Chris Kowald reporting for AFANA from Optus Stadium, Perth
The Fremantle Dockers’ have narrowly defeated the Adelaide Crows, and left a big question mark over last year’s Grand Finalists. With a challenging draw in the second half of the season, the injury hit Crows will need a dramatic change of fortune to make the finals again. The Dockers, like the Crows, were not at full strength.
The home team fielded eight players with less than fifteen games experience as well as another four players with less than fifty games under their belts. Despite this lack of experience, the young Dockers withstood a desperate last quarter challenge from the Crows to post a dramatic victory.
The game was a cracker! The Dockers started strongly. A well-placed kick from Michael Walters allowed Bailey Banfield to run into an open goal square to excite the home crowd. The Crows responded three minutes later with Eddie Betts roving a tap from a throw-in, as only Eddie can. His anticipation and lightning reflexes turned a group of nine players into spectators as he flashed between them to score from point-blank range. However, Eddie’s magic didn’t transfer to the rest of his team. They looked hesitant in the swirling, windy conditions and whenever they fumbled the ball there were two or three Dockers circling by to make them pay. A missed mark at half back by Adelaide's Josh Jenkins bounced to Dockers’ defender Shane Kersten, who handballed to Walters.
Walters’ pass hit Ballantyne on the chest and he booted the Dockers’ second from fifty meters. Four minutes later, a passage of play further underlined Adelaide’s problems. Rory Atkins inexplicably left the ball behind him as he was about to launch an Adelaide attack from the wing. It was scooped up by Dockers’ rover Lachie Neale, who set in motion a chain of hand passes, as the young Fremantle midfielders worked the ball through a nest of Crows. It came back to Neale who then booted into attack. The ball came to ground and Docker forward Brennan Cox, playing his sixteenth game, knocked it to Walters who handballed to Tommy Sheridan who slotted an outstanding goal from the boundary line. Amazingly, this final part of play occurred within two or three steps of five Adelaide players, including the experienced trio of Josh Jenkins, Bryce Gibbs and Rory Atkins.
Fortunately for Adelaide, they regained their composure in the second quarter with Matt Crouch, Richard Douglas and Bryce Gibbs taking advantage of Sam Jacob’s ruck dominance to work Adelaide back into the game. The Fremantle midfielders were unable to sustain the pressure they applied in the first quarter. Wayne Milera gave the Crows plenty of movement off half back and Josh Jenkins (two goals), Richard Douglas, Sam Gibson, Taylor Walker and Eddie Betts provided a steady stream of goals to have the Crows in front at the main break. Joel Hamling and Alex Pearce took turns to keep Adelaide's Taylor Walker under wraps.
The game turned again in the third quarter. The Dockers’ Adam Cerra, playing his eleventh game, was moved to half back. The fifth pick in the 2017 draft used his uncanny ability to read the play and effective delivery of the ball, to pick apart the Adelaide midfield and initiate repeated Docker attacks. He was well supported by Ed Langdon who used his pace to disrupt Adelaide’s attempts to regain control. Adelaide defender Paul Seedsman played a strong quarter and his good work saved the Crows from further damage.
The final stanza developed into torrid battle of defenses. Both teams used two spare men in defense. Large packs milled around the ball as it was switched around the ground. The deadlock was momentarily broken when Hugh Greenwood took a flying mark over Nathan Wilson. His kick for goal brought Adelaide within striking distance with seventeen minutes to play. Adelaide continued to push into attack and Eddie Betts missed shots he would normally make. The Dockers upped their pressure on the ball carriers and the Crows couldn’t break free. With eleven minutes to go, Walters chipped a pass to Brennan Cox, who marked and kicked his fourth goal for the Dockers. Adelaide played with desperation, but the young Dockers laid more tackles and won more contested possessions than their tiring opponents. A kick after the siren by promising player, Myles Poholke, gave the Crows some minor consolation; but not the four premiership points for the win they desperately needed.
Next week Adelaide head to the MCG to meet Hawthorn. The losing team will drop off the pace, in the race for the finals. The Dockers head to the closable roof environment of Etihad Stadium to meet the Carlton Blues. The Blues see the game as a genuine chance for a second win. The Dockers will be looking for their first win on the road.
Scores Fremantle Dockers: 5.2 5.6 9.8 10.11 (71) Adelaide Crows: 1.4 7.6 7.9 9.14 (68) Best Fremantle Dockers: Neale, Cerra, Blakely, Cox, Hamling Adelaide Crows: Gibbs, M Crouch, Seedsman, Milera, Douglas
Article last changed on Tuesday, June 12, 2018 - 12:22 PM EDT