Fremantle coach Ross Lyon feels that umpires should police infringements around stoppages, including holding, more closely as rival teams target his normally efficient midfield.
The Dockers remain on top of the AFL ladder despite a heavy 72-point loss to Hawthorn in Launceston on Sunday, and Lyon has noticed a change in the way teams are being allowed to shut down the Dockers midfield.
Fremantle’s biggest strength comes in the form of ruckman Aaron Sandilands and clearance winning midfielders Nat Fyfe, David Mundy, Lachie Neale and Michael Barlow.
Their ability to clear stoppages saw Fremantle take part in the second least amount of stoppages early in the year, but they are now involved in the second most, with teams sending more numbers around the ball to try and shut down Fyfe and company.
Lyon questions whether all the tactics are legal and would like the umpiring to start clamping down on the holding, with a hope the resulting free-kicks will see the game move more naturally.
“In the first nine weeks, we were 17th least, so there was only one team that had less stoppages around the ground than us,” Lyon said.
“Clearly we weren’t a congestion team and our absolute strength is obviously Sandilands and our mids clearing the ball.
“Teams are roiling up more players around the ball, but that’s fine, we’ll work or way through that. And then there is a lot more attention going into players – we’ve certainly made contact with the umpiring department about what’s legal and what’s not legal.”
Another aspect Lyon would like to see looked at is teams having two players often manning the mark, stopping the player with the ball from moving it quickly.
However, his immediate focus is on trying to get his team back to their best form and he confirmed that ruckman Jonathon Griffin will take on Carlton at Domain Stadium on Saturday night to help Sandilands, and provide a marking option in attack.
He’s not concerned about the negativity surrounding Fremantle’s form, though.
“What’s the negativity been, that they’re saying we’re no good and can’t play, and we’re no good, can’t score, can’t win and can’t win the premiership?” Lyon said.
“If that’s the summary, we’re happy to wear that until we prove otherwise.”