Chris Kowald reporting from Optus Stadium, Perth
Before play started, the new Optus Stadium resonated to the sound of Prince’s classic song Purple Rain. The Fremantle Dockers responded by being ‘on song’ to defeat the Essendon Bombers, who last week defeated last year’s Grand Finalists, Adelaide.
Fremantle had a flying start with an Aaron Sandilands’ clearance to second gamer Bailey Banfield who kicked long to David Mundy. Mundy’s attempted mark (catch) was spoilt by Essendon defender, Mitch Brown, but the ball was gathered by Matt Taberner who kicked truly to have a goal on the board within the first thirty seconds of play. A minute later Essendon defender Michael Hurley dropped a mark he should have taken, to see Mundy gather the loose ball to snap accurately for Fremantle’s second goal. Essendon placed two spare men in defense and then steadied through former Greater Western Sydney Giant, Devon Smith, who found space to run through half forward and score from forty meters. Essendon got their rhythm with two goals to Josh Begley and and Tom Bellchambers to take the lead before the Dockers’ Cam McCarthy put the Dockers two points up at the first break.
Two early goals in the second quarter to Dyson Heppell and then Josh Green saw Essendon back in tune; but from then on it was the Dockers who set the tempo. Sandilands beat Tom Bellchambers in the ruck to give the Dockers an advantage in clearances and Banfield tagged Essendon prime-mover Zac Merrett to limit Merret’s effectiveness. With strong midfield pressure applied by the Dockers, Essendon could not get clean delivery to their big forwards Joe Daniher and James Stewart. Daniher was dominated by Dockers’ defender Alex Pearce. It was the first time in more than a season that Daniher has not scored a goal in a game. A late goal to Stewart (two for the game), kept Essendon in touch and indicated more can come from him as the season progresses.
The Dockers pushed the lead out to six goals in the third quarter. Their pressure on the ball prevented Essendon from establishing any method to their play. With Nat Fyfe in and Lachie Neale dominating the midfield, the Dockers’ new draftees Andrew Brayshaw and Adam Cerra (draft picks 2 and 5 respectively) were able to show why they have been so highly rated, with good game sense and clean delivery. Former Gold Coast star, Adam Saad, provided some dash from half-back for Essendon but this was matched by Nathan Wilson and Connor Blakely mopping up and providing dash from the Dockers’ defense. David Zachaharus and Dyson Heppell provided some drive for Essendon in the middle of the ground, but they were shaded by Dockers Stephen Hill and Michael Walters who were more damaging with their ball delivery.
Essendon began the last stanza 22 points down with their supporters hoping for another comeback victory, as they did in the previous week against Adelaide. Two early goals to the Docker youngsters, Ed Langdon and Adam Cerra, extinguished any chance of an Essendon victory. For most of the quarter, Essendon could not find clear air to establish effective attacks. Three late Essendon goals to Cale Hooker, Connor McKenna and Tom Bellchambers added some respectability to Bomber’s score, but the night belonged to the men in purple.
Next week, Essendon return to Etihad Stadium to take on the Western Bulldogs. The Dockers stay in Perth to play an ‘away’ game at Optus Stadium against the undefeated Gold Coast Suns.
Fremantle Dockers: 4.2 8.4 12.8 16.10 (106)
Essendon Bombers: 4.0 7.2 9.4 14.6 (90)
Fremantle Dockers : Fyfe, Blakely, Neale, A Pearce, Wilson
Essendon Bombers: Hurley, Zaharakis, McKenna, Heppell, Smith
Article last changed on Tuesday, April 03, 2018 - 9:01 PM EDT