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Soup of This Day #317: Dip Me In The River

June 10, 2013

Automatic watch mainspring
This is a glimpse of the inner workings of an automatic timepiece, as seen through the front face of a skeleton watch. It’s all precision gears and mainspring and it works efficiently and effectively. But it’s not all about function – There’s rare form there too and I’d pay good money to see that – Photo: Hustvedt, 2009. Hustvedt is not affiliated with Longworth72. Image cropped by Longworth72.

I reckon if you ask most Fremantle Dockers fans they tell you that the jury is in on Ross Lyon as the Dockers’ coach and those 12 angry folk have found him to be good for the club. Not that was much in doubt down Freo way, even early on. Because Fremantle fans wanted someone who knew how to win and that’s what Rosco’s track record demonstrated – Wins.

FYI – All of us Dockers fans are angry. It’s the ACDC in our bloodstream.

Sure, there was some media beat-up around the time he came on board – I railed against that beat-up – In particular the harsh words written about how Lyon and the club had shafted Mark Harvey – A good man doing ok things with a barely reasonable list and an injury crisis of epic proportions.

He wasn’t winning though.

Yeah, Harvey won some games, even getting into finals in his 1st year on the job. The problem was that under his tutelage the Dockers were brittle. They’d win soft more often than not when they did triumph and they’d sometimes fracture when stress was applied. Under Harvey, Freo won 39 and lost 58, and the very best that the Dockers could seem to do was to make the finals – That was the Holy Grail of Dockerland – Anything more, like winning the whole thing, was just not foreseeable. And somehow we were supposed to be ok with that, to just accept that as the underlying culture of the Fremantle Dockers.

Yeah, forget that.

We want to win.

Not win soft either, we want to win the kinds of games that the pundits hadn’t expected the old Dockers to win. Win so many of those difficult matches that those same pundits would be surprised when we lost – Shocked that the mighty Freo had dropped a game and scared for the next week’s opponents who’d surely feel the backlash.

Ross Lyon won 76 and 41 prior to arriving at Freo. The man knows how to win because the man has a simple system for winning.

He takes every player at the club, even those others had given up for not good enough, and gives every man jack of them a role and a purpose in his system. And they overlap, so that if 1 or many more players go down injured then there is somebody else to pick up the ball and surge forward. It doesn’t even matter if the missing piece of the machine is a superstar of a gear – Ross has another suitable cogged-up gear ready to go and that new gear knows how to work just like the shinier 1.

It ain’t nothing but a team thing.

So the injury crisis that derailed Mark’s 2010 outfit is just part of the process for Ross’ 2013 crew. You can take Matty Pavlich and Biggest Aaron Sandilands out of the mix and the team still functions, and not just barely either – It goes about its business handily, maybe even thriving. What’s more, you can take out their replacements as well without fear of a subsequent collapse. For example, take Biggest Aaron, considered in his prime to be the pre-eminent big man in the competition.

Biggest A is going to be missing for a while, so long in fact that his prime replacement in the ruck Zac Clarke also got injured. No big deal, even for the loss of big men, because Jonathon Griffin stepped more than admirably into the role.

And then he got injured. At the start of a game.

Again, barely a pause in the Freo flow – In to the role slotted a platoon of tall defenders or attackers, doing well enough that the Dockers won that game, and haven’t lost since. Now Zac Clarke is back and he’s getting assistance from that same platoon, plus a fleet of game-breaking midfielders capable of winning contested ball from whoever taps the Sherrin down.

It’s not a complicated formula in truth – There are no mysteries, no gimmicks or sleight of hand. It is a smooth operation, every gear observable in its place and the whole run by the mainspring that is the Ross Lyon game plan. Looks good, runs well – Who wouldn’t want to laud that?

Maybe Stan Alves, for 1.

Stan is a genuine Australian football legend. He played 226 games for Melbourne across 10 years spanning the 1960s and 1970s. He then switched across to North Melbourne where he notched up 40 games including the 1977 Grand Final which was played twice – Once for a tie with Collingwood and the 2nd time for a Premiership to North.

And it wasn’t just as a player that Alves made his mark – In 1994 he took up the coaching reins at St Kilda, marshalling the Saints for 5 seasons, including to their 1st Grand Final in 26 years (1997). A further measure of the magnitude of that feat was that it was another 11 years after Stan had left before St Kilda next appeared in a Grand Final.

Which was in 2009. With Ross Lyon at the helm.

So Stan Alves knows his football. And he thinks that there is a downside to the precision dance that Roscoe has fashioned at Freo. In fact, after Freo’s recent win over the Adelaide Crows in Adelaide, Stan went so far as to announce that:

‘Unless you barrack for Freo, I don’t think you’d… I wouldn’t pay me money to go through the gate and watch them play.’


Well, for starters, Stan, Freo’s membership is doing alright, with roughly 41,000 souls getting on board in 2012 and more expected for 2013. Which is enough to get the turn-styles humming at the home-ground of Subiaco Oval (The cap on members at Subiaco is 40,000), so for at least half of the Dockers games, the home 1s, the crowd is a decent sized 1. And for away games the majority of the crowd isn’t paying to see the Dockers – They’re passing over their hard-earned dosh to see what they hope will be their team beating Freo.

Sadly for fans of other teams that doesn’t happen as much any more.

Last, and this really should have been 1st, and the Dockers are actually playing attractive football anyway. They weren’t early last year, but they’ve matured and matched dour defensive damping with line-busting attacking flair. Take that win over Adelaide for instance. Sure, it was a low-scoring affair with Freo winning 10.6 (66) to 8.11 (19), but it was raining, turning the track and ball both slippery and heavy. That should have seen the contest descend into a disorganised kick-about.

Not for Ross Lyon’s Freo. They played like this:

The play at 1:22, whereby Mundy drives it long and centimetre perfect to a running Mzungu who calmly takes the ball from over his shoulder before potting the goal, would be good in the dry. In the wet it’s freakin’ brilliant.

That kind of thing is not the exception either – Under Lyon, Freo are 21 and 11. This season the Dockers are 7 and 2 with 1 draw, and that win in Adelaide was a nice way to head into a bye week and a chance to recuperate.

Yep, the defence rests. Along with the rest of this crack team.

Which is fitting because like I said – I think the jury is in, and they’ve found in favour of Ross Lyon and the Fremantle Dockers.

Let’s go Freo.

Dip Me In The River

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