Todd Goldstein's ruck work will be important against Freo's young bigs. Image courtesy of heraldsun.com.au/Michael Klein
Last Five Matches
Round 22, 2012 – Fremantle 132 d North Melbourne 79 at Etihad Stadium
Round 22, 2011 – North Melbourne 143 d Fremantle 45 at Etihad Stadium
Round 4, 2011 – Fremantle 127 d North Melbourne 98 at Patersons Stadium
Round 19, 2010 – North Melbourne 123 d Fremantle 69 at Etihad Stadium
Round 10, 2010 – Fremantle 139 d North Melbourne 78 at Patersons Stadium
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It is a bit of an understatement to say Fremantle looked a bit rusty coming off the bye. It says something about the standards set in Dockerland these days that a 40-point win was seen as just an average performance against a plucky, yet overmatched Brisbane outfit. Regardless, any time you keep a team to just six goals in perfect conditions, it’s a job well done, and that victory means Freo has taken 26 of a possible 28 points from its past seven matches.
The Kangaroos will have nightmares of their last visit to Perth when they lost to the Eagles thanks to Nic Naitanui’s last-minute game-winning goal. It sparked their current run of three losses in four games against some very beatable opposition. Last start they went down to the Suns after leading by five goals early in the second term. It wasn’t the first time the ‘Roos have come up short after a fast start.
North Melbourne will be without defender Scott McMahon who will miss the match after rolling his ankle at training on Wednesday. Fleet-footed Freo forward Michael Walters is set to make his comeback from a month out with an ankle problem.
(Dockers) Garrick Ibbotson – He is one of the most athletic defenders going around the AFL, and he is a good user of the football; only now in season 2013 is Garrick Ibbotson starting to put it all together at the top level. Thanks to some form issues and a calf injury, it took until round five for Ibbotson to appear for the Dockers this season, but since then he has made every post a winner, generally playing as a loose man in Freo’s well-oiled defence. He’s averaging 23 touches and almost ten marks per game, and his ability to read the play has been vital in the Dockers’ winning streak, where they have given up no more than 80 points in a game.
(Kangaroos) Todd Goldstein – Statistics don’t always tell you the value of a ruckman, but the raw data shows that Will Minson and Todd Goldstein are miles out in front in terms of hit-outs per game in the AFL. With Hamish McIntosh gone, Goldstein has only had first-year player Majak Daw to back him up this season when going up against some of the league’s top ruck tandems. He gets some respite this week; normally he’d be matching up against the giant Aaron Sandilands, but instead he should be able to get the better of the raw duo of Zac Clarke and Jack Hannath. The Kangaroos’ midfield will need every advantage it can get against the Dockers’ oppressive style of play.
It’s a battle of contrasting styles in this match. The Dockers love to keep things tight and win games with their size, strength and pressure across the ground. The Kangaroos play fast and loose and, at times, seem to care too little about their direct opponents. It works at Etihad, and the big surface area at Patersons Stadium could allow them to open up their close-checking opponents. Since 2006, the ‘Roos have beaten Fremantle just once in Perth in five attempts, and they’ve only knocked off the Eagles in the west once in seven trips. It’s hardly the record to have Ross Lyon quaking in his boots, but after his team’s lacklustre effort against Brisbane, you can imagine he’ll have them completely switched on this weekend. North has the talent to get close, but the Kangas don’t seem to have the stamina to get across the line. Fremantle by 28 points
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