1. Sandilands and Fyfe go down
At the age of 35, Aaron Sandilands is nearing the point where any lengthy setback could spell the end of his career. The veteran ruckman was withdrawn pre-game after complaining about his right calf during the warm-up. Historically, Sandilands has recovered slowly from injury and managed just 15 games throughout 2016 and 2017 on the back of hamstring and rib concerns. Fremantle suffered another body blow with the loss of captain Nat Fyfe to a hamstring injury early in the second term. Fyfe pulled up sore after dishing off a handball from his bootlaces and moved straight towards the interchange to have ice applied high on his right leg. The Brownlow medallist had received attention from physios to the same spot pre-match and during the first quarter.
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2. Lions break first-quarter duck
Before Sunday, Brisbane hadn’t won an opening quarter all year. Against Fremantle, Chris Fagan’s men showed in no uncertain terms what they’re capable of with a barnstorming 17-point start. At times it was like clockwork – Stef Martin to a midfielder, to another runner on the spread, to Eric Hipwood or Dan McStay and through the goals. What made the Lions even more impressive wasn’t the fact they established an early lead, but how they responded thereafter. Rather than protecting its advantage, Brisbane continued to run harder both ways and took risks through the midfield to feed a hungry forward brigade. If we were looked for a sign the Lions are on track, we got it.
3. Brad Hill can’t come back quick enough
Sandilands, Fyfe and the loss of Connor Blakely mid-week to a season-ending knee injury. Put simply, Fremantle can’t afford to give Brad Hill another week in the WAFL. The reigning best-and-fairest notched 25 touches and seven marks for Peel on Saturday, serving a club-imposed suspension for Peel for an indiscretion in the coastal town of Scarborough earlier this year. Hill was in good spirits at Optus Stadium before the senior team’s walloping and pulled up well from his first match since suffering a knee injury against Essendon in round two. Ordinarily the club would afford its players a little more time to find conditioning in the reserves. After this week’s carnage, the Dockers don’t have that luxury. For what it’s worth, Harley Bennell has increased his game time for the Thunder and tallied a season-high 21 disposals against Swan Districts.
4. Is Berry the pick of the bunch?
Comparisons don’t always serve as the best gauge of a player’s development but watching Jarrod Berry go head-to-head with Fyfe was fun while it lasted. The similarities are tantalising – both players are physically imposing and stand above 190cm with impressive dexterity. In little over a quarter running with arguably the League’s best midfielder, Berry bettered his opponent for disposals, contested possessions, uncontested possession and clearances. The 20-year-old showed his penchant for big marks, stiff-arms and delivered the ball with laser-like accuracy (87.5 percent effectiveness from 24 disposals). And when Fyfe went off, he showed his versatility in muting the smaller Lachie Neale. Of all Brisbane’s top-end talent – and there’s a lot – Berry could very well end up top of the tree.
5. What happened to Fremantle’s effort?
As good as Brisbane was, the Dockers looked listless – reminiscent of the Carlton side they belted just a fortnight ago. Fremantle is ranked 18thfor tackles inside 50 while the Lions are 17th. The discrepancy looked markedly worse than that. When the Lions might have pressed hard and forced a turnover, Freo appeared to mark space and let its opponents work the ball around the arc. It took until late into the third term for the Dockers to string together a chain of repeat entries, but at that stage the game was dead and buried. The pressure valve was eased again in the final quarter, with the Lions running out 55-point winners. Before the round, Ross Lyon’s men were considered smokies for an unlikely finals berth. Interpreting Sunday’s evidence in isolation, they’re a long, long way off.