Melbourne re-established its top-two credentials with a 12.13 (85) to 5.9 (39) win over a hapless Fremantle side at Optus Stadium on Friday night.
Dees looked the part above from the opening boo and took their chances up front to find the Doctors looking for more time.
It will give the Dees a much-needed boost of confidence ahead of a tough run home, with the Dockers’ top-four hopes now under serious threat.
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There were no late changes on either side. Bailey Banfield (Fremantle) and Kade Chandler were medical substitutes.
Simon Goodwin told Fox Footy’s pre-match Angus Bryshaw that he would spend time in the middle as his side opted for a “slightly different” look.
The rain at the start of the game made for a thrilling affair, but it was Melbourne who burst out of the blocks, applying plenty of pressure and hitting the scoreboard with three straight back-to-backs.
Des’ first goal came after a good move from the back and Christian Petracca set up Kisiah Pickett.
Bailey Fritsch followed with a smooth finish off his left boot, as Des recorded 10 inside 50s in Fremantle’s two first overs.
Charlie Spargo appeared to clear the fingertips of the Dockers defenders just inside 50 and the ensuing review was inconclusive, leading to D’s third goal.
The Dockers finally began to turn the tide, with back-to-back goals (by Michael Frederick and Michael Walters respectively) making the margins more manageable.
Another Fritsch goal put the Dice up 14 points at quarter time.
The Dice got off to a good start in the second quarter, but Petracca suffered a major setback due to an off-ball challenge on Sean Darcy.
Petracca runs into Darcy after the act and confronts the actor both physically and verbally.
James Jordan and Ed Langdon kicked the opening two goals of the quarter to extend the Des’ lead and a controversial free kick to Jack Vinny for high contact sent the Dockers fans into a frenzy.
There was plenty of back-and-forth for Dorr’s case, but that run was broken late in the second period by Jake Melksham’s goal, which stretched the lead to 33 points.
Melbourne went into halftime with a 37-point lead.
Fremantle opened the third term in better fashion than the first and second, but missed chances hurt the side.
With Fritsch and Weidemann really kicking in front of goal, it’s worth more in relative motion.
Spergo’s goal brought the score to 41.
The Tens led by 42 points at three-quarter time.
Melbourne extended their lead in the last over to add to their percentage, with the Dockers looking meek and moving forward.
THE 3-2-1 (by Kathryn Healy)
3) A double-edged sword in racing
Melbourne is a must-win for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the ladder controversies.
Fremantle was one of the sides after a top-four and top-two spot, so Melbourne had the chance to take matters into their own hands and they certainly did on Friday night.
Going into the game, the Dice were coming into their third tough run of the tournament at home, needing to go 3-1 to take advantage of their top four hopes, let alone two.
That tie will now be 2-1 after his impressive performance against the Dockers.
Keeping the Dockers to this low point would give them another boost in percentage share, strengthening their claim for a top-two spot.
Above all, if This The Des’ version has been seen in the last three rounds against Collingwood, Carlton and Brisbane, with a chance to end the season with a decent win.
Then there’s Fremantle.
The Dockers’ play looked disintegrated in the damp and losses in those conditions dimmed the hopes of the duo, let alone the top-four.
Going into the game, the Dockers led the top four with a 4-0 record and had the best chance ever with a 3-1 record.
The loss in Melbourne means they cannot afford to lose to the Western Bulldogs in Melbourne next week.
Games against West Coast and the Giants are more winnable to close out the home-and-away season, but they’ve left themselves very little room to get in from here.
2) Wine comes as a ‘wrecking ball’.
Melbourne were criticized for their pressure in the blockbuster clash at Optus Stadium.
But from the first swing, the Demons showed a strength that had been missing in recent weeks.
Viney collected 18 rebounds in the first half — nine of them contested.
He is a forceful player on the ground in numbers and had six tackles to add to his dominance.
Fox Footy’s Nick Riewoldt said the Demons “physically dominated” the Dockers on Friday night and were able to “bounce off the back” of Vinnie’s tough start.
“You can look at the system and everything – it’s always going to be about effort and strength,” he said.
“They look fired up.
“Jack Viney, there was a breaking ball in that first quarter and the rest of the boys jumped behind and they pulled away.
Gary Lyon was full of praise for Vinny’s impact on the tournament.
“Your side is in a bit of a joke and they are looking for a way out of you. “One of the criticisms leveled at you is that your pressure levels are low and you’re not heavy enough on your feet,” he said.
“(Vinny’s effort) is everything they’ve been criticized for not doing.
“That’s what you want in a time like this.”
Jonathan Brown said Viney was like a “wrecking ball” against doctors.
He finished the night with 33 tackles (16 competitive) and 9 assists.
1) Dockers Duo is not easily available
For the third week in a row, Fremantle’s forward line failed to fire.
Rory Lobb returned to the lineup on a rainy night in Perth and had no effect on the race.
Commentator James Brayshaw said Lobb’s fellow striker Matt Taberner had a “terrible night”.
The duo had zero points in the opening half 50.
Doctors only had two goals before Michael Walters scored the 2nd goal.
Commentator Jude Bolton said the Dockers needed more from Lobb and “didn’t like” some of the efforts he was giving them.
“When the ball comes to the forward 50, you have to be able to put your name on the footy and launch the ball,” Rory Lobb said.
“You have to be able to ride in it and have some life.”
Lobb was behind “one of the worst kicks” Brian Taylor had ever seen.
In the final season, he missed a five-yarder on the wing before the ball went out of bounds.
“He looks at his hands and tries to blame them – your mate is you!” Taylor was disappointed.
Fox Footy’s Nick Riewoldt was critical of Fremantle’s efforts.
“Fremantle was stunned. “They didn’t rise to the occasion when Melbourne was organizing,” he said.
“I was disappointed by the response.
“They looked nervous.”
Commentator Matthew Richardson says he doesn’t think Fremantle can win the Premier League title in 2022, while Luke Hodge says their style of play doesn’t create finals-like pressure.
Their use of the ball will be blocked. They can’t hit him, they can’t move him,” he said.
Taberner finished the night with six touchdowns and only one back, while Loeb had eight.
We feature Fremantle v Melbourne on our blog below.
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