On Saturday, Fremantle left its home of Perth to stake its claim on this year's finals series. After a shaky record at home this season, the Melbourne skyline was a welcome sight. 

The Dockers beat North Melbourne at its Arden Street home and booked a ticket to just the second preliminary final in their history, having won their last six games in Melbourne. 

Their 2022 season to date can be split into three phases: hub, home, and finals. For five of its first six games, Fremantle was based in a Victorian hub, jetting over after a Western Derby win to open the season, and returning home after a narrow loss to the Kangaroos in Tasmania. 

Once at home, the Dockers played four key games, a 42-point win over Carlton, a narrow loss to ladder-leaders Adelaide, an historically heavy defeat at the hands of a rampaging Melbourne and finally a 37-point victory over Gold Coast to close out the home and away season. 

Across these contrasting phases, the side's method of attack and forward structure changed in key ways. 

 

Record 

Avg Points For 

Avg Points Against 

HUB (Games 1-6) 

5W / 1L / 187.3% 

41.8 

22.3 

HOME (Games 7-10) 

2W / 2L / 88.0% 

33.0 

37.5 

FINALS (QF) 

Win 

69 

31 

06:17 Mins
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Our journey to the finals

Take a look back at the highs, the lows and everything in between as we embark on our fourth consecutive finals series.

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Phase One: Hub 

During the first six games of the season Fremantle led the competition for tackles, averaging 74.2 per game, leaning heavily on the pressure game it has become known for in recent years. This pressure forced poor ball use and turnovers from the opposition, and from that the Dockers moved the ball inside 50 with ease, averaging 36.7 per game - the second most in the competition. 

Despite maintaining territory control, and piling on the inside 50s, the side was not quite as damaging in attack as it might have been. Scoring a goal from just 15.5 per cent of its inside 50s, they went at a conversion rate of 37.8 per cent. In that time, 58.2 per cent of their score was coming from turnovers, and the remainder born from stoppages. 

Nevertheless, when the Dockers returned to Western Australia for a week of quarantine, they sat comfortably within the top two. 

READ GEMMA BASTIANI'S GABBY O'SULLIVAN FEATURE HERE

Phase Two: Home 

Once home it was fair to assume Fremantle would continue its winning ways, and it started out that way against Carlton in round six but coming up against premiership contenders Adelaide and Melbourne in consecutive weeks, the side was caught out - albeit with the caveat of limited player availability in the latter. 

In this phase of its season, Fremantle's clearances and inside 50s fell away, averaging just 18.8 and 23.3 per game compared to the previous phase's 26 and 36.7. With attacking opportunities nearly halved, its average score fell by more than a goal per game, while conceding 15.2 points more. 

In this time the Dockers were relying far more on scoring from turnovers, making up 69.7 per cent of their score. 

With the home and away season at a close, they had fallen to fifth on the ladder and tasked with an away qualifying final. 

04:50 Mins
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Match highlights | Qualifying Final v North Melbourne

The Kangaroos and Dockers clash in the qualifying final of the NAB AFL Women's competition

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Phase Three: Finals 

Come Saturday's qualifying final, in terms of scoring Fremantle reverted back to its early season form, piling on the goals, but the system with which it did so was somewhat new for the side. 

They handed North Melbourne its biggest loss in club history, kicked the highest score the home side has ever conceded and also scored through a record 10 individual goal kickers. This season the Dockers have enjoyed 19 different goalkickers - the equal most in the competition. 

 

 

HUB 

HOME 

FINALS 

Score sources 

(% of score) 

Turnovers 

58.2% 

69.7% 

55.1% 

Stoppages 

41.8% 

21.2% 

44.9% 

Kick ins 

0.0% 

9.1% 

0.0% 

Shot type 

(% of score) 

Set shot 

40.6% 

38.6% 

60.9% 

On the run 

23.1% 

39.4% 

18.8% 

Snap 

26.7% 

15.2% 

20.3% 

Mark play on 

2.8% 

5.3% 

0.0% 

Off ground 

2.8% 

0.0% 

0.0% 

Avg tackles 

74.2 

71.8 

47.0 

Avg clearances 

26.0 

18.8 

28.0 


Instead of relying on pressure, Fremantle played a game style that largely took away North Melbourne's uncontested ball, clean disposal control of play, choosing to play that way itself.  

The Dockers laid just 47 tackles - their lowest of the season - and used the ball at 66.5 per cent efficiency - their highest of the season. This systematic ball movement saw them setting up teammates in ideal positions in front of goal, as they scored seven goals straight from set shots, largely taken within 35m of goal on negligible angles. 

06:21 Mins
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Trent Cooper post-match | Qualifying Final v North Melbourne

Watch Fremantle's press conference after round 20's match against North Melbourne

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Post-game Head Coach Trent Cooper touched on his side's ability to regain structure ahead of the ball, and much of this was thanks to the return of Janelle Cuthbertson in defence. With Cuthbertson back, utility Aine Tighe was sent to the forward line and was able to maintain her place inside 50 presenting as a consistent option whenever the Dockers looked to attack. Even if outnumbered, Tighe was able to hold the ball up long enough for support to arrive, or neatly spot up a teammate in front of goal. 

Fremantle was able to not only spread the load across a record number of players but spread their source of scoring more evenly across turnovers and stoppages, making it far more damaging and unpredictable out of stoppages and from winning intercepts. 

In finals footy traditionally games become more contested, with tackling high and stoppages aplenty, but the Dockers have gone in the opposite direction in their first final.  

What is ominous, however, is the side's ability to apply pressure or expertly use outside ball when it is needed.