A weekend of enthralling finals football culminated in a stunning elimination final comeback by the Fremantle Dockers, to knock the Western Bulldogs out of the 2022 competition. The Bulldogs, who played in last year's Grand Final, were left stunned by one of the greatest comebacks seen in a modern final. The Dockers pulled themselves off the canvas and delivered a knockout in front of a record 58,982 parochial fans.
It was the Dockers' first final appearance for seven years and the very first final for eighteen of their players - and it showed. The Bulldogs dominated the first quarter as the Dockers delivered their best impression of a deer caught in headlights. Young and seasoned Docker players alike fumbled and miskicked, as the finals-hardened Bulldogs got to work with their trademark game of applying intense heat around the ball and manic forays forward. It took just two minutes of play before Marcus Bontempelli took a well-judged mark (catch), to turn and boot the Dogs' first goal. The Dogs dominated the midfield with a frenzied attack on the ball featuring Toby McLean, Bailey Smith, Jack Macrae, and Josh Dunkley. The Docker defenders withstood the relentless siege until the seventeen-minute mark when Bailey Smith kicked a raking ball to Jason Johannisen, who marked and kicked truly from close range. The flood gates then opened as Sam Darcy, Bontempelli, and Cody Weightman added three more. The Dogs had not only owned the ball, they out-tackled the Dockers 24 to 16 on the way to booting five goals (6 points each) and five behinds (a point each) from their eighteen forward entries. The Dockers ten entries yeilded just one behind.
The home side stopped the flood in second quarter, but when Josh Dunkley snapped the Dog's sixth goal after eight minutes of play, the Dockers were 41 points down. When the Dockers' Jye Amiss hit the post from point blank range and Michael Walters missed a shot, it looked like the Dockers' day was getting worse. However, led by the ruck dominance of Sean Darcy, and the grit of Andrew Brayshaw and Caleb Serong, the Dockers began to break even in the midfield battle.
The Dockers' first goal came in time-on, courtesy of a free kick to Walters. Serong won the next center clearance and Michael Frederick used electric pace to handpass to Brayshaw who kicked truly from fifty meters to register the Dockers' second major. The comeback was on. Five minutes later Serong gathered the ball from a stoppage to run past two defenders and snap the Dockers' third. Teenager Jye Amiss, had come back from a serious kidney injury and a fifteen-week break to play his second league game on this big stage. With seconds remaining in the quarter, he marked and calmly slotted a goal after the siren to bring the Dockers within fifteen points at the main break.
The third quarter began with an early Bulldog goal to Johannisen who cleverly snapped after receiving a Weightman handpass. The Dockers kept the pressure on the Dogs and Blake Acres began to assert himself for the locals on the wing. When he combined with the pacey Frederick, Rory Lobb took a strong mark and converted to ignite the boisterous home crowd. The Dockers' small forwards harassed and tackled the Bulldog defenders into errors, finally allowing Michael Walters the opportunity to scoop the ball with one hand and snap an inspirational goal. At the other end of the ground Alex Pearce dominated the Bulldogs' big forward Aaron Naughton, who was held scoreless for the match. Pearce along with fellow defender Brennan Cox shut down multiple Dog attacks. A brilliant tackle by Jordan Clark on Bulldog big man Alex Keath turned the ball over and finished with a Lobb mark and goal. The experienced Bulldogs dug in for the last half of the quarter to halt the Docker charge and maintain a one-goal lead.
The Dockers dominated the midfield in the final quarter and the Bulldogs grimly battled to save their season. With sixteen minutes to play a perfect pass from Hayden Young was marked by Amiss, who slotted his second goal to level the scores. Two minutes later the Dockers' Griffin Logue marked fifty meters from goal, Laitham Vandermeer controversially infringed on the mark and gifted Logue a fifty meter penalty and goal; which gave the Dockers the lead for the first time in the match. The Dogs refused to yield but the Docker defenders held them out. With twelve minutes to play, Frederick came from nowhere to run down Bulldog defender Ed Richards. The ball spilled to Walters and the Dockers were up by eleven points. The desperate Dogs pushed forward yet again, and Roarke Smith took a spectacular horizontal mark and kicked truly to bring the Dogs within five points. In response, Dockers pushed forward and a tackle by youngster Nathan O'Driscoll on the Bulldogs' best player, Josh Dunkley, was rewarded. O'Driscoll's laser-like set shot from the boundary line boosted the Dockers' lead to two goals. Despite the best efforts of the Bulldogs, the Dockers retained possession for the final eight minutes of play and shut the game down to win a memorable victory.
Next week, the Dockers travel to the MCG to play the Collingwood Magpies for a spot in the Prelim finals. Like the Dockers, the Magpies have made a name for themselves by winning close games. The Magpies began their resurgence earlier in the season by beating the Dockers at the MCG and will start favorites against a team that has only played once this year at the 'G'. Stay tuned.
Scores Fremantle Dockers: 0.1 4.3 7.5 11.7 (73) Western Bulldogs: 5.5 6.6 7.11 8.12 (60) Best Fremantle Dockers: Serong, Brayshaw, Walters, Pearce, S Darcy Western Bulldogs: Dunkley, Bontempelli, Daniel, Macrae, Hunter
Article last changed on Monday, September 05, 2022 - 6:20 AM EDT