Fremantle coach Ross Lyon was delighted with his side after their 16-point win over Essendon.With key forwards and defenders alike standing tall and his midfield getting on top, even Fremantle coach Ross Lyon cracked a smile after his team’s 16-point win over Essendon.
The encouraging signs couldn’t have been much more significant on Saturday night for the Dockers as they played their first official AFL match at Optus Stadium in front of almost 50,000 fans.
Nat Fyfe (29 possessions), Lachie Neale (28, seven clearances) and Michael Walters (26, eight tackles) were significant in the middle.
But it was at either end of the ground where Fremantle showed their greatest growth could be on the rise.
The often-maligned Matt Taberner continues to show his improvement kicking four goals.
By the end of 2017 it was make or break time for him. He had just played in a WAFL premiership with Peel Thunder and had 53 games of AFL experience for 52 goals.
Based on his four goals against the Bombers, he could be the answer long-term in attack for the Dockers.
“I think it just continues in the same vein of what he’s producing,” Lyon said.
“It takes a long time to build big, key forwards and even last year when there was a bit of doubt we said we wanted him and his best place was here. He said he didn’t want to play anywhere else so it was a win-win.
“Over a challenging summer he worked hard and is starting to get reward for effort. Generally if you have some genetic talent, if you work hard you get rewarded and he’s starting to get rewarded.”
Then down back, the Dockers dominated with Alex Pearce holding Joe Daniher goalless, Joel Hamling keeping Cale Hooker to one late goal and Michael Johnson showing he has plenty left to give.
Connor Blakely (30 touches, 12 marks), Stephen Hill (26), Luke Ryan (22, 12 marks) and Nathan Wilson (23, 11 marks) set the game up from the back half.
“I thought our pressure in the front half of the ground was very good and how you attack helps you defend,” Lyon said.
“I thought early we had a couple of bad turnovers to invite them back in but Alex Pearce in a battle of two young guns had Daniher lower his colours to him. Alex competed really well. Joel Hamling came in and played how we want him to play so that’s a template for Joel.
“I thought Michael Johnson was superb and then Ryan, Hill, Wilson and Blakely were very good. But at the end of the day, it’s won and lost in the midfield and our midfield clearly won the battle.”