The North Melbourne Kangaroos survived a late surge by the Fremantle Dockers to record a thrilling one-point win. The Kangaroos led for the whole match and survived having a free kick against them close to the Dockers' goal, as the siren sounded. The umpires declared that a clearing kick from Norths' defense, crossed the boundary line after the siren sounded, and therefore could not be deemed a deliberate kick out of bounds. The umpire closest to the action then signaled the end of the game. The decision will be debated for some time and is similar to the conclusion of a game played by the Dockers in 2006 in Tasmania. That game is now referred to as "sirengate". The umpire in that controversial game did not hear the siren and allowed the game to continue for two extra minutes. The Dockers lost the lead in those two minutes. The AFL later overturned the result and handed the win to the Dockers on appeal. In this game the umpire signaled the end of the game after the ball crossed the line, however the siren sounded fractionally before the ball was out of bounds; and the Dockers can't have it both ways.
The Kangaroos deserved the victory. They were hard at the ball from the opening bounce and shocked the more fancied Dockers by springing to an early four-goal lead. The Roos took advantage of their early set shots whereas the Dockers were inaccurate with theirs. Two goals to Nick Larkey and one each to Tom Powell and Jaidyn Stephenson had the home team on the back foot. Fremantle found some rhythm towards the end of the first quarter and late goals to Michael Frederick and Sam Switkowski brought them back into the game.
The second quarter was more of a contest as Fremantle competed strongly around the ground. However, it was a quarter for the defenders. Apart from a goal to the Roos' Curtis Taylor and then one later to the Dockers' Lachie Schultz, there was little cheer for either side. Cameron Zurhaar gave plenty of drive for the Roos in the middle of the ground, but the Roos were unable to get past a Docker defense led by Liam Ryan and Alex Pearce. Andrew Brayshaw completed some inspirational work for the Dockers, but Jack Zeibell and Harry Sheezel (playing his second game) defended with purpose. The Dockers did their forwards no favors with their delivery into the forward line. Most Docker attacks were long high kicks which were easily punched away in the warm humid conditions.
The Roos opened the third quarter brightly with Jye Simpkin scoring an early goal. Veteran North Melbourne ruckman Todd Goldstein had the better of his direct opponent Luke Darcy, but Darcy had the support of Luke Jackson to also win taps, so the ruck contest was roughly even. The difference though was in the clearance rates, where Luke Davies-Uniacke, Ben Cunnington and Zuhaar had an edge over Will Brodie and Andrew Brayshaw. With the Roos getting first use of the ball more often, the Dockers were frequently chasing. When working from defense the Roos used short 'chip kicks' up the spine of the field, which reduced the effectiveness of the defensive pressure of the Dockers' small forwards. Both teams added three goals in this quarter which left the Roos with a useful lead of 20 points.
An early goal to Norths' Nick Larkey, set the bar higher for the expected home-team comeback. Michael Walters kicked his second for the Dockers at the thirteen-minute mark, but Larkey responded with his fourth for North two minutes later. When Luke Davies-Uniacke booted a long bomb from fifty meters the visitors seemed home. The Dockers refused to yield and two successive goals to Jaeger O'Meara; and a quick snap to Brennan Cox rewarded the Dockers for their increased mid-field pressure. The tense last two minutes of the game were hectic. North flooded the Docker forward line with players to stifle the resurging Dockers. A tactic that ultimately proved successful. Saved from a knockout 'by the bell' and a win on points. In this case one point.
Next week the Kangaroos, who finished at the bottom of the table last year, have the opportunity to rack up their third win when they meet the struggling Hawthorne Hawks in Hobart, Tasmania. The Dockers remain at home to meet the West Coast Eagles in a game the Dockers must win to begin their climb up the ladder. A loss to the Eagles would be a disaster for the out-of-sorts Dockers.
Scores Fremantle: 2.3 3.6 6.8 10.12 (72) North Melbourne: 4.1 5.2 8.6 11.7 (73) Best Fremantle: Ryan, Serong, Brayshaw, Aish, Cox North Melbourne: Davies-Uniacke, Sheezel, Zurhaar, Ziebell, Cunnington
Article last changed on Saturday, March 25, 2023 - 7:56 PM EDT