Even without four top-flight players, Fremantle managed to simply get the job done as they ran out 45-point winners over the Gold Coast Suns at Metricon Stadium on Saturday night.
It was a cruise control match for the Dockers, who kicked the first four goals of the match, strangling the life out of the young Suns who were riddled with the storybook skill errors and missed opportunities plaguing them from being more competitive in season 2013.
The Suns could not figure out the jigsaw despite winning the disposal count (348–333), clearances (43–31), contested possessions (139–138) and going inside 50 an equal 45 times, with Suns’ coach Guy McKenna describing his side’s poise as ‘non-existent’.
Gold Coast defenders Jarrod Harbrow (32 disposals) and David Swallow (20 disposals) were prolific off half-back, while youngster Jaegar O’Meara continued his strong development with a game-high nine tackles.
For Fremantle, it wasn’t so much individual performance but an even contribution across the Dockers’ 22 that saw them constantly keep the Suns at bay.
Outside a four-goal performance from small forward Michael Walters and three goals to ruckman Jonathon Griffen, only three Dockers, in Garrick Ibbotson, David Mundy and Michael Barlow, passed 20 disposals.
The battle between Gary Ablett and Ryan Crowley was perhaps the most interesting contest of the night.
In a relationship of historical frostiness – Ablett called Crowley a joke over Twitter in response to the Docker’s defensive tactics – the Suns’ captain gave away three first-quarter free kicks all resulting in Fremantle goals.
The Suns’ captain responded in magnificent fashion, arguably winning the contest and finishing with 28 disposals (21 of them won in contested situations) and a goal.
Yet in a side missing Aaron Sandilands with a hamstring, Matthew Pavlich with an achilles, Nat Fyfe, who is suspended, and Stephen Hill, who has done his quad, the Dockers did what they do best – harassed, tackled, competed and eventually won.
Speaking post match, McKenna praised the Dockers for giving his young side a lesson in pressure. ‘Fremantle are the boa-constrictors of the AFL,’ said McKenna. ‘We spoke about pressure and we spoke about poise prior to the game and, ultimately out of that, if you do that well, you might get some respect because you might knock over a top eight side.’
McKenna said while his team could train to absorb the suffocating pressure enforced by Fremantle, the only way to truly learn was during matches. ‘It’s a different game against Fremantle and that’s what they want to try to do. That’s the ultimate challenge I think: it’s being able to play your brand of football longer than the opposition.
‘When we got it, if you blinked, you missed our lack of poise because we turned it over or gave dopey free kicks away and they’re able to play their game for longer.’
With only a handful of matches they could realistically win, the Suns will travel to the MCG next Sunday afternoon to face the Demons for an intriguing contest.
Final Score: Fremantle 14. 15. (99) defeated Gold Coast Suns 8. 6. (54).