The Flag-mantle momentum is almost out of control.
Fremantle has taken down a premiership contender for the second consecutive week, defeating Brisbane at Optus Stadium thanks to another consecutive third-term blitz.
After struggling to handle the Lions’ early heat — Brisbane led by a lot as 14 points in the second term — the Dockers slammed on six goals to three in the third term then held strong in the fourth quarter to record a 14-point win, 15.9 (99) to 13.7 (85).
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The AFL’s best defense kept the game’s best attack to under 100 points for the first time in seven weeks.
QUARTER-BY-QUARTER MATCH REPORT
It was a tough arm-wrestle at the start of the match as Brownlow Medal favorite Lachie Neale was manned up by Docker Caleb Serong at the opening bounce. Ex-Docker Neale had a few early disposals, copping a few jeers from Freo fans as Will Brodie also spent time on him at stoppages.
After 10 minutes, the Lions were the first to hit the scoreboard, with Dan McStay grabbing the ball out of a forward 50 ruck contest and snapping a major off his left boot.
“It’s been a real arm-wrestle. Both teams are still feeling each other out,” Collingwood legend Nathan Buckley told Fox Footy.
The Dockers got the quick response as 203cm ruckman Lloyd Meek showed great athleticism and snapped Freo’s first major.
But the Lions’ elite pressure forced another forward 50 stoppage and a goal to small defender Keidean Coleman, who pushed up high to influence the scoreboard.
And when Charlie Cameron added his team’s third major minutes later, the Lions had kicked out to a 13-point lead at quarter-time.
Fremantle’s quarter-time score of 1.1 (7) was its lowest first quarter this year and only the second time it’d given up more than two goals in an opening term this season.
But the Dockers recovered quickly, getting on top at clearance as Rory Lobb and Griffin Logue kicked two quick goals on the trot.
A scuffle then broke out between the two teams, with Luke Ryan’s jumper ripped and umpires working hard to separate the two teams.
“Things have got a little rugged here,” Fox Footy commentator Anthony Hudson said.
Fox Footy boundary rider Matthew Pavlich said: “The crowd are really into it. It’s deafening down here.”
As the situation calmed down, the Dockers settled better as James Aish streamed forward and kicked another goal to give the Dockers the lead.
The Lions then got one against the grain, thanks to a big contested mark and set-shot goal from Eric Hipwood.
“It’s been a very physical game, not a high-scoring game, but still great to watch,” triple premiership Lion Jonathan Brown told Fox Footy.
Hipwood had an opportunity to kick a second straight goal late in the quarter, only to miss to the right and ensure the Lions took a one-point lead into the main break.
Brisbane got the fast start in the third term, with a big Oscar McInerney hit-out leading to Cameron’s second goal from point-blank range.
The Dockers looked like they were about to get the quick reply as Travis Colyer launched a long shot at goal. But Griffin Logue’s selfless attempt to let the ball bounce through for a goal backfired, with the footy bouncing on its end and allowing Brisbane’s defenders to thump the ball through for a minor score.
“Oh he left it Logue – and he paid the price!” Hudson said.
Brown added: “Always take the mark. Don’t rely on chance there because the ball can come back. Don’t be unselfish in that moment. I can understand his mindset, but that is not the time to be selfish.”
The two teams went goal for goal. Caleb Serong kicked a goal before Zac Bailey responded then Michael Frederick marked strongly to keep Brisbane’s lead at one point.
But after Daniel Rich gave away a free kick, Bailey Banfield converted to put the Dockers in front before adding a second goal minutes later.
Then the Dockers got rolling as Rory Lobb converted a set-shot goal and Banfield snapped his third goal.
It was reminiscent of Fremantle’s third-quarter performance against Melbourne eight days prior, with the Dockers claiming another scalp in a third quarter blitz.
“It’s been a demolition,” Brown said.
Hudson said of the Lions: “The problems are mounting … They can’t take a trick.”
Bailey played almost a lonehand for the Lions in the third term, racking up 12 disposals and adding a late goal to reduce Freo’s lead to 17 points at the final change.
Michael Frederick gave the Dockers the perfect start to the fourth term, nailing a running goal to extend Freo’s lead to 23 points.
But Bailey then kicked his third before Lincoln McCarthy created a forward-50 turnover and snapped a goal to make it an 11-point game as Brisbane got back on top at stoppages.
Banfield then snapped his fourth before Bailey responded with his fourth major for Brisbane as the topsy-turvy nature of the contest continued.
The Lions continued to push late in the game, with Cameron, Cal Ah Chee and McStay all hitting the scoreboard. But more often than not the Dockers’ defense stood strong, with Luke Ryan and Alex Pearce thwarting many Brisbane attacking forays.
