Fremantle Dockers must recapture turnover game to be considered premiership contenders
A loss to Carlton at Marvel is not the end of the world for Fremantle, but if they are to break their premiership duck, and make ‘Flagmantle’ a reality in 2022, they must address their turnover game.
In the first eight rounds, the Dockers looked nigh on impeccable, with the exception of a slip up against St Kilda in their first home game.
They easily dismissed a revamped Carlton line-up, got a thrilling win from the hardest trip in footy against the Cats at the Cattery, as well as ensured they did not take it easy on games everyone expected them to win.
During that time, Fremantle were slicing their opposition apart on turnovers, averaging a five-goal advantage from that stat alone, the best in the competition.
AFL greats and media hardnoses alike were singing their plaudits, and rightly so, with nine of the past 10 premiers having ranked in the top-six sides for points from turnover differential.
However, the doubts came as they crashed to earth with back-to-back defeats in the wet to Gold Coast and Collingwood.
They then, of course, pulled off one of their best wins in club history to knock off the reigning premiers on their home deck and followed it up by beating Brisbane, but the wins seem to be papering over a few small cracks that are beginning to open up.
Between rounds nine and 15, where they won three and lost three, Fremantle have lost that intense turnover-driven game.
They have only outscored their opponents on turnover once and have fallen to 14th with an average points differential of nearly minus nine, a six-goal turnaround.
Carlton were able to bully their way past the Dockers over the weekend, with Fremantle unable to win the ball back as they did during their last meeting.
With the club’s run home featuring three trips to Melbourne and another date with the Demons, Justin Longmuir must find the answer to the turnover game sooner rather than later.
Another man looking for answers is Luke Ryan.
Ryan’s intercept marking numbers have dropped significantly, from two a game in 2021 to one this year.
But even more concerning is the fact that he is only winning 17 per cent of the one-on-one contests he battles in, sixth worst in the AFL.
He is also down on metres gained, disposals and marks.
His decline has coincided with Hayden Young’s rise, but if Fremantle can get the star pair working in tandem, it could solve their turnover troubles.
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