AFL 1 year ago

A Docker Shocker: Fremantle Bounce Back From Horror Week, Upset Reigning Premiers

  • A Docker Shocker: Fremantle Bounce Back From Horror Week, Upset Reigning Premiers

    PERTH, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 08: Robert Murphy of the Bulldogs leads his team from the field after being defeated during the round three AFL match between the Fremantle Dockers and the Western Bulldogs at Domain Stadium on April 8, 2017 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

Western Bulldogs    1.3     5.6     10.12    10.13.73
Fremantle                   4.4     6.7     8.10      13.11.89


Western Bulldogs: Hunter 3, Murphy 2, Bontempelli, M. Boyd, Stringer, McLean, Johannisen
Fremantle: Walters 3, Kersten 2, McCarthy 2, Mundy 2, Crozier 2, Weller, Grey

Alex Docherty's Best

Western Bulldogs: Dahlhaus, Macrae, Liberatore, Hunter, Suckling, Murphy, Bontempelli
Fremantle: S.Hill, Mundy, Fyfe, Hamling, Crozier, Sandilands, Walters

The last time the Western Bulldogs lost an AFL game was Round 23, last year. That loss came at the hands of the Fremantle Dockers on their home deck that is Domain Stadium. On Saturday night, history repeated itself as the Fremantle Dockers caused one of the biggest upsets in 2017 so far, downing the reigning premiers by 16 points at Domain Stadium, breaking a six-game winning run that was started at the very same venue.

After enduring a horrendous week, starting with a thumping at the hands of Port Adelaide to the tune of 89 points last Sunday evening, and then with Ross Lyon and the playing group facing intense scrutiny from several media outlets during the week, Fremantle made six changes to the team and as a result, looked like a completely different team from the first bounce. The pressure they applied, reminiscent of the Fremantle side that won the minor premiership.

They kicked the opening four goals of the match and by the 13th minute of the first term, were up on the champs 26-0. The pressure from the Dockers caused the Dogs to make such uncharacteristic errors. From fumbling the ball all around the ground to horrific disposals, the Bulldogs looked sluggish in the opening term, much like last week. Lachie Hunter got the Dogs going with his first goal at the 18th minute of the game, but the Dockers continued to maintain their momentum up until the quarter time break, but misses to Lachie Neale, Hayden Crozier and Michael Walters could've had the Dockers ahead by more.

But from the moment Cam McCarthy goaled a minute into the second quarter, the Bulldogs wrangled momentum back with four goals on the trot in a dominant second quarter. They had 48 more possessions and six more inside 50 entries than the Dockers. Even with last year's finals hero Liam Picken sustaining a vicious concussion midway through the quarter, the Dogs had the game on their terms, but losing Picken would prove to be a critical blow for them later on in the game. Marcus Bontempelli's goal in the 17th minute mark of the second quarter would tie the scores up momentarily before the Dockers held steady to take a seven-point lead into the main break.

The Bulldogs, led by their captain Robert Murphy, would double their half-time tally of 5.6 in what was another quarter dominated by the away team, recording 14 more inside 50s and 24 more possessions, but if not for the wayward shots on goal, it could've been a whole different outcome. The Bont would miss a couple of shots on goal, whilst Murphy, Toby McLean and Lachie Hunter would all miss difficult shots on goal, but with the Dogs taking a 14-point lead at the final break, it looked liked Fremantle's race had run.

But the Dockers had other ideas. From the moment Ex-Geelong forward Shane Kersten goaled inside the first minute, the Dockers made a serious charge, led by veterans that needed to stand up and deliver, namely David Mundy, Stephen Hill and Michael Walters, Fremantle dominated the final quarter, registering over 50 more disposals and 13 more inside 50s than the Dogs on top of kicking five goals in the quarter and only allowing the Bulldogs to register a solitary behind, the Dockers recorded their first win of the 2017 season in stunning fashion. 

If I could sum up the Western Bulldogs night with one play, it would've been Easton Wood's intercept mark, only to turn it over with the corresponding kick to David Mundy, who would go back and kick the set shot to put the Dockers ahead by the match-winning 16-point margin, and by the final siren, Most of the 28,865 strong at Domain Stadium were up and roared up a frenzy.

