The Collingwood Magpies had to battle until the dying minutes of the match to pull off a narrow win over a spirited Fremantle Dockers side and lock up a top four position at the end of the home and away rounds. Fremantle took the game right up to the Pies, who traveled west in one of their rare forays across the country. It was Michael Johnson’s last appearance in a distinguished 244 game career, and his teammates dug in for him to nearly cause a "boil-over".
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It took until the third quarter for the Fremantle Dockers to break the shackles after a pedestrian start to take down bottom of the ladder dwellers the Carlton Blues. Carlton were struck a blow when their premier ruckman Matthew Kreuzer was omitted, possibly for the rest of the season, with an elevated heart rate when training the day before the match in Perth. After having lost five of the last six matches in the West, Carlton were going to need all the help they could get.
As the 2018 season heads towards finals, some players have already started toward the door by announcing their retirements. With just a few weeks left, Melbourne's Harley Balic, Adelaide's Sam Gibson, Gold Coast's Matt Rosa and Fremantle's Lee Spurr have all called time on their careers.
Balic was originally drafted by Fremantle in 2015 but a wrist injury kept kept him sidelined in 2016. He finally debuted in 2017 but played just four games. He took a leave of absence from the club in May and later July 2017, and returned to Melbourne for personal reasons. He then asked to be traded back to Victoria, also for personal reasons. He had struggled with homesickness and feelings of isolation during his time in Perth.
The West Coast Eagles outclassed and out-muscled the Fremantle Dockers to strengthen their grip on second spot on the ladder. However, their win could have serious ramifications for their premiership hopes as their main play maker, Andrew Gaff, looks set to be banned for an extended period. Gaff swung a left arm haymaker into the Dockers’ second draft pick, Andrew Brayshaw, breaking his jaw and re-arranging several teeth. The incident sparked several ugly melees as Fremantle players targeted Gaff with ferocious tackles and bumps. The Eagles absorbed the renewed vigor of the Dockers and finished the game playing conservatively, but still in control and making good use of their forward line air superiority.
The Hawthorn Hawks boosted their campaign to make the 2018 finals by convincingly defeating the Fremantle Dockers. In a one-sided game the Hawks picked up valuable percentage points (based on scores kicked for and against) that could prove vital at the end of the season. The Dockers, who were already out of finals calculations, had a game where little worked for them and as they repeatedly butchered forays into their attacking zone. In contrast, the Hawks were brutal when required to contest the ball, swooped on any errors made by the rattled Dockers and clinical in their forward thrusts.
In the absence of Aaron Sandilands, Fremantle’s Luke Darcy competed well in the ruck with The Hawk’s big man, Jonathan Ceglar. Hit-out honors were even, which resulted in Lachie Neale and David Mundy matching Hawthorn’s Tom Mitchell and Jaegar O’Meara with center clearances. However, once the Dockers cleared the ball from packs, they lacked the purpose and pure intent of Hawthorn. Hawthorn would routinely work the ball wide and then make a direct assault on the full-forward zone. If Jarryd Roughead was covered, Luke Breust was available for a chip pass, Ryan Schoenmakers was setting himself to fly, or Jack Gunston was lurking at the back of a pack. The Hawks simply had too many forward weapons for the Dockers to cover.
Adelaide midfielder Curly Hampton has been forced to retire due to vertigo. Hampton, 25, also said all the setbacks he has had over the past eight years caused him to lose his passion for playing. When announcing his decision, he went on to say, "The past few weeks have been particularly hard ... At times, it has been difficult to train and play but it has also affected my life away from football ... I am confident of making a full recovery but I feel it is best to do that away from the pressures of the AFL industry. This is a good opportunity to focus on the other priorities in my life ... ". He suffered ankle and shoulder injuries in 2014 and a foot injury in 2016.
The West Coast Eagles have confirmed that Nic Naitanui has a torn the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) on his right knee. His left knee was reconstructed in late 2016 and kept Naitanui out of the competition for all of 2017. American specialist Bill Knowles, who assisted Naitanui with his recovery in Philadelphia last July, has suggested that this second reconstruction could require a longer recovery period. It is expected that Naitanui will undergo reconstruction surgery as soon as the initial swelling subsides. He will miss the rest of this year and most of the 2019 season. The twenty-eight year old has played 160 games for West Coast; he will be nearly 30 when he returns to the game.
The Fremantle Dockers took advantage of the wet and slippery conditions at Optus Stadium to defeat Port Adelaide Power by nine points. The win meant little but pride for the Dockers, but it cost the Power a potential second spot on the ladder. As a result of the shock loss, the stunned Power have plummeted to fifth place on the ladder. The game was not pretty and was made difficult by the combination of rain and swirling winds. With their bigger and more mature bodies the visitors won more contested possessions; but the Dockers had raw hunger and pushed more players to the ball. Port could not initiate their running game as their playmakers were cramped and chased by desperate Docker tacklers.
The Brisbane Lions earned a morale boosting victory when they jumped a lethargic Fremantle Dockers team to end the Dockers’ slim hopes of making the finals. The Lions never looked back, as they outran and outplayed the home team which appeared half-hearted and disorganized. The Dockers lost their ruckman, Aaron Sandilands, with pulled a calf muscle in the pre-match warm-up.
Chris Kowald reporting for AFANA from Optus Stadium, Perth
The Fremantle Dockers’ have narrowly defeated the Adelaide Crows, and left a big question mark over last year’s Grand Finalists. With a challenging draw in the second half of the season, the injury hit Crows will need a dramatic change of fortune to make the finals again. The Dockers, like the Crows, were not at full strength.