The Fremantle Dockers were favorites to beat a young Carlton Blues team, but somebody forgot to tell Carlton.
The AFL competition in 2017 has so far been littered with upset results. Perhaps, with the exception of Brisbane, any team is capable of beating any other team on their day; such is the closeness of the competition. The difference between a win and a loss is more often measured in ounces of desperation rather than bundles of skill.
The visiting Blues got the early jump on the Dockers, who appeared complacent and lethargic in the first quarter. With Ed Curnow dominating in the midfield, Carlton had their first goal after six minutes of sustained attack. This unrepelled attack was more luck than design, when Carlton half-forward Kade Simpson kicked long to see the ball bounce into youngster Zac Fisher’s arms. Fisher finished with aplomb to score his second goal in only his fifth game. The Blues showed belief and gave the Dockers a sharp lesson in desperation and purpose. When heavy rain swept the ground at the 9-minute mark, Carlton surged further ahead and the Dockers, were forced to hack the ball forward rather use methodical attack. The Blues, on the other hand, showed much greater composure by patiently moving the ball sideways across the ground, before finding an opening to attack. By the end of the wet first quarter the Blues had stunned the Dockers by kicking 4 goals. The Blues had led contested possessions 41 to 27; and had made 15 forward entries to the Dockers’ tally of six. Only a late goal from Bradley Hill, who sprinted from the wing to kick truly from fifty meters brought some semblance of competitiveness to the Dockers’ scoreline.
In the second quarter the Dockers moved Nat Fyfe from a forward position to the midfield, where he combined with David Mundy and Lachie Neale to give Fremantle more drive from the center. Aaron Sandilands seized control in the ruck and assisted the three Fremantle midfielders to get on top of Carlton's Charlie Curno, Bryce Gibbs and Marc Murphy. The clearance rate for Fremantle improved. In the slippery conditions, the game then turned into an arm wrestle with both teams finding the major opening difficult to hit. Shane Kirsten scored an early goal for Fremantle, off a free kick, and then Gibbs notched one for Carlton. Crozier replied for the Dockers; however, it took another 16 minutes for the stalemate to be broken when Crozier scored his second consecutive goal. The signs were then ominous for Carlton when the Dockers added two more at the end of the quarter to be just two points behind the visitors. To make matters worse for Carlton, Dale Thomas was hit by friendly fire and suffered concussion and Sam Rowe injured his knee. Carlton were down to just two interchange players just as the Dockers began to hit their straps.
Carlton’s group of young players are about a year behind the Dockers’ young brigade in experience. It began to show in the second half. The bigger bodied Dockers were able to push the inexperienced Blues off the ball and control the game. Carlton added two more goals in the second half but the Dockers finished strongly to add eight. The Blues did not give up trying but they lacked the horsepower to back up their experienced players, Ed Curnow, Sam Docherty, Marc Murphy, Bryce Gibbs and Matthew Kreuzer. Jack Silvagni continued to show glimpses of enormous promise and Patrick Cripps can now be rated as one of Carlton’s elite players. However, they could not stop the diminutive Michael Walters who put in a brilliant third quarter for the Dockers, kicking three goals and putting the game beyond Carlton’s reach. Walters’ 40 meter chase and tackle of Lachie Plowman, which resulted in Walters' second goal, was a highlight of the game.
The improving Dockers now find themselves sitting fifth on the ladder, a position they would have thought impossible after the thrashings they received in their first two games of the season. There is an evenness across the team with all players contributing and a good balance of experienced and young players. There is a belief in Australia that teams which play well in the third quarter have the goods to go all the way. Which is why the third quarter of a game is sometimes called the premiership quarter. In the third quarters of their past six games, the Dockers have scored 27.22 to their opponents 9.18.
Next week the Dockers travel to Adelaide to play the Crows who have returned to strong form and sit on top of the ladder. The Dockers cannot afford a slow start against the Crows. Carlton will head to Etihad Stadium to test themselves against the improving North Melbourne Kangaroos. There are no easy weeks in this competition.
Scores Fremantle Dockers 1.2 5.4 10.7 13.8 (86) Carlton Blues 4.4 5.6 6.9 7.9 (51) Best Fremantle Dockers: Neale, Walters, Blakely, Johnson, Sandilands Carlton Blues: Gibbs, Murphy, E Curnow, Docherty, Cripps
Article last changed on Monday, May 22, 2017 - 7:55 AM EDT