Fremantle has won its first match in four rounds and kept its top-four hopes alive while making the Western Bulldogs' finals quest all the more difficult with a 14.11 (95) to 11.12 (78) win at Marvel Stadium on Saturday.
Justin Longmuir’s side might not finish the weekend there, but they are now guaranteed of a finals spot for the first time since 2015.
Rory Lobb kicked four goals for the match, all from outside 50 – and all from set shots off a flurry of short steps – taking his career-best season to 34 goals from 18 games.
After being held to just five goals across four quarters by Melbourne last Friday night, Fremantle kicked that many by quarter-time to record its highest first-quarter score of the season.
Freo had eclipsed their score from last week just four minutes into the second quarter when Lachie Schultz slotted a goal and finished a dominant first half with 58 points on the board – the second highest of 2022 – on the back of 61 more uncontested possessions and 44 more uncontested marks.
It threatened to get ugly for the Western Bulldogs when Andrew Brayshaw kicked the opening goal of the second half and Freo led by 29 points but then Aaron Naughton and Cody Weightman kicked clever goals to give the Bulldogs a pulse.
Every time the Dogs made a move, Fremantle countered to maintain an advantage at the final change after both sides kicked four each in an entertaining third quarter.
Naughton returned to form with three goals, while Josh Dunkley was the most dominant midfielder on the ground, finishing with a game-high 32 disposals, six clearances and a goal.
But it wasn’t enough.
After three weeks without a win – and only two wins from the past six weeks – Fremantle has reignited its season with another impressive win on the road.
Fremantle have thrived away from home in 2022, especially in Melbourne and especially at Marvel Stadium. They have now won six games and drawn another – that memorable Friday night game against Richmond in round 19 – breaking their previous best haul of five wins outside Western Australia in 2013.
Fremantle has struggled to kick goals of late – they were ranked No. 13 for points for after 20 rounds – and hadn’t registered triple figures since round eight, but they found form under the roof in Docklands.
Matt Taberner kicked two first-quarter goals and provided a key target inside 50 before being substituted out of the game in the third quarter with a calf issue, while Michael Frederick kicked three goals.
A SNEAK PEEK OF THE FUTURE
It was only fitting that the son of a gun made his highly anticipated debut in the retro jumper. After arriving at the Whitten Oval with a stress fracture in his foot, Sam Darcy was finally unleashed after building form in the VFL across nine games. The 2021 No. 2 pick became the latest Western Bulldogs’ father-son recruit to play – the sixth at the kennel right now – at the highest level, following in the footsteps of his famous father, Luke. He started with an intercept mark four minutes into the opening quarter and showed glimpses of his marking ability behind the ball, finishing with eight marks and 10 disposals.
DAVID MUNDY RETIREMENT
'Mundy four hundy' was a dream many Fremantle supporters had before Monday when games record holder David Mundy announced he is walking away from the game at the end of this season. Such has been his form in 2022, many thought the 37-year-old would go on for another year and have a crack at becoming just the sixth player in VFL/AFL history to play 400 games. That won’t happen, but the veteran midfielder produced another strong showing in what could potentially be his final game in Melbourne.
WESTERN BULLDOGS 3.4 5.5 9.9 11.12 (78)
FREMANTLE 5.1 9.4 13.8 14.11 (95)
Western Bulldogs: Naughton 3, Weightman 3, Bruce, Dunkley, English, Smith, Vandermeer
Fremantle: Lobb 4, Frederick 3, Taberner 2, Brayshaw, Logue, O’Driscoll, Schultz, Walters
Western Bulldogs: Dunkley, Smith, Naughton, Liberatore, Macrae, Weightman
Fremantle: Ryan, Lobb, Serong, Clark, Chapman, Brayshaw
Western Bulldogs: Nil
Fremantle: Taberner (calf)
Western Bulldogs: Toby McLean (unused)
Fremantle: Liam Henry replaced Matt Taberner
CROWD: TBC at Marvel Stadium