The Fremantle Dockers have re-energized their season with their third consecutive victory to sit just outside of the top eight. The Geelong Cats were beaten by the Richmond Tigers last week and were determined to return to their best. However, with a number of players unavailable through injury, the Cats found the pressure on the ball and the run of the Fremantle Dockers too much to handle. With the afternoon temperature nudging 79 °F, the big Cats lacked the fitness and stamina to stay with the young Dockers.
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The Fremantle Dockers returned to winning form by harassing and pressuring the Hawthorn Hawks with four quarters of attacking football. The Dockers returned to their game style of 2022; utilizing pressure around the ball, quick handpasses, running through the central corridor and direct transitions into attack, to record their highest score since Round 1, 2019. The Hawks matched the Dockers in the midfield for three quarters but fell down with poor delivery up forward. Most of the Hawthorn errors were a direct result of Fremantle's pressure on the ball, but even when the Hawks did find space they still made fundamental mistakes to allow the Docker defenders to regain the ball.
The Western Bulldogs gave their season a timely boost with a comprehensive win against the Fremantle Dockers. The Dogs showed hunger for the contested ball and with their bigger bodies in the midfield, used their tall forwards to rip the game away from the Dockers. The home team was competitive for three quarters but ultimately were punished for the lack of connect between their midfielders and their inexperienced forward line.
The Dogs dominated much of the play in the first quarter but missed shots on goal early, which kept the Dockers in the game. The Dockers made the most of their initial forward entries, which were breakouts from defense after most of the play was in the Bulldogs' forward half. Although the Dockers were winning the hit outs the Bulldogs through Marcus Bontempelli, Jack Macrae and Tom Liberatore had the edge in clearances.
The Fremantle Dockers beat the brave West Coast Eagles, in a game that could prove pivotal for both teams. West Coast had a good outing against the GWS Giants the week before, but their ageing and wounded list was no match for the Dockers who finished full of run. Although the Eagles were expected to lose, the Dockers had been out-of-sorts in their first two outings and had lost to two teams they were expected to beat. The Eagles started brightly with Tim Kelly, Andrew Gaff and Reuben Ginbey matching Andrew Brayshaw, Jaeger O'Meara and Sam Switkowski in clearances. This was despite Sean Darcy and Luke Jackson, dominating Bailey J Williams in the ruck. Darcy finished with an astonishing 52 hit-outs, Jackson had 17 and Williams only had fourteen.
The North Melbourne Kangaroos survived a late surge by the Fremantle Dockers to record a thrilling one-point win. The Kangaroos led for the whole match and survived having a free kick against them close to the Dockers' goal, as the siren sounded. The umpires declared that a clearing kick from Norths' defense, crossed the boundary line after the siren sounded, and therefore could not be deemed a deliberate kick out of bounds. The umpire closest to the action then signaled the end of the game. The decision will be debated for some time and is similar to the conclusion of a game played by the Dockers in 2006 in Tasmania. That game is now referred to as "sirengate". The umpire in that controversial game did not hear the siren and allowed the game to continue for two extra minutes. The Dockers lost the lead in those two minutes. The AFL later overturned the result and handed the win to the Dockers on appeal. In this game the umpire signaled the end of the game after the ball crossed the line, however the siren sounded fractionally before the ball was out of bounds; and the Dockers can't have it both ways.
The Supplemental Signing Period (SSP) started several months ago and ended February 15. It allows clubs with available spots to sign players as rookies. Below are the clubs and the players they signed.
The Adelaide Crows had two spots open on their list with Fischer McAsey and Paul Seedsman both being placed on the inactive list for the 2023 season. They signed former Collingwood midfielder Tyler Brown as a rookie for this season. Brown has signed a one year deal. Brown is the son of former Magpie premiership player Gavin and played 27 games for Collingwood before being delisted at the end of 2022. He had battled illness and injury in stint with the Pies.
Just days after the Preliminary Finals concluded, there were a number of retirements and delistings. Players from several clubs including Adelaide, Brisbane, Collingwood, Fremantle, and Geelong were released or had veterans choose to retire. The exodus including three players surnamed Brown but only two of them were related.
Adelaide defender Luke Brown, 29, has retired after 189 games in 11 seasons. Brown was prelisted by GWS from his SANFL club Norwood ahead of the 2011 draft before being traded to Adelaide. He established himself as a very reliable defender, often lining up against the opposition's most dangerous forwards.
A weekend of enthralling finals football culminated in a stunning elimination final comeback by the Fremantle Dockers, to knock the Western Bulldogs out of the 2022 competition. The Bulldogs, who played in last year's Grand Final, were left stunned by one of the greatest comebacks seen in a modern final. The Dockers pulled themselves off the canvas and delivered a knockout in front of a record 58,982 parochial fans.
Just ahead of the final round, Richmond wingman Shane Edwards and Port midfielder Robbie Gray announced they would retire at the end of the season. Michael Hurley, Devon Smith, and David Mundy joined them in retirement soon after.
Edwards recently reached the 300 game tally against Brisbane and was a key contributor in the 2017, 2018 and 2020 Grand Finals. He was named All-Australian in 2018 and has finished high up in the club's best and fairest numerous times. Edwards, 33, wanted to go out on his own terms and said, “It is time for me to step aside and move on just as players did for me when I started. I am trying to play to the best of my ability ... but it is pretty obvious ... I won’t be helping us move forward next year. The club has given me everything, it has changed my life forever and I will always be connected to the Richmond Football Club. My teammates are what I will miss the most, we have been through so much together and always had fun ... I have won premierships and a few wooden spoons and finished everywhere in between as well.”
After a month of indifferent form, the Melbourne Demons demolished the Fremantle Dockers on a damp and windy night at Optus Stadium. The Demons were hot from the opening bounce, contesting and tackling to put the Dockers under pressure. Luke Darcy was strong in the ruck for Fremantle, opposed to Luke Jackson and later Max Gawn, Darcy controlled the early taps but it was Christian Petracca and Todd Viney who won clearances for Melbourne. The Demons got away to an early lead with small forwards, Kysaiah Pickett and Charlie Spargo booting two goals and the mobile Bayley Fritsch adding one. The Dockers were rushed into poor plays by the ferocity of the Demon pressure around the ball. Halfway through the first quarter the Dockers recovered from the early onslaught and pushed forward to register goals from the pacy Michael Frederick and the skill of Michael Walters. Under pressure Fremantle turned the ball over too easily by hand and foot and Melbourne players found space in groups of two or three, to punish the poor defensive work of the Docker midfielders. Fritsch added another goal to give the Demons a useful lead by the first break.