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Fyfe Weaves (file photo/AFANA)

The Western Bulldogs have been hot and cold this year. At Optus Stadium they were hot, but they met a group of Dockers who were stinging from a loss to West Coast the week before. The two desperate teams, with three wins each, put on a thrilling display of everything that Australian football should be. Kicking skills came to the fore as players passed with precision. High marking contests thrilled at each end of the ground and play transitioned with lighting speed from defense into attack. The tackling from both sides was brutal and the pressure on the ball carriers was relentless. Scoring consisted of brilliant snaps contrasted with dramatic near misses. In addition, there were periods of open play where skillful players shone. The Dockers were not going to let this game slip. The Dogs were hampered by the loss of Tom Liberatore through illness and then young gun Cody Weightman late in the first quarter, but that gave it their all.

Bailey Dale
Bailey Dale (file photo/AFANA)

The Dogs had a height advantage in their forward line, particularly when tall young Docker defender Josh Draper, went off early with a hamstring injury. Their midfielders Bailey Williams, Adam Treloar, and James Harmes booted long and high to their tall forwards Aaron Naughton, Rory Lobb, and young tyro Sam Darcy. However, Fremantle captain Alex Pearce worked overtime at fullback to spoil numerous marking (catching) attempts. Former Docker Rory Lobb had a dirty night, managing just two marks and failing to score for the visitors. The slack was taken up by the maturing Sam Darcy who finished with three goals, two of them in the tense third quarter. Aaron Naughton was the main target most of the night, but he was well held by Docker defenders Luke Ryan and Alex Pearce. The Dogs most effective player was Bailey Dale, who marked strongly and booted two goals while picking up thirty possessions around the ground. Until the twenty-minute mark of the final quarter the teams were never more than twelve points apart. In the second quarter the lead changed four times and the scores leveled midway through the third quarter to keep the crowd on the edge of their seats.

The game was tilted in the Dockers' favor at the stoppages. Sean Darcy beat Tim English in the ruck (38 taps) and he was well supported by Luke Jackson (9 taps). Caleb Serong gorged himself on an incredible seventeen clearances and he was supported by Nat Fyfe and Andrew Brayshaw who had seven each, to give the Dockers first use of the ball. The Dogs' Adam Treloar managed nine clearances with English and Marcus Bontempelli chipping in with six and five respectively, to keep the visitors in the game.  English also took advantage of Sean Darcy's lack of match fitness to use his mobility to take seven marks around the ground and collect twenty-three possessions and boot one goal. So, although the Dockers had the edge at stoppages, this was matched by the Bulldogs' height and marking ability around the field. When the ball hit ground level, the desperate Dockers gained the advantage in the midfield. Caleb Serong won an outstanding twenty contested possessions and Nat Fyfe won eighteen with his strength and skill in packs. Fyfe's clever use of handball freed up his outside runners, as the Dockers used leg speed and handball to break through the Dogs' defense. Josh Treacy played another strong game for the Dockers taking eight important marks and booting three goals. Michael Frederick was lively at half forward and the Dogs had no answer to his pace. Liam Jones defended well in the air for the Bulldogs and Ed Richards played a solid defensive game.

Banfield lines up for goal
Banfield line up (file photo/AFANA)

It was Bailey Banfield who sealed the deal for the Dockers, booting his second goal at the twenty-two-minute mark; and then following up with another fifty-meter bomb four minutes later. A goal in the last minute to a busy Michael Walters extended the margin to an unlikely three goals in an enthralling game which could have gone either way.

The win has put the Dockers back in the top eight after an embarrassing loss the previous round and will play the struggling Richmond Tigers at the MCG next Sunday. The Bulldogs are now one game out of the eight but will meet the Hawthorn Hawks at Marvel Stadium next Sunday and will be favored to come away with a win.

Fremantle Dockers: 4.4 7.6 10.9  14.11 (95)
Western Bulldogs:  3.2 7.3  9.10 10.11 (71)

Fremantle Dockers: Fyfe, Serong, Pearce, Young, Tracey
Western Bulldogs:  Dale, English, Bontempelli, Treloar, Darcy 

Fremantle Dockers: Treacy 3, Jackson 2, Banfield, Frederick, 
                   Fyfe, Voss, Walters, Young
Western Bulldogs:  Darcy 3, Naughton 2, Dale, English, 
                   Vandermeer, West

Article last changed on Saturday, May 04, 2024 - 11:25 AM EDT

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