

The Bulldogs were missing a plethora of top-line performers in that game, the now famous five that made their return for the Eagles game, plus Bob Murphy, who will all be available in this game, save Jordan Roughead, who is now targeting a mid-season return following his hamstring tendon surgery.

Despite the Bulldogs winning their first two encounters of the 2017 season, they have yet to fully hit their straps, although at times, like in the third quarter against the Swans, you could see the ability to ramp up the pressure to a 2016-like intensity, which should warm the cockles of all supporters' hearts.

The Team

As soon as the siren sounded against Sydney, and perhaps a little earlier if I’m honest, it appeared that Stewart Crameri would be having a rest this week. The official line is that he is dealing with a hip complaint, and that could very well be true, but no doubt, Crameri and Luke Beveridge have sat down and spoken about the fact that he will likely have some rests built into the season, as he returns from missing the entire 2016 premiership campaign. Crameri showed some solid signs in Round 1, providing an excellent half-forward link after quick defensive 50 turnovers, highlighted by his goal assist to Lachie Hunter for the second goal of the game. Against Sydney, though, he was less influential. He looked a little laboured in his movements and failed to impact the scoreboard and barely dented the stats sheet. He had just seven disposals and seemed out of position a lot of the night.

In his place, Toby McLean returns to the squad. McLean was left out after a solid, but unspectacular performance against Collingwood to make way for ruckman Tom Campbell, but with so many bigs in the team, Beveridge went back to one of his elite small forwards, something that the team seemed to lack without Tory Dickson playing.

McLean laid seven tackles in Round 1, amassing 13 disposals and will play up forward, with a little bit of time in the midfield. The absence of Crameri is a minor concern in that it could force Jake Stringer to spend a little less time in the midfield, but McLean should be able to take the forward role and with Travis Cloke and one of Campbell or Tom Boyd down forward, Stringer won’t be encumbered by a gaggle of Freo defenders whenever he attacks the ball.

Player In Focus

All of the plaudits for the victory over Sydney rightfully go toward Marcus Bontempelli and Liam Picken, but the play of Tom Liberatore in both games so far has flown under the radar. Libba leads the AFL in tackles, racking up 30 in the two games. For reference, the Dockers in two games have totaled 92 tackles. That’s 46 per game, for 22 players, while Liberatore has 15 per game on his own, a staggering statistic. In fact, Libba and Lin Jong average 26.5 per game, over half of the Dockers’ total. With Fyfe looming, Libba's work in shutting down opposition midfielders, as he did with the Swans power midfield last week is all important, and we all know how crucial he is in clearance stoppages to get the ball out to The Bont and Lachie Hunter on the outside. He may even snag a sneaky sausage, as he did last time he travelled to Domain.

The Dogs will not be getting ahead of themselves, as that's not anything that Beveridge has allowed under his watch, and the recent record against the Dockers will provide motivation for a team still finding its feet, despite winning the first two games.


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