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Jamie Kloeden reporting for AFANA from AAMI Stadium, Adelaide, Australia

With a win, either Adelaide or Fremantle would be heading to the hallowed turf of the MCG to meet the high flying Hawks in a Preliminary Final. A loss would mean a disappointing end to the season where getting so close would be no consolation. With the end of each season come retirements and Crows’ veteran and their oldest listed player Michael Doughty, has already announced that this is his last season. He certainly played this game like a man who wasn’t ready to finish up. The other old hand back in the Adelaide defense, Ben Rutten, has earned his fair share of criticism for not being the player that he was in past seasons and he too looked like he had a point to prove while going head to head with the Dockers’ in form superstar Matthew Pavlich.

As they did in the first final against Geelong, Fremantle jumped out of the blocks and got away to a super start. Chris Mayne was the early target and got two quick goals before the stunned Adelaide crowd had a chance to know what had hit them. Two further goals to Michael Walters saw Fremantle dominate the first quarter with the Crows having just the solitary goal courtesy of Jason Porplyzia as inaccuracy in front of goals cost them dearly. Ross Lyon appeared to have his Dockers in rare form and looking unstoppable.

Early in the second quarter, the Fremantle lead had gone out to 29 points after Mayne and then Hayden Ballantyne kicked early goals. Rutten was keeping Pavlich out of the play but the ruck work of Aaron Sandilands, along with the midfielders at his feet, created multiple forays forward and the Dockers were finding plenty of avenues towards goal. Towards the end of the first half, a change came over the game as the Crows started to lift across the ground. While Sandilands was still winning the ruck contests, Sam Jacobs was beginning to curb his dominating influence and in turn the Adelaide midfielders were seeing more of the ball. Taylor Walker took a mark just before the half time siren sounded and the resultant goal lifted the roof off AAMI Stadium. The Crows finally had something to give them confidence going ahead. The half time margin was back to just 13 points and although Fremantle still looked the team to beat, there were very good signs that an Adelaide comeback might be on the cards.

What happened in the third quarter though must have caught even the astute Ross Lyon off guard. Taylor Walker stood up and began to play possibly his best game AFL football. After kicking the last goal of the first half, he kicked the first two of the second half and later in the quarter finished off a magnificent passage of play by setting up Kurt Tippett for yet another. During this time Matthew Wright also added a goal for Adelaide and although Nathan Fyfe pegged one back for Fremantle, the Taylor Walker show looked likely to send the Crows to victory.

Finals have a habit of producing twists and turns and Lyon activated his substitute Nick Suban during the three quarter time break. This proved a masterstroke as Suban goaled within the first minute of the quarter bringing the margin back to a one point Dockers’ lead. Pavlich momentarily broke free of Rutten and goaled from long range to push the lead out to seven points and suddenly the Crows fans were worried that a second consecutive finals loss at home was on the cards. Their worries were short lived however. Bernie Vince received a handball and kicked a long goal, Porplyzia continued his strong game with a goal to put the Crows back in front and then it was left to Walker to finish off with his fourth and fifth goals to push the margin out to 16 points with only minutes to play. Fremantle’s Walters kicked his third a minute later but it was all too late. The Crows were able to hold possession for the last minute and move into their first Preliminary Final since losing to West Coast in 2006.

A last minute injury to Jared Petrenko has him in doubt for the clash with Hawthorn while first year defender Sam Shaw will be a definite non-starter after injuring his hamstring in the first quarter. There will be some big decisions to be made by coach Brenton Sanderson this week at the selection table. For Fremantle, the signs are there for a big season in 2013. They managed a great second half this year which had them playing a good brand of team football under Ross Lyon. Their only two losses over the final 13 games were to the Crows. The Fremantle faithful will be hopeful of another Finals campaign and while a long way away, the club’s first ever Grand Final appearance seems a realistic goal.

Adelaide: 1.3 4.7 8.9 12.9 (81)
Fremantle: 4.1 7.2 8.4 11.5 (71)

Best players
Adelaide: Walker, Rutten, Scott Thompson, Porplyzia, Smith, Doughty
Fremantle: Mundy, Johnson, Barlow, Walters, Sandilands, Duffield, Fyfe

Article last changed on Saturday, September 22, 2012 - 9:08 PM EDT

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