Rick Browner reporting from AFANA from Subiaco Oval
Late July and early August is when teams either make or break their seasons. Fremantle had been losing consistently over the last few weeks with the loss of top line players to injury proving telling. Sydney hadn’t fared much better and a win in this contest would consolidate their top eight position and put pressure on Fremantle for a home ground Final. Both teams had a lot to play for looking forward to September Finals action.
Typical Sydney football saw lots of scrappy play as the ball was trapped in packs, resulting in multiple bounces in the first minutes of play. It took seven minutes for the first score to be registered with Trent Dennis-Lane producing some magic from the forward pocket to snap a goal for Sydney. The visitors were disciplined in their kicking, hitting up short targets rather than kicking long bombs to packs. The game was so congested it took Fremantle 17 minutes to kick their first goal through youngster Michael Walters. The Swans dictated the play with 91 to 36 possessions and a ten to one advantage in stoppage clearances. Shane Mumford goaled for Sydney, but Fremantle fought back with goals to Paul Hasleby and a second to Walters after the siren. The home side held a slender three point lead at the end of the first quarter.
Michael Johnson who had been quiet so far scored for the Dockers early with a mark and conversion from 40 meters out. The Swans quickly countered with a couple of their own through Jarred Moore and Ben McGlynn. The standard of play was not a good advertisement for Australian Rules football at this level, often deteriorating into second tier standard with poor delivery and skills. There were too many misses from shots on goal and too many turnovers to be a true indication of two clubs in the top half of the Ladder. Both teams traded goals as the quarter ended and the Swans had managed to hit the front by a couple of points.
Within the first minute of the third quarter, McGlynn had scored again for Sydney and they looked like taking over. However the teams moved to playing man-on-man football rather than a flooding zone and the game became more free flowing. Adam McPhee scored a goal when the umpire rewarded him with a 50 meter penalty after his opponent kicked him in the head after a mark. The Dockers piled on three more goals, none better than Hasleby’s diving chest mark after a low pass from Walters 30 meters out, directly in front. Kieren Jack was playing a superb game in clearing the stoppages and he steadied the ship for the Swans with a goal. In the latter stages of the quarter there were two courageous plays from players on both teams. In the first instance, Matt de Boer kept the ball in the Dockers forward fifty with a gutsy body-on-the-line interception, resulting in a goal to Greg Broughton. At the other end of the ground, Jarred Moore backed into a pack and took a mark, but as he hit the ground, his head hit Garrick Ibbotson's knee and the nuggety Sydney player had to be carried off on a stretcher. The resulting kick was awarded to Dennis-Lane who goaled to keep the Swans close going into the final quarter.
Big man Mike Pike, the Swan’s Canadian import ran into an open goal to score the first major of the final term. Kepler Bradley evened it up soon after a ruck infringement free kick. Lewis Jetta made a lightening move from the forward pocket when he wheeled and put on the after burners to run away from his opposition and score a goal to take the Swans into the lead. Jetta had scored only one goal and 19 behinds from his previous 20 shots on goal and he celebrated enthusiastically. The Dockers were still in the hunt and their younger players were performing admirably. Sydney could sniff victory and finished better, scoring another two goals, the sealer from Ryan O’Keefe with seconds to go in the game.
In the end it was an ecstatic Sydney in a thriller and the Dockers were left to rue an opportunity to advance into the Top Four. With only two rounds to play it is possible that the respective positions of these clubs could be reversed. Fremantle have been valiant for most of the year but injuries have cost them dearly in the latter stage of the season. Sydney is a champion team and you can never count them out at Finals time. Perhaps they will sneak home again, but their current form makes that unlikely, given the quality of the top contenders, Collingwood, Geelong and St Kilda.
Scoreboard Fremantle: 3.2 5.6 10.6 13.9 (87) Sydney: 2.5 5.8 9.9 14.12 (96) Best players: Fremantle: M de Boer, K Bradley, A McPhee, P Hasleby, M Walters Sydney: K Jack, D Hanneberry, L Jetta, B McGlynn, S Mumford
Article last changed on Friday, August 20, 2010 - 1:32 AM EDT