The skills of many of the players were completely deplorabale, and many have been quick to jump on the team for such a bad performance - claiming this was the 'premiership hangover'. What I saw on Saturday night, was an over-confident Western Bulldogs team that expected to get an easy win over opposition that hadn't been much chop for over 12 months and were completely abysmal last week, but it was in fact the Dogs that got chopped up by Fremantle's tackling, their pressure on their ball carriers and their run and spread when the Dogs consistently turned it over. It was perhaps the kick in the pants that Luke Beveridge's men needed as they the Doggies are now outside of the eight at the end of round three.

Leading The Way

The Western Bulldogs only had two players who recorded 30 possessions or more. Luke Dahlhaus had a team-high 31 disposals, and battled hard all evening long and Matthew Suckling had 30 disposals, six marks and four inside 50 entries. Lachie Hunter was important early, kicking the Bulldogs' first three goals of the match, and while he faded in the second half, he still finished with a respectable 26 disposals and six marks.

After accumulating 30 tackles in the first two weeks of the season, Tom Liberatore probably had an off-night in terms of matching his 16-tackle performance against the Swans last Friday night, but still had a solid performance, with 28 possessions, eight tackles and seven clearances. Jack Macrae was also solid in the middle, recording 26 disposals, nine tackles and six marks and Marcus Bontempelli overcame a slow start and a heavy tag from Connor Blakely to finish the game with 24 disposals, six tackles, five marks and a goal.

Captain Murphy willed his side into the lead in the third quarter with a pair of goals to go along with his 20 disposals and seven marks for the match, Jason Johannisen probably wasn't as influential as his 29 disposals might suggest, but he kicked a vital goal in the third quarter and worked hard for four quarters  as did Lin Jong, who had 24 disposals, six marks and four clearances.

The Opposition

What else can I say about Freo? In a way, they looked like the side that went all the way to the 2013 Grand Final and finished on top of the ladder a couple of seasons ago. Six changes were made from last week's disgusting performance in Adelaide, and to say that it worked a treat would be an understatement. 

Each of the six inclusions had a hand in the win. Rookie-listed Brady Grey had only four AFL games to his name prior to Saturday night, but showed he has what it takes to make it, kicking the opening goal of the match, and finishing with 19 disposals, six marks, five inside 50s and five tackles. Hayden Crozier was dangerous inside attacking 50 and finished with two goals from 20 disposals when it could've easily have been more. Tommy Sheridan (16 disposals) and Ethan Hughes (11 disposals) were servicable and had their moments, whilst debutants Harley Balic and Griffin Logue looked as if they were right at home, Logue in particular took a few impressive intercept marks in Fremantle's defensive 50.

Whilst the kids impressed, Fremantle's veterans starred. Captain Nat Fyfe naturally led the way for Fremantle with 33 disposals, seven clearances, six tackles and five marks, and had plenty of support all night long. Stephen Hill was sensational with 33 disposals, four clearances, four marks and four tackles, whilst having Fyfe's predecessor as captain David Mundy playing predominantly as a half-forward proved to be a brilliant move, he finished with 30 disposals, seven marks, seven tackles, five clearances and two goals.

Former Bulldog defender Joel Hamling had a terrific first game against his old side since his trade from the reigning premiers. He started with a number of intercept marks in the defensive half and by full-time, he kept Travis Cloke scoreless as well as playing a big role in keeping Jake Stringer quiet. Other Dockers that played well included Aaron Sandilands, who was dominant in the ruck (42 hitouts, 15 disposals, five clearances), ex-Hawk Bradley Hill (25 disposals and eight marks) and 2016 best and fairest winner Lachie Neale (30 disposals, four marks, four clearances).

Next Week

The Bulldogs will be a part of history on Friday as they play North Melbourne in what will be the first-ever AFL match to be scheduled on Good Friday. 

It should be a good encounter. These two teams played off twice last season with both sides sharing a win each. This year however, with a number of veterans now out the door at Arden Street, this young Kangaroos team have yet to win a game this year, with their fourth quarters a major concern, but in all three games they've showed that they won't be pushovers by any means. 

The stage is set for a big Bulldog bounce back on Good Friday.

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