Sports

Ben Rutten and Justin Longmuir at odds over ‘dangerous’ off-ball hits on Zach Merrett, Essendon defeats Fremantle, news, video, highlights

Essendon coach Ben Rutten and Fremantle counterpart Justin Longmuir have failed to see eye-to-eye on the Dockers’ hard tag on star Bomber Zach Merrett.

Coming into the game as one of the AFL’s form midfielders, Merrett managed just 22 disposals in Essendon’s 10. 8. (68) to 8. 13. (61) win at Marvel Stadium, as he dealt with a hard tag from youngster Caleb Serong.

The 25-year-old was hit off the ball several times, with Essendon awarded free kicks down the ground on two separate occasions, as well as a 50 metre penalty which led to its opening goal of the match.

Following his side’s win, Rutten condemned the off-ball hits on Merrett, calling the tactic “dangerous”, and praised the umpires for rewarding the Bombers.

“The stuff around the ball, I think Zach can take, but there’s a few incidents off the ball we were able to get free kicks for and scored down the field,” he said.

“It’s good to see those frees get paid for off the ball stuff. I don’t think it’s a great look for our game, the off-ball stuff.

“We need to let our good players play the game and compete really hard when the ball is around. It’s dangerous as well when players aren’t expecting to get hit.”

However, Longmuir did not agree with Rutten’s call, suggesting that the Bomber served up their own medicine in a number of scuffles around the ground.

“I don’t want to make a headline. I think their players looked after Merrett behind the ball pretty well,” he said.

“It was tactical. He is clearly one of the better mids in the comp and if we just let him roll around with no pressure on him, he can slice teams, so we wanted to shut him out of the game.”

Rutten said he did not send a message to Merrett’s teammates to look after him, with the players taking the initiative themselves.

“They understood that Zach was getting sat on pretty hard,” he said.

“Zach is disciplined and his ability to keep applying himself to the game was really important.”

The close attention on Merrett provided space for teammate Darcy Parish, who continued his excellent season with 39 disposals and 10 clearances in the win.

Off-season recruit Nick Hind also continued his brilliant form off halfback, adding anothe 31 disposals to go along with eight marks.

Fremantle’s efforts were led by Andrew Brayshaw, who picked up 33 disposals, while Matt Taberner was dominant up forward with four goals.

Taberner threatened to take the contest away from Essendon through the second and third quarters, but failed to capitalise on his chances.

Essendon will have a chance to string together consecutive wins next week when it hosts North Melbourne at Marvel Stadium, while Fremantle will head home for the first time in a month to host the Sydney Swans.

For a daily dose of the best of the breaking news and exclusive content from Wide World of Sports, subscribe to our newsletter by clicking here!

What's your reaction?

Excited
0
Happy
0
In Love
0
Not Sure
0
Silly
0

You may also like

More in:Sports

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *