Rick Browner reporting for AFANA from Patersons Stadium, Subiaco
Since 2005 the Western Bulldogs have had the wood on Fremantle. The last time they played, Barry Hall sunk the Dockers almost single-handedly, booting a bagful of goals to help the Bulldogs run out 82 point winners. Big Barry was back in Perth again and no matter where they are on the Ladder, the Bulldogs always give a good account of themselves at the large Patersons Stadium. The sixteenth Len Hall tribute match got underway after a stirring ANZAC ceremony, including the traditional one minute of silence and the Australian National Anthem. It was a perfect night for football and the bumper crowd of more than 37,000 fans was not disappointed.
Kepler Bradley goaled first for the Dockers on the end of a terrific Hayden Ballantyne foot pass. With his stumbling approach and ungainly manner, Bradley is not pretty to watch but he has kicked some timely goals for Fremantle over the last few weeks. Luke McPharlin made a rookie error when he tried to play on with not much to kick to. He was run down by Ryan Griffen, who capitalized on the mistake and kicked a goal. Ballantyne was again up and about with a goal assist to Adam McPhee, before Lindsay Gilbee evened the score at the other end. A tightly fought first quarter ended with the Dockers only marginally in front despite seeming to have the edge in general play. The tackling of the Bulldogs was fierce and resulted in a count of 14 to four for the quarter, a telling statistic.
Fremantle did not impress early in the second quarter. Josh Hill had his first goal for the Bulldogs after only 20 seconds, and this was quickly followed by another from Justin Sherman as the Dockers edged towards disaster. Sherman’s goal was a gift after the experienced Matthew Pavlich was penalized 50 meters for encroaching on the player in possession’s exclusion zone. Jay Van Berlo was the unlikely hero when he soccered a goal through against the run of play to propel Fremantle back into contention. To follow up, a lightening chain of crisp handballs through the midfield resulted in a mark and straight kick on goal by David Mundy. Although Aaron Sandilands was winning the majority of the ruck hitouts, Western Bulldog Matthew Boyd was having a field day grabbing possession and clearing the ball from the stoppages. Despite his skilful work, the Bulldogs could not convert on the scoreboard.
Modern football has more umpires than ever before but already this season there have been incidents which have fans in uproar. In one such moment in the second quarter, a kick by the Bulldogs’ Brian Lake was confirmed in replay to be at least one yard outside the field of play. Two boundary umpires in close proximity allowed play to continue from outside the boundary line. Hometown fans went berserk when this error saw the ball in the hands of Sherman who kicked a wonderful goal from a very difficult angle. When Griffen kicked truly from a free kick the Western Bulldogs had a two goal break. Fortunately for the Dockers, late goals from Van Berlo and Bradley had the match even as the siren sounded for the half time break.
For the first ten minutes of the second half there was an air of farce about the game. It was as if someone had turned on the sprinklers during the break. Both teams fumbled, overran the ball, disposed of the ball poorly and dropped easy marks as the game deteriorated into Little League standard. It wasn’t until the 11 minute mark that Sherman managed the first goal of the term and his third for the Bulldogs. With only five minutes left of the quarter, Bradley did the same, scoring the Dockers’ only goal for the quarter and his third goal of the match. All in all it was a forgettable period of play and Fremantle led by a single point at the end of it.
Fremantle got off to a flying start in the final quarter. It was as if the break was all they needed to put the fumbles behind them. Quick, precise kicking had three goals on the board – the first within twelve seconds of the opening bounce. Mundy kicked accurately from 50 meters after a tap, handball and sprint through the lines of the opposition. Vintage ANZAC Day football. Van Berlo kicked his third and fourth goals in succession to put the Dockers in an almost unbeatable position. However the Western Bulldogs refused to admit the game was over, and in the next ten minutes they dominated the shell-shocked Dockers. Shaun Higgins scored first, followed quickly by Jarrad Grant. Grant had had almost no part in the game to this stage but he had a real influence in the later stages of the match, scoring a again soon after. Yet another goal to Sherman had the Bulldogs in front and looking to steal the game.
Critical errors cost the Bulldogs when they missed shots on goal and turned the ball over. The turning point was when they lost the ball with minutes to play in their back half and Fremantle raced the ball forward. Bradley did some fancy footwork in the goal square to evade opponents and kick the goal that leveled the score. A rushed behind put the Dockers ahead and another disputed possession had match winner Nick Lower receive the ball and kick the winning goal.
Fremantle has the Bulldogs monkey off their back after six years. This game was doubly important because there may not be room for both these teams in the Top Eight. Fremantle effectively won eight points from the match by denying the Bulldogs a win. In the end Barry Hall had no influence on the game and questions must be asked about his fitness and ability to play on. The Dockers are a half game clear in third position on the Ladder and the Bulldogs sit just outside the eight in ninth position. This was a thrilling match and ranked up there for the game of the round.
Follow the link below to see David Woodley's photos of the Anzac Day match between Fremantle and the Western Bulldogs.
Fremantle: 2.4 6.7 7.9 12.13 (85) Bulldogs: 2.3 6.7 7.8 11.12 (78) Best Players Fremantle: J Van Berlo, P Duffield, K Bradley, A Sandilands Bulldogs: M Boyd, D Gilbee, B Lake, J Sherman, D Cross
Article last changed on Monday, May 28, 2018 - 5:36 PM EDT