Chris Kowald reporting for AFANA from Optus Stadium, Perth
The North Melbourne Kangaroos become the first interstate team to win at Optus Stadium since Sydney in Round 1. The Roos bounded away from the determined Dockers in the final quarter, to notch an encouraging win away from home.
The game was played in wintry conditions with strong winds and periods of heavy rain which turned the game into a congested struggle for the ball as both teams pushed numbers around the ball. Players on both sides committed their bodies to the contest,
but it was North Melbourne who dominated in the early part of the first quarter. Unfortunately for the Roos, their goal kicking was astray and they booted six behinds (worth a point each), when they could quite easily have had six goals. Against the flow of play, Michael Walters evened the score for the Dockers with a goal, after marking (catching) a fine pass from Cam McCarthy. Three minutes later Mason Wood gathered a ball, which had been punched away by Docker veteran, Danyle Pearce, to kick the Roos' first major score (a goal worth six points).
The Dockers then lifted their attack on the ball and the game became a fierce physical slog in the slippery conditions. Players struggled to find the big opening and scored a succession of behinds (worth 1 point) until Dockers’ first year player, Andrew Brayshaw, scrambled a major from in close, after working the ball down from the wing. Captain Nat Fyfe, who dominated in the first quarter with 13 possessions and four marks, capped a strong quarter with a goal, to push the Dockers ahead by eight points.
The Kangaroos opened the attacking in the second quarter but again struggled to find the big opening. Play became scrappy as players fought to get a handle on the ball and there were multiple turnovers. Tempers rose and a number of incidents ‘off the ball’ kept the umpires busy awarding free kicks. The scoring stalemate was broken after eight minutes, when North Melbourne defender Sam Wright gave away a free kick to Brennan Cox in front of goals. Cox kicked the quarter’s first goal to increase the home team’s lead. At the 12-minute mark Brandon Matera fumbled a ball in attack for the Dockers; and the Roos transferred quickly to big forward Ben Brown, who skillfully set up a soccer style kick for goal by Jy Simpkin. Two additional quick goals to Kayne Turner and Shaun Atley saw the Roos one point in front, at the main break.
Cam McCarthy snapped an angled goal within a minute of the resumption of play, to give the Dockers an early third term lead. Then Roos veteran big man, Jarrad Waite, showed the younger players how it should be done. He gathered a loose ball in attack, took one step and kicked truly from 30 meters. The game then switched back to a dour 17-minute arm wrestle, as both teams battled to get hands on the slippery ball. At the 19-minute mark it was Waite again. He grabbed a strong mark against Docker defender, Alex Pearce, and kicked truly from 20 meters. Three minutes later the Roos’ other big forward, Ben Turner, took an excellent wet weather mark to kick a major from 20 meters.
Waite was in the action again at the start the last quarter when he received a hand pass from Shaun Atley, to kick his third goal. In wet conditions, things looked grim for the Dockers until veteran Michael Johnson launched a sixty meter bomb to split the big posts. Then Ed Langdon lit up the home crowd with an inspirational 100 meter run-down tackle of Roos' defender, Kayne Turner. The turnover saw the ball transferred to Nat Fyfe, who handballed in front of Michael Walters. Walters soccered the ball twice, both times under pressure, to register a brilliant wet weather goal.
The home crowd rose to fever pitch with the Dockers just three points down and fifteen minutes to play. In heavy rain Dockers’ ruckman Aaron Sandilands laid a shepherd-bump on Sam Durdin. An accidental clash of heads resulted in both players being concussed. The game turned. Without Sandilands in the ruck, Goldstein dominated ball-ups and the Roos gained the edge with clearances. A controversial non-decision by an umpire, when Docker defender Joel Hamling was pulled away from the ball, gave an easy goal to Roos’ midfielder Shaun Atley. Then the Roos’ big man, Mason Wood, kicked a major, after receiving a free kick which further incensed the home supporters.
At the 20 minute-mark Todd Goldstein celebrated his 200th game by putting the result beyond doubt with an excellent snap under pressure. Ben Brown booted the final goal, courtesy of a free kick and a fifty meter penalty, to hammer home the value of having big men in the forward line when the conditions get heavy.
Next week North Melbourne will try to remain in the top eight by defeating the Brisbane Lions at the MCG. The Dockers play Collingwood the following day, also at the MCG. The Dockers will be sweating on whether Sandilands will be fit enough to take on Brodie Grundy and the big American, Mason Cox.
Scores Fremantle Dockers: 3.4 5.5 6.8 8.10 (58) North Melbourne Kangaroos: 1.8 4.12 7.13 12.14 (86) Best Fremantle Dockers: Fyfe, Ryan, Walters, Langdon, Mundy North Melbourne Kangaroos: Jacobs, Cunnington, Waite, MacMillan, Atley
Article last changed on Monday, May 28, 2018 - 5:36 PM EDT