Moored in misery

Written By Unknown on Rabu, 11 Desember 2013 | 12.50

Fremantle Dockers coach Ross Lyon issues instructions. Picture: Daniel Wilkins Source: Sunday Mail (SA)

THE man who preaches defence more than any other in football had to employ it when he was announced as the new coach of Fremantle.

It was September, 2011, and the Perth media was fuming at the injustice of the sudden sacking of Mark Harvey.

Ross Lyon walked into a press conference fire pit.

The first question was: "Ross, do you feel you've stabbed Mark Harvey in the back?" They kept coming.

"Has your reputation been tarnished?"

"How hard is it to arrive at a club where the members and fans don't really like you?"

"How can you honestly say you've been loyal and held integrity with St Kilda ... ?"

Lyon remained ice-cold. Unfazed, his poker-face was never close to cracking.

The resolve he displayed in the face of a baying media pack some 21 months ago has rubbed off on his players with admirable success.

Like their coach, the Dockers' defence has been close to impregnable.

In clashes with Melbourne, Adelaide, Brisbane and North Melbourne, Fremantle has conceded only 43.5 points per game. The Bombers of 1989 are the only side since 1966 with such a points-against profile in a four-week block.

After a shaky start to Lyon's debut season, the Dockers' suffocation techniques are now sending shockwaves through the competition.

Thirteen rounds into the season, they are conceding 66.5 points a game - 10.1 fewer than any rival. They allow opponents to go inside 50m only 43.4 times a game - 2.8 fewer than any other side.

What former Melbourne coach Mark Neeld declared in his first press conference is a reality out west - Fremantle is the hardest team to play against.

Sides who win the ball behind centre in games against the Dockers face a monumental task just to advance up the ground.

From Rounds 9-13, the Dockers have allowed rival teams to execute a chain of possession from defensive 50m to forward 50m only 11.9 per cent of time, ranked No.1 in the competition.

From defensive midfield to inside 50m, it's a paltry 21.1 per cent - ranked No.1 - and from a centre clearance to inside 50m, it's 44.1 per cent, again ranked first. To put the latter stat into perspective, Geelong is the next best at 60 per cent.

It's a road trip to face the Cats - winners of 43 of their last 45 games at home - that presents the greatest challenge to Lyon's pressure pack. But after this weekend the Dockers face a dream run home; the second easiest according to Champion Data. A top-two berth is probable rather than possible and that means two home finals.

The fact All-Australian pair Matthew Pavlich and Aaron Sandilands are still to return only adds to the ominous look about the purple haze.

Among the loaded questions and accusations at that first press conference, Lyon remarked: "It's about possibility. You can be what you want to be."

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