The Fremantle Dockers withstood a determined challenge from the Essendon Bombers, to dominate in the final quarter and score a morale boosting victory in energy sapping conditions. The mercury had risen to 87 degrees (Fahrenheit) by the first bouncedown, but the real heat was applied by the Essendon Bombers who were single-minded in their attack on the ball.
Despite the Dockers’ Aaron Sandilands dominating Essendon’s Matthew Leuenberger in the ruck, the Bombers’ midfield players Zach Merrett and Dyson Heppell matched the Dockers’ Nat Fyfe and Lachie Neale when the ball hit the ground. Brendon Goddard added some additional bulk in the middle for Essendon and used his height to provide a clear target when the Dons transitioned from defense to attack. Both teams employed a rolling press, where all players moved up and down the ground staying within one kick’s distance from the ball. This resulted in congested and tight play, but once the ball was released from the packs it was moved quickly up and down the ground. Outside runners such as Bradley Hill, for the Dockers, and Darcy Parish, for the Dons, gained valuable meters for their teams. Long kicks into attack, favored the respective tall forwards who engaged in one-on-one marking duels. Emerging star Joe Daniher was a focal point for the Dons and he was well supported by Cale Hooker who took some big grabs. At the other end of the ground the Dockers successfully introduced Matt Taberner, as third tall marking option, to support Cam McCarthy and Shane Kersten. The mercurial Taberner is still learning his craft, having only played 45 games, but he finished the game with nine marks. Remarkably, seven of those were contested marks.
For the first half of the first quarter the teams were evenly matched, scoring two goals each. The one difference was the ferocious tackling applied by the Essendon midfielders. Eventually the Dons were rewarded for their efforts and broke the deadlock with goals to Cale Hooker and Zac Marrett. In the second term the teams traded a goal each, before the Dons skipped away with majors to Daniher, Hooker and Gleeson. Daniher’s goal was a result of the Dockers wasting the ball with poor disposal and Hooker out muscled Docker defender Joel Hamling, to take a strong mark and kick truly. The Dockers sensed they were in danger of losing and lifted their work rate to match Essendon in contested possessions. Late in the quarter Hayden Crozier scored a Docker goal from a free kick and then reliable defender Michael Johnson kicked a long bomb to Matt Taberner who marked and goaled to keep the Dockers in touch.
The third quarter continued with the pattern set in the first two quarters. Rolling packs of players engaged in rugged contested football, occasionally punctuated by scintillating breakaways and high marking. Then the Dons’ full forward, Michael Hurley, produced a prodigious 55 meter kick to goal and a minute later Daniher showed his agility and strength to break free from two tackles to kick Essendon’s ninth. Play then opened up and Shane Kersten, Brad Hill replied for the Dockers before Brady Grey received a free kick and 50 meter penalty goal to bring the Dockers within five points of the Dons. Both teams scored two more goals for the quarter, with the Dockers sitting just two points behind the determined visitors.
The parochial home crowd were not disappointed when Essendon’s work rate fell away in the final term. There was still plenty of contested football but the Dockers seemed to always have greater numbers at the fall of the ball. The Bombers were unable to sustain the pressure they applied in the first three quarters and the Dockers’ clinical use of the ball resulted in a merciless rout. The Docker defenders pressed across the center square and formed a wall that locked the ball into their forward line. McCarthy and Taberner each scored a goal in the first ten minutes. The Dons resisted but were unable to launch counter attacks. At the 18-minute mark the game opened up as tired players remained in their traditional positions. The merciless Dockers took advantage of the open spaces to add four more goals. Reluctantly, Essendon joined a growing list of visiting teams who have failed to produce in a final term at Domain Stadium.
Next week the Bombers return to the cooler conditions of the MCG for a Saturday meeting with the Geelong Cats. The proud Cats will be seething, having lost two consecutive games. The Dons have played 3 games in 14 days and will need all of their recuperative powers, and then some more, to set themselves for the Cats. The Dockers meet the Richmond Tigers at the same venue the following day. The Tigers have shown good form and will be fired up after losing narrowly to the Western Bulldogs. They will provide a stern test for the improving Dockers.
Scores Fremantle Dockers 2.2 5.6 11.10 17.14 (116) Essendon Bombers 4.3 7.7 11.12 11.13 (79) Best Fremantle Dockers: Neale, B Hill, Blakely, Taberner, Johnson Essendon Bombers: Merrett, Goddard, Hurley, Daniher, Heppell
Article last changed on Thursday, May 11, 2017 - 5:01 AM EDT