Fremantle will be heading into September in 2022 after a 17-point win on Saturday night, but the same can’t be said for the Western Bulldogs.
In a performance that broke their streak of three games of less than 70 points, Justin Longmuir’s side had back the offensive flair that made them a premiership contender early in the year.
On the other hand, the Dogs’ defence has been an issue all year and it was once again at the forefront on Saturday evening.
Luke Beveridge’s side worked hard on offence but not nearly as hard back the other way. The Dockers have shot themselves in the foot in recent weeks with how slow their ball movement has been, but they were able to immediately advance more often than not.
The Bulldogs' fate is now in the hands of other teams in 2022, and Beveridge’s side is very unlikely to play finals this year.
Wholesome scenes as Josh Bruce kicks his first goal since returning from injury 😍
— Fox Footy (@FOXFOOTY) August 6, 2022
The performance left former Adelaide coach Brenton Sanderson very underwhelmed.
“Disappointing for the Western Bulldogs, they’re going to be defeated in a game that meant so much to them,” he said on *AFL Nation shortly before the final siren.
“In front of their home crowd, a travelling Fremantle side who are already in the eight. There will be a bit of soul searching tonight at Whitten Oval for this Western Bulldogs side, unfortunately.
“This was a game they just had to win, and they just couldn’t get it done.”
Fremantle took 78 marks for the opening half, well on track to reach their season game average of 94, and simply dominated in play, especially in the first half.
With the Dogs battling to stay in the contest midway through the second, Sanderson said: “nothing is going right for them in offence and their defence is letting them down again.”
Rory Lobb also returned to form after a quiet fortnight with three first-half goals among 4.2 for the night.
Matt Taberner was in a similar vein before being subbed out with a calf strain in the third term, a cruel twist given his lack of form in recent weeks and luck throughout the season.
The third quarter was an even one as the Dockers maintained the advantage, but the Dogs fought hard to never let the margin get larger than five goals, giving the contest a similar feel to Collingwood’s win over Melbourne on Friday night.
What a response from Nathan O'Driscoll ⚡
— Fox Footy (@FOXFOOTY) August 6, 2022
But when the Dockers kicked the first of the final term to move the margin back to 28 points with just eight minutes to play, that feeling, and the Bulldogs' finals hopes, all but evaporated.
The final margin reduced the Dogs’ percentage to just 107.9 per cent. If they are to play finals now, they’ll need dominant wins over both the Giants and Hawthorn and will have to count on Carlton, St Kilda and Richmond winning as few games as possible.
However, one positive out of the clash for the club was the debut of Sam Darcy.
The 2021 No.2 draft pick played across half back and looked like a seasoned interceptor at times, eventually finishing with eight disposals and six marks.
'I really liked it, he looks really good. He's had some really nice moments, taken a couple of big contested marks. He looks like a natural. We're set for a long career for him, he hasn't let the Dogs down today.'
– Brenton Sanderson on Sam Darcy's first half#AFLDogsFreo
— AFL Nation (@AFLNation) August 6, 2022
But for Fremantle, after their top eight credentials were questioned just this week, a double chance in September is right back on the agenda.
Longmuir’s men could sit anywhere between fourth and sixth come the end of Round 21, but the hope has been re-lit for finals success.
Western Bulldogs: 3.4, 5.5, 9.9, 11.12 (78)
Fremantle: 5.1, 9.4, 13.8, 14.11 (95)
Western Bulldogs: Naughton 3, Weightman 2, Bruce, Smith, Dunkley, Vandermeer
Fremantle: Lobb 4, Taberner 2, Frederick 2, Brayshaw, Schultz, Logue, O’Driscoll, Walters
Western Bulldogs: Dunkley, Liberatore, Bontempelli, Naughton, Richards
Fremantle: Ryan, Brayshaw, Serong, Clark, Lobb
Western Bulldogs: N/A
Fremantle: Taberner (calf strain)