In a fierce and uncompromising game, Geelong managed to overcome the determination of Fremantle to win and restore their top four credentials, at least for a few hours. With the congestion at the top end of the standings, they may still find themselves in sixth or seventh by the end of the weekend.
The game began at a ferocious pace with Geelong looking a little sluggish and Fremantle tearing into the ball with manic determination. With Jonathon Griffin matching Geelong’s Zac Smith in the ruck it was left to either Patrick Dangerfield and Joel Selwood to clear for Geelong, or Lachie Neale and David Mundy to clear for Fremantle. Both Dangerfield and Selwood did not win a clearance in the first quarter. The experienced Cats were under pressure with Neale, Mundy and Haydyn Crozier driving Fremantle into attack. Fremantle’s tackling also frequently dispossessed the lethargic Cats of the ball. The first three attacking entries were by Fremantle and it was no coincidence that their first goal came from a a firm tackle by Barlow on Geelong defender Cameron Guthrie. Then tall forward Matt Tabener goaled after marking a long kick from a very lively Michael Walters, to score the Dockers’ second goal at the seven minute mark.
Geelong then composed themselves and proceeded to slow the pace of the game. When they got possession, their defenders, who were previously drawn into the contest, dropped back so that the ball could be transferred across the ground and this allowed them to dictate play. The the game opened up more as players were spread up and down the ground. At the fifteen minute mark Geelong scored after a fine mark and long goal from Dangerfield. The game developed into a long kicking and spectacular marking game, where Geelong had a slight edge in disposal efficiency. Poor kicking from the Dockers wasted some precious scoring opportunities. Despite this, Dockers small men Lachie Weller and Walters were able to add two more goals for their team. It would have looked a lot worse for Geelong, but for the efforts of defender Lachie Henderson, who made three important intercept marks, as well as three other intercepts helping repulse the charging Dockers.
In the second quarter the Cats appeared more in control and they continued to hang players out of contests, so that the game was open and they could use their accurate long kicking to advantage. After eight minutes of the ball moving from one end of the field to the other, Rhys Stanley goaled for Geelong and then ruckman Smith took a strong mark to add another goal. Dangerfield and Selwood started to win clearances and Geelong were able to settle into a more organized game plan. Once gaining possession, their midfielders kicked long into the forward line for their full-forward Tom Hawkins to mark, or their small men to gather the crumbs. However, with Hawkin’s opponent Zac Dawson instructed to punch the ball at every contest, instead of trying to outmark Hawkins, the big man was taken out of the equation. Matthew Pavlich then responded with a goal for the Dockers. Nakia Cockatoo scored a goal for the Cats. Geelong star Dangerfield imposed himself on the game and kicked two goals to have Geelong in front at the main break.
The third quarter began with renewed ferocity as all players threw caution to the wind. Hayden Ballantyne returned to the game for Fremantle, despite receiving a fractured cheekbone in the second quarter. His return was offset by Barlow receiving a serious shoulder injury while contesting a ground ball and he played no further part in the game. Geelong’s Daniel Menzel kicked the first goal at the seven minute mark. In keeping with the brutality of the players’ attack on the ball, Geelong's Henderson was knocked unconscious.The courageous defender had run back to mark the ball and collided with high-flying Dockers' forward Chris Mayne. Play stopped for five minutes while Henderson was stretchered from the ground. When play resumed, the brutal struggle continued, as the game was open and players were moving at speed when they reached a contest. The irrepressible Dangerfield scored one more goal for Geelong and significantly, the Dockers failed to register a major (6 point goal) for the quarter.
In the last stanza, the Dockers fought back and continued to force forward entries; however, Geelong defended resolutely. Corey Enright was terrific in defense for the Cats who kept to their plan to slow the play whenever they could. The Dockers were wasteful forward but still managed two more goals. At one stage they had moved to within six points of Geelong. The Cats had fewer attacking entries but added three goals, including one after the siren, to finish what was a surprisingly hard fought victory.
Next week, Geelong have another potentially tough encounter when they host fellow top four contender Adelaide. The Dockers travel to the Gold Coast to meet the improving Suns team. Both the Cats and the Dockers will need all of the eight day break to recover from this bruising encounter at Domain Stadium.
Scores Fremantle Dockers: 4.1 7.2 7.3 9.7 (61) Geelong Cats: 1.3 6.7 8.11 11.12 (78) Best Fremantle Dockers: Hill, Neale, Mundy, Blakely, Dawson Geelong Cats: Dangerfield, Enright, Selwood, Guthrie, Mackie
Article last changed on Tuesday, June 12, 2018 - 9:37 PM EDT