Rick Browner reporting for AFANA from Patersons Stadium, Perth
When the bottom team travels to play against a team sitting in seventh position on its home turf it is generally a recipe for disaster. The Gold Coast Suns are a developing team with flashes of brilliance and two wins so far in their first season. The Fremantle Dockers wanted to celebrate the occasion of Captain Matthew Pavlich’s 250th game. “Pav” is acknowledged by many as the greatest player in the history of the Fremantle Football Club. Weather conditions were blustery, cold and wet, a rare combination in Perth, but perfect for Aussie Rules football.
Both teams missed opportunities early. Players were going to ground on the wet surface and missing targets with the ball swirling all over the place in the wind. Despite kicking into the breeze, the Dockers were dominant with seven to two inside entries in their 50 meter zone but it took ten minutes for Jonathon Griffen to score their first goal. Trent McKenzie is a young Suns’ player with a lethal and long left foot kick. When he unleashed a monster kick from 60 yards out that sailed through the goals, fans finally saw why he is nicknamed “The Cannon”. Nathan Fyfe was making an impact on the game with his strong marking ability. He was in the right place to take the mark when the ball dropped short and went on to goal. The game started to open up towards the end of the quarter and Fremantle made two monumental errors that let their opponents back into the contest. Each involved giving away 50 meter penalties from obvious indiscretions and Suns’ players Danny Stanley and Joel Wilkinson scored goals. Fyfe jumped back into the game with a big leap and mark over the pack to goal and even the scores. Champion Gary Ablett Jr showed his skills to win a one-on-one contest in the forward line to take the Suns into the quarter time break with an unexpected five point lead.
Fremantle got off to a cracking start when the second quarter resumed with Pavlich starring. While his opponent Nathan Bock was off the field with an injury problem, Pavlich tore apart his new opponent Jarred Brennan and kicked the next three goals. He was inspirational in his efforts and the game looked all over. In a trend that has become all too prevalent in recent games, the Dockers eased off the pressure. Josh Fraser slammed a 60 yard goal to bring Gold Coast back to life. Although Griffen scored another goal for the Dockers, they were below par in their attack on the contested ball. This was evident when Jarrod Harbrow danced on the spot for a full five seconds in the Dockers’ forward line without a hand being laid on him. Ablett Jr again stepped up to goal for the Suns and when substitute Brandon Matera kicked truly, the Suns looked dangerous. They took a slender three point lead into the long break and had the punters trembling.
Tendai Mzunga kicked the first goal for the Dockers in the third quarter but this was quickly answered when “Cannon” McKenzie took a handball from David Swallow and thumped through another 60 yard goal. Hayden Ballantyne started to exert his influence on the game to kick the next two goals. His run into space was exquisite but his off the ball play was even better as he laid a shepherd to let Matt de Boer kick the Dockers’ fourth goal for the quarter. The Suns had a number of injuries that were affecting their rotations. Players were coming on and off, obviously not fit, but needed to spell team mates. There had been a number of flat patches in the game to this point but Mzungu lit up the crowd with a soccer kick on the goal line. Just before three-quarter time Nick Lower booted a goal off his trusty left foot and the Dockers went into the final term leading by 27 points.
Fremantle activated their substitute at the break with Josh Mellington replacing Ryan Crowley. Ablett Jr was again on fire and scored first. He was clearly the best player on the ground but Gold Coast needed more of him. A doppleganger at each end of the ground and himself in the middle was the only way the Gold Coast could muster a win. Fremantle stepped the tempo up a notch and ran away with the game, kicking the next four goals. Michael Johnson was up first after missing a shot from the opposite pocket minutes earlier. After an ordinary first half he worked much harder in the second and was as steady as a rock when the ball came his way. Mzungu kicked his third with a flying mark over the back of a pack and the “Freo, Freo” chant went up for the first time during the match. Mellington kicked his first goal in League football much to his delight, and team mates came from everywhere to congratulate him. Finally Ballantyne kicked his third, running around the boundary afterwards to salute the crowd and grab a few high fives. Fremantle ran out winners by 27 points as the Suns ran out of puff.
Fremantle obviously had the riot act read to them at half time because their work rate and tackling pressure lifted in the second half. However they are not producing convincing Finals-type performances. Now in sixth position, they have the worst percentage of all the Top Eight teams and risk falling out of the Finals race in the next month with a bye, an away game against Sydney and then tough encounters with West Coast and Hawthorn at Patersons Stadium.
As for the Gold Coast Suns, they are a work in progress and once their conditioning and body development matches that of the other clubs, they will certainly be competitive. At the moment they are a joy to watch each week because they bring a “hard-nut” work ethic and youthful enthusiasm to the game.
To see David Woodley's photos from this game, go to: http://www.afana.com/drupal5/category/image_galleries/2011_season/2011_season_photo_essays/round_15_fremantle_v_gold_coast/14-183
Scoreboard Fremantle: 3.2 7.2 13.5 17.10 (112) Brisbane: 4.1 7.5 8.8 9.8 (62) Best Players Fremantle: M Pavlich, J Griffen, A Silvagni, T Mzunga, G Broughton Brisbane: G Ablett Jr, N Bock, J Wilkinson, D Swallow, S Iles
Article last changed on Monday, May 28, 2018 - 5:36 PM EDT