The Dockers are returning to the finals for the first time in seven years and their first mission was last year’s decisive elimination of the Bulldogs as runners-up.
Fremantle (15-6-1, 117.0%) will be without Nate Fay heading into this clash, but have proven to be on plenty of occasions this year without their star captain, most notably in the first half of the season with a 9-0 lead. 3.
The Bulldogs (12-10, 108.9%) entered the final by the skin of their teeth, but all that mattered to Luke Beveridge’s men was what they did. They will have to overcome Tom Liberatore’s (hamstring) significant loss to advance to the semi-finals, though.
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Tonight’s winner will face the loser of Geelong-Collingwood in next week’s first semi-final at the MCG.
This game kicks off at 8:10pm AEST from Optus Stadium.
Quarter-by-quarter match report
The first quarter
The Dogs got off to a good start after Marcus Bontempelli took advantage of an inside 50 chance.
The Dogs had further half-chances to extend their lead but were unable to capitalize on the opening half, winning most of the game.
Meanwhile, every time Doctors tried to move the ball to 50, they could not complete their game completely.
Channel commentator Wayne Carey said: “They’ve been wasteful on their feet in Fremantle.”
Jason Johansson scored 14 points for Luke Beveridge’s side to jump ahead in the contest.
With Fremantle’s backs now well and truly on the wall, Sam Darcy made it three in a row for the visitors.
“This has a different feel than the other three finals. A lot more control and composure in the early stages,” Saints great Nick Dal Santo said. AFL Nation.
Bontempelli kicked another goal for the Dogs – his second of the quarter – to keep the Snowmen on course, but Cody Weightman added another before the end of the term.
“It’s getting out of hand early for Fremantle,” Channel 7 commentator Alistair Nicholson said.
The Dogs took a 34 point lead into quarter time 5.5 (35) to 0.1 (1).
The Dogs picked up right where they left off in the second term, including a goal from Josh Dunkley to extend the lead to over 40 points.
“It’s amazing, the Dogs have just taken all the oxygen out of the Fremantle game. This is such a commanding performance from the Western Bulldogs so far,” Nicholson said.
Jay Amis looked certain to stem the flow of Doctors, but was unable to convert a buried shot from point-blank range.
“The pressure is on,” Burgoyne said after the mistake.
They are doing whatever they want online.
Michael Walters then played on the mark inside 50 and ran over the kick as frustration continued to build around Optus Stadium.
“Grab your dictionary and look up the word gloom, and you’ll see a picture of the people of Fremantle at the moment, which is very sad for them,” Nicholson said.
Walters finally broke the Doctor’s deadlock with four-and-a-half minutes to go before Andre Bryshaw followed up with a long-range bomb to make it two in a row.
The tide had really turned from that point, with Freo continuing to push the quarter distance aggressively.
It included a fantastic goal from Caleb Serong, who converted a shot after the buzzer to end the Amis swing.
The Dogs took a 15-point lead into quarter time, 6.6 (42) to 4.3 (27).
“It’s a strange scene at Optus Stadium – the Dockers looked dead and buried at quarter-time, but they breathed life into this competition big time,” Hawks legend Jason Dunstall said on Fox Footy.
Johansson scored the opening goal of the third term to make a big impact in the first leg of the return and was a vital presence after the first half ended for the Dogs.
But the Dockers kept their momentum and responded through Rory Lobb to make it a 16-point game.
Walters joined in with another major as the home crowd fired up when all the momentum was with Fremantle.
“The purple army exploded around the Optus Stadium in record numbers – this side[was]looking at the end of the season defeat … what a character,” Nicholson said.
Loeb made it three in a row – and his second of the quarter – and the Dockers were coming at an almighty pace.
“Awesome change, everyone is out of their seats. Earlier there were cries of despair, now there is hope that springs from hope. What a struggle.”
The Dockers wasted two chances late in the period, but still took six points into the final change, 7.11 (53) to 7.5 (47).
Fremantle controlled the ball early in the game and eventually leveled the scores at Optus Stadium with Amis deep inside the 50.
Bryshaw had a chance to put Freon ahead but his shot from distance went wide. However, the hosts kept coming, with the Dogs giving Rory Logue a 50m kick forward – effectively completing a 47-point run.
“All up for the Dockers … what a performance,” Nicholson said.
Channel 7’s Hamish McLachlan called: “Anyone writing scripts this weekend has done the same job.
The Dockers weren’t done there as Walters capitalized on an Ed Richards turnover to score another goal to extend their lead to 11 points as the home crowd erupted.
“Can you believe what’s going on at Optus (Stadium)!?” McLachlan shouted.
Roark Smith responded with a late layup for the Dogs to bring it to six points and set up a dramatic finish.
But Fremantle were doing everything they could to get them out and Nathan O’Driscoll scored from the boundary to restore the lead to 12 points.
Watch it live on Fox Footy (Channel 504) from 7.30pm AEST.
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