Senior Coach Justin Longmuir has heaped praise on Nathan O’Driscoll for his ‘backyard footy’ mentality, with the dashing winger making an immediate impact in his return game from injury.
O’Driscoll came back into the Fremantle line-up for the first time since injuring his foot against North Melbourne in round eight and impressed with his pace and spark.
The 20-year-old collected 20 disposals, seven score involvements, five marks, five intercepts and four inside 50s to go along with a crucial third-quarter goal.
With the Bulldogs on the charge and only a 19-point buffer to Freo in the third term, O’Driscoll produced a brilliant individual display off the wing, outrunning his opponent to launch an important goal from the 50m arc.
Despite the timeliness of his major, Longmuir said O’Driscoll was likely playing off instinct and credited his ability to take the game on.
“He gives us something different 'Driz'. He’s a young player trying to find his way, but he just plays like he’s a kid still out there and takes the game on,” Longmuir said.
“That goal he kicked in the third quarter on the run, he didn’t take a backwards step, he took the game on and kicked a really important goal for us.
“I don’t think that was going through his head, it was just like he was playing backyard footy.
“I love that about him, and he had some really important contests, he’s making his way in AFL but he’s jumped in pretty quick.”
Longmuir believed the addition of O’Driscoll only added to the shift in style by the Fremantle playing group, who looked to attack the game and put speed on the ball.
Fremantle were also cleaner with the football (83 per cent disposal efficiency compared to the Bulldogs’ 74%) and had more marks on the day, 140-90.
“He added a bit of that, but I think that came from us as a team,” Longmuir said.
“He showed we trusted ourselves with the ball and took the game forward a little bit more.
“I think that was more of a team mentality, but 'Driz' played a part in that.”