Rick Browner reporting for AFANA from Subiaco Oval
It is hard to believe that this time last year the struggling Fremantle Dockers produced one of the closest matches of the year against the big name Geelong Cats. Had it not been for a wayward shot on goal by Matthew Pavlich in the last seconds of the game (his shot hit the goal post on the siren) Fremantle would have snatched the surprise victory of the 2008 season. One year later the teams matched up again in similar circumstances.
Fremantle started the game with passion and determination, taking it right up to the Cats. The Dockers scored the first goal by using the seven foot tall Adam Sandilands as a marking forward, a successful tactic on previous occasions. The game was tight throughout the next twenty minutes with Fremantle winning the contested possessions far more often than their 15th position on the ladder would indicate. The Dockers stunned Geelong with their ferocity. It appeared that the unthinkable might happen and that the Cats might finish the first quarter without a goal. A lapse in concentration saw Fremantle backman Anthony Grover give away a careless free kick in front of goals and the gravity of his action was compounded when he was reported for striking Steve Johnson. Johnson made the most of his opportunity and kicked truly to give the Cats their only major score of the quarter. The Dockers went into the break with a seven point lead and their confidence up.
Geelong kicking the first two goals of the second quarter while the hapless Dockers suddenly could not get their hands anywhere near the ball. It was vintage Cat play as they hunted the football in packs, controlled the ball and ran to advantage. At this point it looked like they had hit their straps and would have the determination to run away with the game. Fremantle kicked a steadying goal through Michael Walters but when Geelong answered with two of their own, the game swung back in their favor. Fremantle had to make a stand at this point or the game would be lost before the half time siren. Dean Solomon, in an inspirational act of courage and desperation, dived on the ball ahead of his Geelong opponent and handpassed to Stephen Dodd for a goal to lift Fremantle and excite the parochial Perth crowd. Shannon Byrnes kicked another goal for Geelong late in the half to put the Cats up by thirteen points at the halftime break. In spite of the Geelong lead, there was an air of expectation around the ground with the Dockers showing something special that might just turn the match their way .
Within the first thirty seconds of the third quarter Matt De Boer kicked a quick goal to give Fremantle a dream start. Up stepped Travis Varcoe. The Geelong midfielder began to farm the ball out to his team-mates with surgeon-like precision, running on himself to create forward opportunities that broke the game open. Geelong kicked the next two goals and it looked like they had done enough to win the game. The Dockers had other ideas, and in what the old-timers call the "Championship Quarter", they woke up and saw they had a chance to win a game that the rest of Australia thought they couldn't. Fremantle piled on the next four goals and would have had one or two more had they kicked straighter. Only a goal ahead, Geelong looked bewildered and needed to do more than rest on their laurels if they were going to win their 12th game in a row for the season. Late in the term, Fremantle's Steven Hill kicked a goal that was a classic for a first year player. Kicking on the run from 50 meters out he brought the crowd to their feet and put the Dockers level with Geelong as the siren rang.
Geelong piled on the pressure in the final term and the Dockers' poor kicking returned to haunt them. When golden opportunities presented themselves, they failed to hit their targets by hand or by foot. Geelong are the masters of capitalising on turnovers and Johnson kicked the Cats' first two last quarter goals as a result of Fremantle mistakes. The game should have been over but Fremantle were not done with yet. Garrick Ibbotson kicked a much needed six pointer to steady the Fremantle ship. The mercurial Byrnes popped up to score two important goals and the game slipped away from the determined Dockers. Pavlich kicked his 400th goal but it was too little, too late and the Cats ran out winners by nine points.
What was tipped to be an easy win to the Cats turned out to be a close and entertaining game, much better than indicated by the teams' respective positions on the AFL Ladder. Fremantle had their chances to clinch the game and must look hard at their team selections next week with some of the senior playing group clearly not up to the challenge. The young Dockers were outstanding and a changing of the guard at the club is obvious. Geelong continue on their winning way and it is hard to see them being beaten for the Flag in September.
Best Players Geelong T Varcoe, J Corey, G Ablett, S Byrnes, S Johnson, P Chapman Fremantle P Duffield, M De Boer, S Hill, M Pavlich, C Tarrant, G Broughton Scores Geelong 1.3 6.6 8.13 13.16 (94) Fremantle 2.4 4.5 9.7 11.9 (75)
Article last changed on Tuesday, June 23, 2009 - 11:11 AM EDT