Fremantle have made another big statement of claim on this year’s premiership after playing rope-a-dope with the Brisbane Lions – absorbing punishment in the first half, then putting on a scintillating display of counter-attack to prevail by 14 points in Perth, Bailey Banfield playing his best game with four goals and the electric Michael Frederick kicking three.
This was a match fitting of the heavy advance billing. The Lions and Dockers entered this match second and third on the ladder respectively, midway through the season. It looked and felt like a taste of September – the intensity was high, the Perth crowd partisan, the feeling between the two clubs more than willing.
Andrew Brayshaw was heroic for the Dockers, his two-way running and leadership a model for his teammates. He finished with 39 touches, his elite hands crucial in setting up James Aish for a rare, raking shot on goal to give Fremantle the lead after Brisbane had made the early running. Aish, , also had a brilliant game.
The Lions dominated early. The most attacking team in the competition brought extra energy to their defence – winning the contested ball and forcing repeated turnovers inside their attacking half. But converting that dominance on the scoreboard against the watertight defence of the Dockers was another matter.
By half-way through the second quarter, the Lions had thrown everything they had against the home side, for a narrow lead. They had mounting injury concerns, with captain Dayne Zorko coming off with what looked like badly split webbing on his hand. Darcy Gardiner’s night ended early after taking a heavy blow in the back.
Quickly, the Dockers came at them. Rory Lobb stood tall for his first big mark to get them rolling, and Griffin Logue bobbed up for just his second goal in AFL football, thanks to another beautifully weighted Brayshaw kick. But Brisbane steadied, Eric Hipwood returning fire.
There was just a point in it, the defences of both sides dominant. Lions ruckman Oscar McInerney spiked the first bounce of the second half to the half-forward line, and the ball fell perfectly for Charlie Cameron’s second. Caleb Serong found the quick reply after roving a stoppage at full pace.
Now the game opened up, and it was Fremantle who took control. Will Brodie had a purple patch in the centre, and it was Banfield – so often the Dockers’ medical substitute this year – who reaped the spoils with three clever goals. Lobb soon had another, his power and impact far greater than his stats suggested.
There was a bizarre moment, too, with Logue allowing a seemingly goal-bound kick by Travis Colyer to bounce through, only to see the oval ball rebound on its end for the Lions to clear. It was a mistake, but one that typified the Dockers’ selfless approach. And it was the Lions, with all their options in attack, who were struggling to find a way through.
The class of Zac Bailey was their most potent threat – his four second-half goals kept the Lions in touch until late. But the longer the game went, the more they struggled to get any rebound, with the Dockers dominant in the air – no one more so than Lobb, whose third goal to seal the deal sent the Optus Stadium crowd into raptures.
FREMANTLE 1. 1 4. 3 10. 5 15. 9 (99)
BRISBANE LIONS 3. 2 4. 4 7. 6 13. 7 (85)
GOALS – Fremantle: Banfield 4, Lobb 3, Frederick 3, Logue 2, Aish, Serong, Meek
Brisbane Lions: Bailey 4, Cameron 3, McStay 2, McCarthy, Hipwood, Ah Chee, Coleman
BEST – Fremantle: Brayshaw Brodie Frederick Aish Banfield Young. Brisbane Lions: Bailey Neale Rich McCluggage Zorko Rayner.
INJURIES – Brisbane Lions: Zorko (hand), Gardiner (back).
UMPIRES Gavine, Hosking, Meredith
CROWD 47,214 at Optus Stadium
A Brayshaw (F) 9
W Brodie (F) 8
M Frederick (F) 7
J Aish (F) 7
B Banfield (F) 7
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