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Freo a genuine test, says Mathews

Matt Burgan  April 14, 2017 9:20 PM

Clayton Oliver, in his second season, is improving and has taken a real lead role around the stoppages

ASSISTANT coach Ben Mathews says Fremantle “won’t be a pushover” and will be a genuine test for Melbourne, when the two sides meet at the MCG on Saturday.

Mathews, Melbourne’s stoppages coach, said Freo’s midfield “presents a great challenge and opportunity” for his group.

“Looking at Fremantle, the challenge we face this week is that we come up against a really dominant ruckman – in terms of [Aaron] Sandilands’ hit outs, ruck work and synergy with his teammates such as [Nat] Fyfe, [David] Mundy, [Lachie] Neale and [Connor] Blakely,” he told

“That is also a good opportunity for us to come up against a great midfield, on the back of some really good form.

“We want to execute our style of game plan against a seasoned midfield.”   

The emergence of several younger players, blended with some experience, had increased the options of Melbourne’s midfield and engine room, according to Mathews.

“Alex Neal-Bullen came in around the ball last week and played really well. Billy Stretch is growing as a player. He’s improving week-to-week and getting stronger in his own body in his third season,” he said.

“Clayton Oliver, in his second season, is improving and has taken a real lead role around the stoppages.

“Nathan Jones has been very, very good for a senior player over the first three rounds and Jack Viney has been consistent and plays his role every week.”

Mathews said ruckman Jake Spencer had earned his promotion, following the three-month hamstring injury to Max Gawn.

“Jake gets his opportunity, and the good thing with Jake is that he played every game in the JLT Community Series and improved on his previous work at senior level,” he said.

“He was unlucky not to play in the first three rounds, but he gets his opportunity and I know he is really hungry and he wants to take his opportunity.

“It’s a great effort by him and we’re expecting he does the job for us.”

Overall, Mathews said Melbourne’s focus this week was to keep building on its opening three rounds.

“We’re looking forward to delivering a style of footy that we’ve been trying to execute over the last three weeks – a fierce contest, getting numbers to the ball and moving the ball effectively and efficiently,” he said.

“We did it for parts of last week against the Cats, but we didn’t quite do it long enough.

“Some of Geelong’s better players in [Patrick] Dangerfield and [Joel] Selwood got hold of us around the contest in the last quarter. I know Freo will be looking to do that this round, but our aim is to do it for four quarters.”