And when Lobb nailed a massive 55m set-shot attempt to kick his third goal, Fremantle had secured victory.
TEA 3-2-1 …
3. DIFFERENT FLAG CONTENDER OPPONENT, SAME RESULT
Another game, another Fremantle third-quarter blitz against a genuine AFL premiership contender.
If, for some reason, you were still a Dockers doubter prior to Sunday’s game against Brisbane, you surely would’ve been converted by the end of the third quarter.
The Dockers announced themselves as a genuine fancy flag last week after their epic third quarter against Melbourne at the MCG that saw them slam on eight goals to one.
On Sunday, the Dockers on their home deck blitzed Brisbane in the premiership quarter, kicking 6.2 to 3.2.
Collingwood legend Nathan Buckley said Fremantle’s third term was “as powerful footy as you’ll see”.
“It’s efficient, it’s role-focused … and they just keep turning up for one another,” Buckley said.
“It’s been pretty impressive.”
While Fremantle and Brisbane had a similar number of inside 50s for the term, the Dockers were far more efficient going forward while they defended their back 50 much better.
That’s because the Dockers did a lot of their damage from stoppages, winning the third-quarter clearance count 14-9, with Andy Brayshaw and Will Brodie having four each as they combined for 19 disposals for the quarter alone.
Fremantle prior to Round 12 were ranked 15th at scoring from stoppages. But they conjured 36 points from stoppages alone in the third term – the most ever stoppage scores in a quarter by the Dockers.
Even more remarkable was the fact the Dockers produced their club record against Brisbane, which is one of the best stoppage scoring teams in the AFL.
“It’s been a demolition,” Brown said.
“They have dismantled one of the best stoppage teams in the competition.”
Brayshaw showed tremendous leadership as he set the tone for his side at the coalface.
“The clearance work, particularly from Andy Brayshaw, has just been incredible to see how hard he’s working and how active he is around the stoppage,” Dockers legend Matthew Pavlich told Fox Footy.
“That’s where they really got back on top, in and around the ball.”
Buckley added: “He just does the simple things well. His work rate is through the roof.”
2. UNFAMILY FREO NAMES DO MAXIMUM DAMAGE
No Nat Fyfe, no Michael Walters, no Sam Switkowski, no Matt Taberner and no goals to Lachie Schultz.
That sentence usually would strike fear into the hearts of Fremantle fans, as finding the goals would’ve seemed like an impossibility.
But enter two unlikely cult heroes that just played the games of their lives.
In the thick of Fremantle’s third-quarter blitz was Bailey Banfield, who kicked three goals from four third-quarter kicks before adding another in the final term as he brought Dockers fans to their feet.
It meant the off-contract Banfield, a role player that started his career as a tagger and has struggled to cement his spot in Fremantle’s best 22 for years, finished with a career-high four goals in his 50th game.
While Banfield did the damage in the third term, Michael Frederick was the most influential Dockers scorer in the fourth quarter, booting two goals from eight disposals and five inside 50s.
“They aren’t household names … these are guys that are playing really important roles and winning games for a top-four side,” Buckley said.
But a familiar face did light it up inside 50 for the Dockers, with Rory Lobb producing a telling game.
Lobb finished with 3.1 – including the match-sealer in the fourth term from 55m out – from nine disposals and six marks (five inside 50, three contested).
Buckley said it was “as impactful a performance that I’ve seen from him (Lobb) for a while”.
1. LIONS’ EPIC EARLY PRESSURE
The fact Fremantle was able to produce such a dominant third term was made even more remarkable considering how impressive Brisbane was across the first half.
While the midfield numbers were even across the first term, Brisbane brought great heat and intensity, laying more tackles than the Dockers — particularly up the ground with eight forward-50 tackles — and creating 10 forward-half turnovers for the quarter.
Lions legend Jonathan Brown said club skipper Dayne Zorko set the tone.
“The big focus when you go on a big interstate trip is early pressure and taking the crowd out of the game,” Brown told Fox Footy.
“I thought Dayne Zorko was magnificent … he established the attitude of the team and I thought his teammates followed suit after that.
“They wanted to tackle and dump, they wanted to make a statement.”
Buckley added: “They were coming forward … Freo weren’t able to put two or three handballs together to find time and space for a ball user.”
Ultimately, the Dockers turned the tables on Brisbane and applied just as much heat on the ball carrier – and the Lions never truly recovered from there.
Brisbane could have locked in top spot on the ladder after the Demons suffered their second consecutive loss, at the hands of the Sydney Swans.
Instead, two losses in three weeks have the Lions struggling to hang on to second place and they host an in-form St Kilda at the Gabba next week before their bye.
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