Dual premiership Kangaroo David King believes tough circumstances will “conspire against” Fremantle this week, predicting Geelong will expose Justin Longmuir’s men at a tricky venue.
But King believes the Dockers won’t have to adjust their winning formula beyond this round as their style will suit most other grounds – just not GMHBA Stadium.
The sixth-placed Cats this Saturday will host the in-form Dockers, who sit second on the AFL ladder with a 5-1 record, on Saturday afternoon at 1.45pm (AEST).
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Freo has shocked several AFL pundits to become a genuine finals threat, with its stingy defense – the Dockers are ranked second in the competition for least number of points conceded – the backbone of its success.
But as King pointed out on Fox Footy’s AFL 360 on Wednesday night, facing Geelong at GMHBA Stadium – a ground the Cats have won 100 of their past 113 games at – can be an intimidating challenge.
“There’s a discussion to be had here that this is a week I can almost put a line through for them (the Dockers),” King told AFL 360.
“That’s silly to say, but this venue is so difficult to go down and adjust, with the way Fremantle specifically play.”
King pointed to the dimension differentials between the Dockers’ home ground and the venue they’ll play at on Saturday.
Optus Stadium in Perth is 165m x 130m – a similar size to the MCG. But of all grounds that host AFL matches, GMHBA Stadium in Geelong is one of the narrowest, measuring in at 170m x 115m.
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“It doesn’t sound like a lot, but it does make that D50 quite narrow. It does make those switch kicks impossible to hit down here and impossible to get through once you switch,” King said.
“People say ‘oh ball gets kicked out on the full a lot at Geelong’ – and they do, you can see the wing narrow (compared to Optus Stadium. But I’m more talking about the defensive half.”
According to Champion Data numbers shown on AFL 360the Dockers are ranked first in the competition at switching the ball yet 18th for moving the footy ‘down the line’.
King said the natural dimensions of GMHBA Stadium will make it tough for the Dockers to move the ball efficiently.
“(The Dockers) are the best defensive team because they don’t give the ball back, they don’t turn the ball over in their defensive half. In a way, it’s defending with the ball,” he said.
“It’s a really safe mode until they get to that launch zone mid-field and then they go quick and put speed on the game. (But) you can’t do this in Geelong.
“It looks fantastic in Perth, it’ll be fantastic at the MCG, (but) they don’t go down the line. They want to switch, they want to use the extremities of the ground.
“It’s really slow and patient, but I tell you this doesn’t work at Geelong – and when they have to go down the line (on Saturday), they won’t have the big ruckman (Sean Darcy) there this week. It’s a really bad week to not have that target.
“I think things are going to conspire against them this week.”
King added: “This is a venue that makes this team play left-handed. I think that’s just unfortunate, but that’s just where they are at.”
However King pointed out the Dockers are ranked first in the competition for points conceded from defensive-half turnovers, indicating their game is in good shape
“It’s the way they use the ball that gives them that safe, sure, exiting strategy. I don’t think it’ll be there this week, but I don’t think it’s a problem going forward,” he said.
Longmuir on Wednesday conceded his side had previously been “spooked” by Geelong, which has won seven of the past nine games between the two sides and 15 of the 18 matches featuring the two clubs at GMHBA Stadium.
“I think there is some negativity around the trip to Geelong, and sometimes as a playing group and a coaching group you can get caught up in the stuff that doesn’t actually help you win the game,” he told reporters.
“I think the other thing is we’ve just been spooked at times and gone away from our footy, and we haven’t provided Geelong with a real good look at what our footy is. And that’s probably been the most disappointing thing.
“We’ve been pretty ruthless with our footy this year, and whether we win or lose, we just want to come off the ground at the end of the game and say that we played our way. That needs to be our goal this week, and that’s something we haven’t done in the past against Geelong.”