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Chris Kowald reporting for AFANA from Domain Stadium, Perth.

With just 41 seconds remaining on the clock, the Fremantle Dockers snatched a win from the luckless North Melbourne Kangaroos. The Roos have now surrendered leads three times in the first five games, having lost narrowly to Geelong by one point, the Western Bulldogs by three points and now Fremantle by five points. Conversely, The Dockers have come from behind in three consecutive games to win thrillers.

Fremantle went into this match as favorites and by midway through the first quarter gained a two-goal lead, courtesy of accurate kicks by new recruit Cam McCarthy and improving player Ed Langdon. However, the Roos had signaled early that they were not willing to be easy meat for the revitalized Dockers. Despite Todd Goldstein losing in the ruck to a dominant Aaron Sandilands, the Kangaroos, inspired by James MacMillan and Ben Cunnington, gave a strong contest for every loose ball. The young Dockers were being beaten at their own game by desperate North Melbourne players who were determined to avoid a five-zip start to the season. At the 14 minute mark an ‘off the ball’ incident, by former Docker captain David Mundy gifted the Roos’ Kane Turner a fifty meter penalty and goal. Four minutes later Turner was involved again when he kicked to Mason Wood, who marked and scored truly from 40 meters. Scores were even at quarter time.

The second quarter belonged to the Kangaroos. Led by Andrew Swallow and Jack Ziebell, the visitors were far more determined to get their hands on the ball. If the young Docker midfielders did touch the leather they were either tackled or under pressure. Ben Cunnington kicked a goal for the Kangaroos within the first minute. The Dockers’ ball handling then fell away under the intense midfield pressure. The Dockers butchered their own attacks with poor disposal, which left the ball floating for the North Melbourne defenders. Marley Williams, Robbie Tarrant, and Aaron Mullett took full advantage as they clinically halted any Fremantle forward thrust. North held the Dockers to three solitary points for the quarter, while their own forwards added four goals. Michael Johnson was strong in defense for the Dockers and the score would have been much more lopsided if not for his work.

Trent Dumont kicked the first goal of the third quarter, after eight minutes of torrid but mistake-ridden play, to extend North’s lead to twenty-nine points. The Kangaroos had kicked seven unanswered goals. Nat Fyfe and Mundy were moved from the Docker forward line to the center of the ground; and the younger Fremantle players lifted accordingly. Until half time, the Dockers trailed in contested possessions, but this was reversed as the home team began to match the intensity of the visitors. North were held to one goal; however, the Docker forward line continued to miss chances and only managed to register two major scores for the quarter. It was clear the Dockers were coming back. The question was whether North could continue to resist them in the final stanza.

Most teams visiting from the Eastern states have struggled at Domain Stadium in the final quarter. Perhaps it is because their fitness is tested by the wide expanses of the playing field, the longest AFL ground in Australia. Perhaps the warm temperatures of Perth autumns or the travel drain their energy. The game started with a balmy 78 degrees (Fahrenheit). Perhaps, it is because the players from the East are playing late into the night (Eastern Australian time) due to two hour the time difference. Maybe it is the roar of the parochial home crowds. It is most likely a combination of all of these factors.

North fought the final quarter bravely, giving everything they had. A goal by the Dockers’ Langdon was answered by a goal from North’s Ben Brown. By the twelve-minute mark the Dockers had lifted with further goals to Bradley Hill and Brady Grey. Nathan Hrovat scored a major for North at the sixteen-minute mark. Then the Kangaroos tired.  A goal to lively Hayden Crozier four minutes later gave the Dockers belief that the gap North had established could be breeched. The Dockers dominated the center. The Roos defended stoutly, but with their midfield exhausted, they were unable to launch effective counter attacks. At the twenty-nine minute mark the home crowd was thrown into a frenzy as Docker defender Michael Johnson pushed forward to kick a rare goal for him. Urged on, the Dockers pressed forward again and for a frantic two minutes the Roos were able to survive but held the slenderest of leads. With less than a minute to go, the home team hit the front for the first time since the first quarter. An astounding across the body kick from the forward pocket by Shane Kersten had put the Dockers in front. The visitors had nothing more to offer. For the third consecutive week they had faltered at the finish line. Australian Football can be a merciless game.

Next week, North Melbourne have a chance to achieve their first win, when they host an inconsistent Gold Coast Suns. The Dockers remain at home to meet the West Coast Eagles in an Western Derby but as the 'away' club. The crowd will be mostly an Eagles’ crowd. The Dockers cannot afford the luxury of allowing the Eagles an early lead.

Fremantle Dockers         2.3 2.6 4.10 9.13 (67)

North Melbourne Kangaroos 2.3 6.5 7.7  9.8  (62)


Fremantle Dockers: Johnston, Mundy, Sandilands, Grey, B Hill

North Melbourne Kangaroos: Dumont, McDonald, Cunnington, Mullett, Macmillan 

Article last changed on Sunday, April 23, 2017 - 2:23 PM EDT

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