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.
The Hawthorn Hawks came to Optus Stadium as the underdogs but their game plan pushed the home team for most of the match. The Dockers had to work hard for the win as the Hawks applied heat around the ball and almost beat the Dockers at their own game. Fremantle welcomed back captain Nat Fyfe after a ten-month absence due to injury.
Fyfe was in the action at the first bounce down, knocking the ball from the Hawk's Sam Mitchell, which was gathered by Caleb Serong who kicked long to tall forward Rory Lobb, who marked (caught the ball) and booted the opening goal for the Dockers after just thirty seconds of play. Despite Dockers' ruckman, Sean Darcy, having the better of Hawthorn's ruckman Ned Reeves, the Hawks were able to get movement away from stoppages through solid clearance work by Conor Nash and Jaeger O'Meara.
The Fremantle Dockers absorbed a first half attack from the Brisbane Lions, to set up a third quarter break-away and run out victors by fourteen points in a pulsating game at Optus Stadium. The match had everything that makes Australian football so watchable: high marks (catches), strong tackles, open attacking play, lighting quick handpasses, sweeping transitions from defense, and skillful goal kicking. Brisbane started in a ferocious manner, intent on putting the Fremantle play makers under pressure at every opportunity. The Lions laid more tackles and won more contested possessions than the Dockers in the first half and got away to an early lead. It wasn't quite rope-a-dope, but the Dockers' game mirrored those of an experienced boxer; absorb everything that your opponent can throw at you; and then when the time is right - lay a flurry of counter punches to win on points.
The Collingwood Magpies delivered the Fremantle Dockers a lesson in wet weather football at Optus Stadium. It is the second week in a row the Dockers have floundered in rain and raises questions as to whether their high-pace, high-skill game can be adapted to wet and slippery conditions. The Magpies played traditional wet weather football where they gained territory at all costs, whether it was by kicking the ball forward along the ground or simply just knocking it forward with a fist. The Dockers played their high possession game, which fell apart with skill errors in the conditions and gifted Collingwood several goals through sloppy turnovers.
The first quarter was even with both teams booting two goals in the sodden conditions. Darcy Cameron took a solid wet-weather mark after using strength on Sean Darcy to boot the Pies' first goal. At the other end Rory Lobb kicked truly after being awarded a free kick for having his arms chopped in a marking (catching) contest. Sam Switkowski put the Dockers in front with a clever shot from the boundary line, before Brody Mihocek soccered a goal from close range for the Magpies, after a quick transition from defense.
The Fremantle Dockers played the complete team game to be convincing winners over the Carlton Blues at Optus Stadium. Both teams started cautiously by playing along the boundary lines when defending and attacking. The Dockers’ ruckman Sean Darcy had a slight edge over Carlton’s Marc Pittonet at bounce downs but Carlton’s midfielders Patrick Cripps, Sam Walsh and Adam Cerra combined well to give Carlton first use of the ball. The Carlton tactic was to kick long and high to their twin towers in attack, Charlie Curnow and Harry McKay. The Dockers lined up with three tall men in the last line of defense with Alex Pearce, Brennan Cox and Griffin Logue intent on punching the ball to prevent marks (catches).
The first quarter was an even tussle, with Matthew Owies snapping Carlton’s first goal when the ball hit the ground after a ruck contest in the forward pocket. The second goal brought Curnow into the game when he marked a centering kick from Jack Martin and kicked truly. Pittonet injured his knee in a ruck contest and retired from the game, which then gave Darcy the chance to dominate in the ruck.
The Saint Kilda Saints celebrated their first win in Perth since 2012, by outplaying and then outgunning the Fremantle Dockers. The Dockers were expected to win, but St Kilda surprised the locals with their attack on the ball and then took over in the third quarter, as Max King came to life and booted four second-half goals.
The Dockers started well by kicking accurately in the opening quarter with goals to Rory Lobb, Travis Colyer and Michael Walters. The windy conditions didn’t initially suit St Kilda who, despite matching the Dockers in the mid-field, were sloppy in attack and registered just four behinds (worth a point each). Lobb provided a high-flying target for the Dockers who consistently used the boundary to launch attacks. Saint Kilda pushed attacks straight for goal, from wherever they could win the ball, but their kicking was consistently astray.
In a hot autumn afternoon when the mercury sat at 89 degrees as the game opened, the Greater Western Sydney Giants wilted and allowed the Fremantle Dockers to run out easy winners. It was only the Dockers’ kicking inaccuracy that saved the Giants from a complete belting. To make matters worse this was the first time since 2013 that the Giants have lost their two opening games. The Giants started with strong intent in an opening spurt, which saw Jacob Hopper swoop on a loose ball and kick truly to open the Giants’ account within the first minute of play. However, from there it was the Dockers who got players to the contested ball to outnumber the Giants in packs. The Dockers won contested possessions 145 to 113 and then outran the Giants in open space to rack up 278 uncontested possessions to 113. The Giants simply did not have the desire to work hard in close and appeared not to have the will to run with the Dockers when the ball found open territory.
The GWS Giants have awoken from a form slump to stamp themselves as genuine contenders. After consecutive losses to Sydney and West Coast, the Giants finished their three match tour of the Western Australian hub with a thumping victory over the Fremantle Dockers. The Giants were too big and too strong around the ball for the Dockers and up forward Jeremy Cameron shook off his indifferent form to boot four majors.
The Fremantle Dockers recovered from a spirit sapping post-siren loss to Carlton last week to shut down the Sydney Swans. The Swans won their last match, against the Greater Western Sydney Giants with attacking play, and the Docker defenders were determined to close them down. The Docker defense, with their three best defenders in stands due to injury, was again the story of the night. Though this week the ending was more to the Docker fans' liking. Brennan Cox and Luke Ryan had 11 marks (catches) between them and when they couldn't mark, they spoiled their opponents marking chances. The two main Docker defenders were well supported by Nathan Wilson, Reece Conca and Ethan Hughes. The Swans made 43 attacking entries but were only able to boot two goals. At the other end of the field, the Docker forwards didn't have it all their own way either, managing just eight goals from 34 entries.
The Fremantle Dockers "out-hawked" the Hawthorn Hawks at Optus Stadium in a game that signaled the turning fortunes of the two teams. The young Dockers played a traditional Hawthorn game plan, hard at the contest when the ball was in dispute but controlling the tempo of the game when they had the ball in hand. The Dockers were patient in setting their attacks and used their plan of retaining possession and moving the ball across the ground, until an avenue of attack opened. It was a dour struggle between the backlines as the defenses for both teams held firm for most of the game. The difference between the two teams was the tenacity of the young Dockers' attack on the ball supported by their ferocious tackling.