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Free-mantle: How the Dockers gave away success

When looking for similarities between star players Lachie Neale, Sam Menegola and Sam Collins, one that comes to mind would be how they all have been in the All-Australian discussion this year and are a big chance to win their clubs best and fairest. However, perhaps more interestingly, all of these players have been on Fremantle’s list, with Collins and Menegola unable to get a single game before being delisted.

 

Delisting

For Collins, he was delisted the same year he won the Peel Thunder’s BNF and was named in the WAFL Team of the Year (2017), a very questionable decision at the time. But, with the introduction of state-league concessions the Suns were able to pick up the rejected defender in later 2018, with Collins going onto win the Gold Coast club champion award in his second year at the club.

In the case of Menegola, he was on picked up from Hawthorn’s rooklie list in 2011 and put onto Fremantle’s rookie list for three whole years before being delisted, failing to get a single call up to the seniors. The Cats went onto to grab Menegola as late as pick 66 in the 2015 draft, inflicting more misery onto the Dockers as he is now one of the premiere wingman of the competition.

Similarly, at the conclusion of 2016 the Dockers delisted Matt De Boer, only for the Giants to snare him pick 58, becoming arguably the best tagger in the competition for a team similarly looking for their first flag. Even 2017 All-Australian squad of 40 player Dylan Roberton was let go for nothing in 2012. While the gift of hindsight is a luxury, these delisting decisions indicate a lack of foresight by a team that was trying to stamp itself as one of the elites throughout the 2010’s, and while it may seem like a string of bad luck, the incriminating list management sadly decisions don’t end here.

Trades

Having touched on some delisting disasters, some of Fremantle’s trade decisions over the last couple years should come under fire as well. Lachie Neale was a two-time Doig Medallist (2016 & 2018) and was traded for what seemed a high price at the time but has basically led to the recruitment of an out-of-form Jesse Hogan. Now at the Lions, Neale has achieved back-to-back All Australians and is favourite to win the Brownlow and his team the flag favourite in toe. Another ejected Doig Medallist is Brad Hill (2017), who was offloaded to the Saints last year in a trade that gave Fremantle some early picks and the Saints immediate finals hopes. The Dockers carelessness on the trade table is further shown with the likes Langdon and Crozier departing the club in 2018 for very little, and even the ‘worst trade of all time’, being Lachie Weller traded for pick 2 and Matera from Gold Coast, has come into question following Matera’s delisting at the Dockers. Regardless, the trading of your young stars and only players beside Nat Fyfe that have won your best and fairest in the past 4 years signals a worrying trend and a real problem at Fremantle, being that they are happy for other teams to poach their top talent and to continually go back to the draft. These attributes are reflective of how the Dockers are becoming somewhat of feeder club and in order to cut this out they need to start building a culture where players don’t want to leave.

The fallout

With the Dockers grand final appearance in 2013 and minor premiership in 2015 some thought that the playing group at the time would bring an inaugural premiership to Fremantle. Yet, this clearly didn’t transpire and subsequently it’s been shown that their errors at the trade table were their downfall, losing depth and gifting opposition teams key players to bolster their finals hopes. As a result, the Dockers were left to fall from 1st to 16th in the span of a year (2016), reaching only as high as 12th position on the ladder since, reflecting how they have been left to rebuild following all their list management errors.

Overall, it is interesting to see how some Fremantle rejects have gone on to do great things elsewhere, underlining how we shouldn’t be too quick to judge the young players at our clubs. Yet, the stunting effect these trades and delisting’s had on the Fremantle Football Club for a number of years cannot be ignored. Although, despite the criticisms, it’s certainly not all doom and gloom over in Fremantle. This can be seen through the high draft picks they obtained via ladder position and trading, enabling them to net exciting players like Andy Brayshaw and rising star Caleb Serong. However, it’s hard not to ask where they would be at if they could’ve kept a couple more stars at the club.

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