Rick Browner reporting for AFANA from Subiaco Oval
Big name cuts to both teams for disciplinary breaches and poor form saw the Fremantle Dockers and the Carlton Blues face off with new look sides and plenty of youth on display. Carlton wore a new away strip, a yellow jumper signed by Lance Armstrong, each one to be sold at auction post-match as a fundraiser for cancer research. Both teams had looked brittle in previous matches and Carlton in particular were out to show the football public that they were serious contenders for the Finals. The umpire was keen to get the ball bounced at the start of the game with players already involved in shoving and niggling that could have resulted in an all-in brawl had it gone on any longer.
Fremantle started the game with fierce determination directed both at the football and at the man and within two minutes Matt de Boer had scored the opening goal. Big Aaron Sandilands followed up with a 50 meter kick to set his team alight. It took ten minutes for the Blues to score a point and by that stage Carlton players had only touched the ball a handful of times. Jeff Garlett scored a steadying first goal for the Blues but it was like waving a red flag at a bull. The Dockers' Luke McPharlin goaled next and, in a bizarre set of circumstances, Carlton seemed to come unhinged. With the McPharlin kick barely through the goalposts, an illegal head high hit on a Fremantle player saw the umpire award a free kick and a second shot on goal. Nic Suban kicked Fremantle's second major in a minute, a twelve point play caused by some undisciplined stupidity from Carlton. When Garrick Ibbotson chased down Ryan Houlihan, laying an inspired tackle and saving a certain goal, the Dockers' tails were up with the firm belief that the game was theirs for the taking. At the end of the first quarter, the Dockers had scored six goals to two and led by 28 points.
Home crowd favorite and veteran Des Headland scored first in the second quarter after some excellent center clearance work. His mark and conversion from the 10 meter square had Fremantle out to a game high 34 point lead and the alarm bells started ringing for Carlton. The next few minutes saw some tight, hard fought contests that resulted in Carlton kicking the next three goals. Chris Judd stamped his authority on the game with masterful dashes through the center and deadly accurate delivery. It seemed the Blues might turn the game around. In a disturbing action bordering on poor sportsmanship, the Carlton runner ran on to the ground as the Dockers were moving the ball out of the backline. Also dressed in yellow he could have been mistaken for an extra Blues' player on the field and fans wondered if he had been sent out to act as a decoy. Carlton had kicked the last five of the six goals scored at this stage and were on fire. Hayden Ballantyne delighted spectators with a gutsy smother of the ball in the Dockers' forward line followed by a soccer off the ground through the middle of the goals. Although the Dockers' quarter time lead had diminished they were ahead by eleven points at the halftime break.
With the third quarter underway, Stephen Hill opened the scoring for the Dockers with a classy "banana" kick and when McPharlin kicked two goals in a row, things were looking up for the home side. Carlton missed some easy chances but were relentless in their attack. A couple of goals from Setanta O'hAilpin and Shaun Grigg had the visitors still in the game as the quarter drew to a close. Scott Thornton conjured up a goal out of nothing to give the home side an eighteen point lead at three-quarter time.
Brendan Fevola stepped up to the plate to start the final term and marked and goaled from directly in front to lift the Blues. The Dockers had run out of legs and were consistently second to the ball in contests. Judd and Bryce Gibbs cut the opposition to ribbons with dashing run through the middle of the ground. When Gibbs goaled he put the Blues in front for the first time in the game and from that moment on they were unstoppable. A consolation goal to Byron Schammer late in the game gave some respectability to the final scoreline but in the end the Dockers were outgunned with the Blues recording a fifteen point victory.
Carlton's victory could have been a massacre had they kicked straight. Their final tally of nineteen behinds should give their kicking coaches some ideas for training this week. Next Saturday's game at the MCG against traditional rivals Richmond promises to be a ripper given the Tigers' newfound determination under caretaker coach Jade Rawlings. If the Blues win they will consolidate their position in the top eight. Fremantle travel away to take on the in-form Adelaide and look likely to suffer another loss in an unspectacular season that began with so much promise three and a half months ago.
Scoreboard Fremantle 6.2 9.7 13.8 15.10 (100) Carlton 1.4 7.8 9.14 16.19 (115) Best players Fremantle L.McPharlin, N. Suban, A. Sandilands, H. Ballantyne, G Broughton Carlton B. Gibbs, C. Judd, J. Russell, A. Carrazzo, S O'hAilpin
Article last changed on Wednesday, July 08, 2009 - 8:29 AM EDT