Big Guns Boost Brisbane

Image courtesy of heraldsun.com.au/Darren England
Matthew Leuenberger returns from a dislocated thumb. Image courtesy of heraldsun.com.au/Darren England
Last Five Meetings

Round 3, 2012 – Fremantle 64 d Brisbane Lions 35 at Patersons Stadium
Round 14, 2011 – Fremantle 88 d Brisbane Lions 65 at Patersons Stadium
Round 1, 2011 – Fremantle 94 d Brisbane Lions 92 at Gabba
Round 7, 2010 – Fremantle 113 d Brisbane Lions 100 at Gabba
Round 16, 2009 – Brisbane Lions 62 d Fremantle 47 at Patersons Stadium


Form

     Rd 7       Rd 8       Rd 9       Rd 10       Rd 11   
Fremantle    W  D  W  W  B
Brisbane    L  W  L  L  B

Jack Hannath, Cameron Sutcliffe and Hayden Crozier might not be household names amongst AFL fans, but they have done a sterling job for coach Ross Lyon as they fill in for a handful of Fremantle’s big guns who have spent considerable time on the injured list. Despite the loss of Matthew Pavlich, Aaron Sandilands, Stephen Hill, Kepler Bradley and Michael Walters for periods this season, the Dockers have exceeded expectations to lie 5th on the table with just two losses in ten games. While Hill has returned, the bye has brought the comebacks of a couple of others a lot closer.

The Brisbane Lions would love to be able to call on some of their heavy-hitters, but with Jonathan Brown and Daniel Merrett still serving suspensions, Michael Voss’s side is light on at both ends of the ground. He started the round 10 clash against Collingwood with a makeshift forward line, and as much as he had little to work with, asking rookie Marco Paparone to start as a key position player looked way beyond his capabilities at this stage.

The relatively inexperienced Magpies team ran much harder than their Lions counterparts, and the final margin of 49 points would have been greater if Collingwood had pressed on in the second half. As a result, Voss has made a host of changes with stars Tom Rockliff , Daniel Rich and Matthew Leuenberger making their much anticipated returns. Freo has omitted Sutcliffe with Alex Silvagni taking his spot.


Key Men

(Dockers) Stephen Hill – He’s not a stats man like some of the best wingmen/midfielders in the competition, but Stephen Hill is almost as important to the Dockers as Jobe Watson is to the Bombers and Gary Ablett Jnr to the Suns. Almost. He has the leg speed to break open games and Fremantle is a different team offensively, regardless of whether he’s playing on the wing or in the centre of the ground. He returned from four games out with a quad injury to be one of the best-on-ground for Freo in the seven-point win over Adelaide in round 10, snapping up 24 disposals and four marks in his comeback game.

(Lions) Simon Black – Perth boy Simon Black was considered too slow to be amongst the top draft picks as a teenager, but since 1998 he has proved everyone wrong emerging as one of the best players of the past two decades. Even now at age 34, he remains a linchpin of a struggling Lions outfit. In the drubbing by the ‘Pies, he managed a season high 33 touches and six tackles. He’ll be vital against Freo’s tough as teak midfield brigade, but he can’t do it alone. It’s not really the ideal match for the veteran to break Marcus Ashcroft’s games record for the Lions.


Prediction

Last time the Lions took on the Dockers in Perth, they recorded an AFL low 20 inside 50s across the entire game. It’s an almost laughable statistic, and one which shows how smothering Freo can be these days. It also put on show how little firepower the Lions have up forward, and at least on that day they had Jonathan Brown playing after an injury layoff. Brisbane’s best hope could be to sit back and absorb pressure, as they did against Essendon, and hit on the counter (think Sydney Swans or the Socceroos vs Japan a week-and-a-half ago). Freo is a far more disciplined outfit than Essendon and, you sense, would not be bothered in the slightest getting in to a dogfight. Dockers by 42 points

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