Fremantle fell by 10 points to West Coast in the AAMI Community Series at Optus Stadium on Sunday.
Here are some of the talking points to come from the game.
Is Cox Freo’s no.1 defender?
Luke Ryan may have a Doig Medal and All Australian to his name, but his good friend and fellow 2016 draftee Brennan Cox is showing signs of having a break out season in 2021. Mid week, captain Nat Fyfe praised Cox’s efforts to improve through the pre-season and said he could be Freo’s no.1 defender.
Without Ryan by his side, Cox did plenty to prove the captain right with 23 disposals at 91 per cent efficiency, while talking nine marks and six intercepts.
Fellow defender Ethan Hughes said Cox was instrumental in helping the backline stay strong against the Eagles.
“Our talls did a great job with Coxy coming over and spoiling plenty of balls, which allows us to set up and get organised and work well together,” Hughes said.
“He’s really building off the back of his last season and hopefully, he can continue to build that this year.”
Hughes the fantasy beast?
If you were picking players off their AAMI Community Series form, Ethan Hughes would be a shrewd pickup after the defender won plenty of the footy, leading Fremantle for disposals (31), marks (13) and metres gained (479). He was also the only player with more than 100 AFL Fantasy points, racking up 133.
As the competition for spots down back heats up, it’s hard to see how Hughes doesn’t keep his place in the best 22, especially after his teammates voted him in as the winner of the Players’ Trademark Award after a breakout 2020.
Who rucks in round one?
Throughout this pre-season, Justin Longmuir has tried to temper expectations on any potential debutants early in 2021, but the senior coach gave his biggest vote of confidence yet in untried ruckman Lloyd Meek.
The 22-year-old, who grew up rucking against the likes of Sean Darcy in country Victoria, appears to be on the cusp of making his debut as Darcy builds from a pre-season knee injury.
Longmuir was pleased with how Meek handled the challenge against Eagles star Nic Naitanui, especially after shouldering the load for most of the game due to Rory Lobb’s injury in the opening term.
“I thought he performed really well again. He competed really hard, tried his best to nullify Nic (Naitinui) in the ruck and gave our mids a good honest contest. I think he is firming for round one,” Longmuir said in his post-match media conference.
Any other potential round one debuts?
Rookie forward Josh Treacy has impressed at times this pre-season but Longmuir wasn’t ready to talk up the 18-year-old’s chances of replacing Rory Lobb in round one.
After kicking two goals against West Coast in the scratch match a week ago, Treacy was limited to seven disposals and a mark on Sunday.
“We think Josh Treacy’s had a good pre-season, we’ve got three key defenders that got through the game so we might have to swing one of them (but) I’m reluctant to,” Longmuir said when asked about Fremantle’s forward options.
“We’re going to have to weigh up all our options and see what will give us the best balanced team. If we go in too short it’s going to put too much pressure on Taberner, clearly ‘Lobby’ was our second ruck as well so we’ve got a bit of work to do on what our best team looks like without him in it.”
Are we seeing a more composed Freddy?
Michael Frederick said his focus in 2021 was to be more composed and not rush himself during games.
The speedy second-year winger looked comfortable with ball in hand playing arguably his best game against an AFL opponent.
Frederick finished the clash with two goals, 17 disposals, nine marks, six inside 50s, 362 metres gained and the second-most AFL fantasy points (100) for the game.
A player of Frederick’s pace may be crucial in 2021 with the new man on the mark rule like to reward those that take the game on.
Nothing new with Nat Fyfe
The Fremantle captain was a competitive beast in the midfield with 27 disposals, 12 contested possessions, 10 clearances and a goal. With young mids Adam Cerra and Caleb Seorng on the sidelines, Fyfe was unlikely to spend much time forward as he put on a dominant midfield display. Could a third Brownlow medal be on the cards?
Who stood up from Freo’s younger ranks?
Andrew Brayshaw’s 28 disposals in the midfield was almost expected as he continued to impress ahead of his fourth season. At half back, Hayden Young showed why he was rated as one of the best from the 2019 draft class while Heath Chapman had some brilliant moments after coming on late in the game.