Cut the BS: Sam Switkoswki, Luke Ryan and Blake Acres deserve more credit for early season contributions

Frankly, it probably isn’t the best time to reveal a positive Fremantle Dockers column just days after the Gold Coast Suns slammed them.

The six-goal defeat was by far the Dockers’ biggest disappointment this season – but as demoralizing as it would have been for those already planning ‘Flagmantle’ tattoos, it’s only their second loss this season.

If you had told the Purple Haze at the start of the year that they would be third after nine games with only two defeats and Nat Fyfe yet to take the field, they would have done it in a heartbeat.


Justin Longmuir is too smart and cunning an operator to let the loss to the Suns become more than a dot on the radar – and Fremantle has shown this season that they have what it takes to be one of the best teams in the league to be.

It takes a village to start a good football team, and for all the deserved praise, Andrew Brayshaw, Will Brodie, Alex Pearce, Sean Darcy, et al. have received, others have made significant contributions and essential cogs in the machine.

Some have upped their game this season to take the team to the next level; others have continued to play to the same high standard they had set for years before, only the rest of the competition is suddenly paying more attention.

The likes of Luke Ryan and Sam Switkowski fall into the latter because, over the past few years, they’ve been consistently good at flying under the radar from a league-wide perspective, partly because they didn’t always win football games and partially because they fell by the wayside from the bubble in the eastern states.

Ask most Fremantle fans; they’ve had season tickets to Switkowski’s show for a while now.

Camera icon Luke Ryan during the Dockers game against the GWS Giants. Credit: Daniel Carson/AFL Photos

Champion Data raised many eyebrows when they rated Switkowski as elite, ranking him in the top 10 percent of all small forwards based on their player rating points – but Switkowski has lived up to this season.

Ball in hand, he’s explosive yet measured, averaging 15 dives with 78 percent efficiency and only 1.5 clangers per game (just two Dockers less on average) and achieving 5.8 scoring engagement per game. Enjoy – only Andrew Brayshaw and Lachie Schultz average more.

When defending starts from the front, Switkowski is one of the best defenders in the league, with 175 pushes (only a handful of attackers have registered more) and tied eighth in the company for total tackles within 50 (his partner in crime Schultz has similarly impressed with forward thrust).

Like Switkowski, Ryan has been a longtime favorite with the Dockers, and the 26-year-old has long been known for his strikers.

Pearce has rightly been acclaimed for his lion-hearted performances on the Dockers’ backline, but Ryan’s ever-present stabilizing influence has been just as crucial.

He is arguably one of the most underrated small defenders in the league, capable of accelerating the competition’s livewire in the air and on the ground.

Ryan comfortably leads all Dockers in the rebound 50s (53) and is very reliable with the ball in hand, averaging 19.3 touches at a team-high efficiency of 86 percent while averaging 410 yards of gain per game. Game clocks.

Some of the recruits from the eastern states that the Dockers have attracted in recent years have come into their own this year — the recent arrival of Jordan Clark seems worth its weight in trade gold, while Travis Colyer and James Aish have been reliable contributors.

But of all, I’ve been most impressed with Blake Acres, who has quietly been one of the Dockers’ best players this year.

Camera IconBlake Acres is one of the quiet achievers of the Dockers. Credit: Chris Hyde/via AFL Photos

In Sunday’s heartbreaking loss to Gold Coast, Acres shone amid the gloom, with seven within the 50s and 545m won from just 22 possessions.

With an average of 22 sales per game (a career-high if it lasts all season), Acres has impressed not only with his increased accumulation of the footy but also with his impact on games – he was one of the stars of the show in statement wins over both West Coast and Geelong.

His performance against the Suns was typical of Acres this season: a hard-working player who doesn’t always dominate possession stats, but moves the ball forward into dangerous positions, best evidenced by per-game averages of 5.1 in the 50s and 478m won.

If the premiership is to dock in the port city this season, players like Switkoswki, Ryan, and Acres will have to perform at their current levels for the rest of the season.

Flags are earned, not given, and the bar has been set for a title boost this season – the coming months are the time to raise it.

John D.Mayne
I love to write. When I wasn’t writing for my school newspaper or college blog, I was writing personal essays and journal entries. Then I discovered I loved to write. In college, I wrote for my school paper and my campus radio show. I started doing freelance writing for the Huffington Post in 2009. Then, I joined the team at Newsmyth as a writer/editor. Now, I spend most of my time writing for Newsmyth and as a guest blogger on a handful of other blogs. When I’m not writing, I like to read, travel, cook, and spend time with friends.