For the third straight time in 2021, Reece Conca did not concede a goal to his direct opponent as Fremantle’s defence held North Melbourne to 48 points in a 51-point win on Saturday at Optus Stadium.
The Fremantle leader has excelled as a lock-down defender in the past two seasons under Justin Longmuir, and according to Champion Data, Conca’s direct opponents have scored just three goals in six games in 2021 on the 185cm backman.
He last conceded a goal in round three against Carlton's Eddie Betts, meaning he has a three-game goalless streak as Freo defeated Hawthorn, Adelaide and the Kangaroos on the run.
“I love it (the role). It’s a role I took on last year and I’ve really honed in on that,” Conca said in a media conference earlier in the week.
“I’ve really got to emphasise that we play a team defence as well, so I rely on my other teammates further up the ground and my defenders especially. I’m really enjoying the group that we’ve got.”
After playing mostly as a defensive midfielder in his final season for Richmond in 2018, Conca has settled into a backine role.
“(Longmuir) thought I was more suited down back with that leadership role,” Conca said.
“We were lacking a little depth at the time. That’s where he thought I’d suit the team and I’m really enjoying it.”
Conca’s disposal average is five less than his first season for Fremantle, averaging 15 per game in 2021 compared to 20.3 in 2019 under Ross Lyon.
The 28-year-old said the stats sheet wasn’t a priority under Longmuir’s game plan.
“We don’t really look too much at stats specifically any more,” Conca said.
“It’s more about playing your role and I’ve been pretty much a role player for most of the back end of my career. I really enjoy that.
“Whatever I can do for the team to best enhance our performance as a whole, I’ll do that.”
Despite Conca’s form helping restrict North Melbourne to a low score, senior coach Justin Longmuir feels as a collective, Fremantle have more room for improvement in their team defence.
“They (North Melbourne) missed some goals that they should have kicked,” Longmuir said.
“I was actually pretty disappointed with the way we defended as a team tonight which is not necessarily on the backs but on us as a group.
“I think it was a by-product of them being inaccurate rather than us being good defensively.”