Rick Browner reporting for AFANA from Patersons Stadium in Perth
With the Top Eight determined the previous round, all that was left was the shuffling of the deck chairs to find out which teams would play against each other in the Finals. It was down to percentage for the Fremantle Dockers as to where they finished, with the possibility that they could meet the West Coast Eagles in an Elimination Final if they finished in eighth position. Coach Ross Lyon talked about “managing” the result, a veiled reference some took as meaning not playing to their best to achieve that result.
Fremantle started with more fire and a 50 meter penalty gave Chris Mayne the first goal of the game. This was followed up by Tendai Mzungu’s goal from a run and bounce from long range. Melbourne struggled to hit targets and seemed a bit rattled in the early stages. They finally settled into the game and Nathan Jones’ snap on goal had them on the board. It was yet to be determined how Fremantle were going to play the game as they seemed on top but were shaky in unexpected situations, dropping simple marks and kicking poorly. A goal from Aaron Sandilands put the home team out to a 14 point lead at quarter time.
Melbourne controlled the play for the early part of the second quarter, while Fremantle was content to chip and mark and go nowhere. The Dockers were looking decidedly second rate and the “management” issue was looming as a sobriquet for “tanking” (meaning deliberately losing). As if a switch had been turned on, and helped by their own supporters' resounding booing, Fremantle decided to play football. At this stage, 88%of the game was being played in the Demons’ forward half, and the home crowd did not appreciate it. Mzungu started the charge with his second goal followed by Hayden Ballantyne. Ryan Crowley was doing a superb job stopping Demon powerhouse Jones while Jack Grimes was doing his best to fill in the gap. When Matthew Pavlich and Michael Walters delivered goals for Fremantle, the rout was on. With seven goals to two in the first half, the Dockers had a commanding 32 point lead at half time.
Melbourne didn’t really fire a shot after the break. The only interest in the game was whether Pavlich could go ahead in the race for the Coleman Medal, awarded to the leading goal kicker for the season. His second goal had him equal leader but that was as far as he went as his teammates took over the scoring opportunities. Ballantyne jumped up for two in a row to put the nail in the Melbourne coffin, while James Sellar scored one against the flow for the Demons. It was all over as both teams put their cues in the rack, the Demons to look forward to 2013 and the Dockers to look towards the Finals.
Fremantle finished off the game with more fight that will hopefully put them in a good mindset for the first Elimination Final game next week. They scored three out of the last four goals for the match with Jonathon Griffen popping up for two in a row. He has developed well under Sandilands and is becoming a foil that might make a difference in the latter part of the season. The Dockers ran out easy victors by 61 points to make a statement of intent to their upcoming Finals opponents, the Geelong Cats. The only unfortunate outcome of the game was the loss of champion defender Luke McPharlin to a hamstring injury. His loss is a major blow to Fremantle’s Finals’ aspirations.
Next week Fremantle travel east to take on Premiership defenders Geelong, a team they beat in the first round. Melbourne bows out from 2012 and will no doubt try to rebuild the confidence of its young team over the season break.
For Dave Woodley's photos of the match between Fremantle and Melbourne, go to http://www.afana.com/drupal5/category/image_galleries/2012_season/home_and_away_games/round_23_fremantle_v_melbourne/14-2257
Scoreboard Fremantle: 3.5 7.7 11.14 14.17 (101) Melbourne: 1.3 2.5 4.8 5.10 (40) Best players Fremantle: Mundy, Barlow, Ballantyne, Mzungu, Fyfe Melbourne: Grimes, Trengove, Fitzpatrick
Article last changed on Wednesday, September 05, 2012 - 7:45 PM EDT