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Old Freo Heave Ho’d

Ricky Mangidis  April 18, 2017 4:30 PM

The Fremantle side that North will face on Saturday is a much different proposition to the one which played in the first two weeks.

Consecutive wins against the Western Bulldogs and Melbourne have breathed fresh life into the Dockers’ season, and it was a trio of midfielders which gave them a different look against the Demons.

For a long time, the knock on Fremantle has been its inability to kick a winning score. But when Lachie Neale, David Mundy and Nat Fyfe all spent time forward against the Demons, it gave the side multiple avenues to goal.

Neale led the way on the scoreboard with four goals, but Mundy also kicked three and Fyfe spent parts of the afternoon playing as a forward.

It gave the Dockers a plethora of options, with Cam McCarthy and Shane Kersten already working as their tall targets and Michael Walters at ground level.

McCarthy and Kersten, both in their first season out west, have played every game this season after arriving from Greater Western Sydney and Geelong respectively.

It was the former Giant who stole the headlines after the weekend, turning in his best performance in new colours.

While McCarthy is playing as a key position forward, he has the license to roam further up the field to get involved. Only six of his 20 disposals against the Demons were inside the forward 50, but five of them ended in scoring shots for a result of 2.3.

It makes for a tricky matchup for any key defender. Not only do they have to be wary of McCarthy’s ability in the air and on the ground close to goal, they also have to be capable of sticking with the 22-year-old around the ground.

With Kersten playing as the second tall despite standing at 191 centimetres, it raises questions on how North approaches its defensive setup on the vast expanses of Domain Stadium.

In the first four rounds, the Roos have played three genuine tall defenders, and they’ve generally matched up on opponents of similar height.

Scott Thompson’s flexibility to play on smaller opponents – like Eddie Betts in previous seasons – gives the coaching staff another option.

Ed Vickers-Willis, a 190 centimetre defender, is a Roo who could be brought in to debut, coming off a best on ground performance in the VFL for Werribee.

Marley Williams appears the early favourite to get the job on Michael Walters, a Docker who’s kicked multiple goals in each of his last three matches against North.

Then there is the dilemma of how to match up on the rotating midfielders, each with their own unique capabilities.

While Neale is more of a ground level player, both Mundy and Fyfe are more than capable overhead. It’ll mean any North matchup for the latter two will have to be able to go with the duo in that respect, and the defensive unit as a whole must be prepared to switch opponents regularly.

Domain Stadium hasn’t been a happy hunting ground for North recently, winning only two of the last 11 matches at the ground. Its best defensive performance of 2017 will be required to come home with the four points.