What the stats say about Freo’s season seven slide

ANALYSIS

Sep 7, 2022.
6:25 p.m.

IT HAS BEEN a difficult start to the season for Fremantle. However, to win a game and recently save the lowest score in AFLW historythe team is a far cry from the Dockers who challenged Adelaide in a preliminary final just a few months ago.

On the surface, it’s simply the impact of player availability. Gemma Houghton and Steph Cain have both moved to new clubs, Kara and Ebony Antonio suffered long-term injuries during pre-season and Hayley Miller and Kiara Bowers, while playing both games so far, are still returning from pre-season hiatuses. A broken nose to key defender Janelle Cuthbertson, a concussion to Jess Low and now a hamstring injury to Gabby O’Sullivan only added to the pain.

Going deeper, it’s not just player availability, but more specifically who the players were unavailable, which hurt Fremantle the most. Each of the aforementioned players is key to the structure and style of play that has seen the Dockers push deep in the Finals recently. It’s the run and carry of Houghton, Cain and Ebony Antonio. It is the intelligence of Kara Antonio who sets up the front line. It’s the power of Miller, Bowers and O’Sullivan in the middle. And the reliable interception of Cuthbertson and Low back. They were affected on all lines.


Kiara Bowers receives a kick under pressure in the second round, season seven, 2022. Image: AFL Photos

find control

Last season, for the first time, Fremantle won more uncontested balls than they contested and used the ball with a club-best elimination efficiency of 59.4%. The Dockers moved the ball on the floor averaging 45.6 points each week and went on offense easily.

This season that was taken away from them. They average just 169.5 eliminations per game and use the ball at just 48.7% efficiency – the two lowest at the club – while giving up more ball than they’ve ever had before.


Georgie Prespakis takes a mark against three Fremantle players in the second round, season seven, 2022. Image: AFL Photos

Fremantle’s bad start

Ebony Antonio is the biggest loser in that regard, averaging 13.6 takedowns at 61.5% efficiency last season, while also making four tackles per game.

Because of this newfound lack of control, the Dockers find themselves trying to eliminate danger by running the ball over the shoe, rather than methodically getting out of trouble as they have so often done in the past.

Kick to handball ratio

An attacking game

For the past few seasons, the Dockers have been a half forward team, overwhelming their opponents’ defensive units while denying them attacking opportunities. This was most evident in their fourth round win over Collingwood where they conceded just ten inside 50 seconds while stacking their own 41.

This season is a whole different story. They are averaging just 18.5 in the 50s at the start of season seven while conceding 38 to their opponents. Despite being on the ball so regularly in their defensive half, they only intercept the ball 50.5 times per game – a club minimum.

Fremantle’s positive style of play was built around yards gained and gaining ground with each elimination, trapping the ball in attack and creating repeated scoring opportunities. Logic dictates that the longer they have the ball in the front half, the less time the opponent has to create a score.

They netted less than 20% of the time in their 50 forward just four times last season, and they won only once despite having limited time on offense – their qualifying final against the Kangaroos. This season, they have enjoyed just 11.7 and 15.9 percent of playing time on offense in the first and second rounds respectively. Unsurprisingly, the disparity between their average meters gained in wins and losses since 2019 is significant.

Gaining ground: Fremantle since 2019

This is where the outside run of Cain, Houghton and Ebony Antonio lacks, while the power duo of Miller and Bowers have also fallen apart in this regard. Only six Dockers are averaging 10 yards or more per effective takedown this season – none of whom are midfielders – compared to nine last season, where Ebony Antonio and Cain were highly ranked.

Last season, Hayley Miller led from the front, regularly escaping saves and advancing the ball, even hitting the scoreboard herself for 10 goals. This season is a bit of a different story for the star. Although she is now in great shape, she was limited to just one full training session during pre-season as she battled a recurring calf problem, and this interrupted preparation limited her production at the start of the season. the season.

The difficult beginnings of Hayley Miller

Essentially, Dockers win less of the ball, being able to take less ground when they win it, then unable to get it back once it’s in the hands of the opponent.