Fremantle maintain home ground advantage

With the finals die already significantly cast, this was the Round 22 encounter of most consequence to the combatants: home or away in Perth will always be vital to finals prospects.

Eleven inclusions to the Dockers side indicated the extent to which they’d staked their hopes on this game. Carlton had an army of fans praying to see a home final at long last. The stakes were high all-round.

With a collective 8 wins from their last 21 outings, you suspected confidence would be fragile in both camps, so the opening stanza was likely to be crucial.

Important to Carlton was finding an answer to man-mountain Sandilands. If ever an understudy had a chance to seize the spotlight, it was Robbie Warnock. He started promisingly with the first tap, which saw Murphy missing a shot mere seconds later. When a Betts tackle set up Waite, and then Murphy fed Simpson, the Blues had the quick start they sought, 13-0.

Fremantle weren’t deterred, and established an advantage at centre bounces in spite of Warnock holding his own. Only poor finishing stopped them from leading.

Absorbing pressure, Carlton struck on the counter attack, with Waite and Simpson both scoring again to establish a 10 point lead.

Perhaps conscious of umpires’ attentions, McPhee had waited for the game to settle before going to Judd. He immediately gave away a free for grappling. After that, he was largely to escape the umpires’ notice. Attention spans aren’t what they used to be, it seems.

Maybe the Blues were getting karmic payback for some of Carrazzo’s efforts through the season.

On the sound of the ¼ time siren, a De Boer shot just cleared the goal line, to see Freo close to 4 points, 4-2 to 3-4.

The Blues would have been relieved to lead a quarter played at much higher intensity than either side had been recently noted for. Worryingly, Carrazzo looked finished for the night with a dodgy hamstring.

The Dockers jumped out of the blocks in Term 2 and quickly took control. Warnock was managing to stop Big Sandi dominating, but Hampson struggled when he relieved him, and Freo started to find players free through the middle of the ground far too easily.

Walters found space through a forward pack to kick his 2nd, and when Grigg had the chance to reply for the Blues, his shanked shot would rate near the season’s worst. Waite had disappeared after a bright start, and all the Blues forwards were suffering from a lack of regular supply.

With his gliding runs, Stephen Hill is the epitome of a Rolls Royce footballer, and he threatened every time he gathered the ball, which was occurring far too often for Navy Blue liking.

The Dockers were calling the tune in general play, but from my admittedly biased perspective, they were also getting a fair run from the umpires during this period. It was no surprise to see Mayne goal from another free.

The Carlton defence had held up reasonably under sustained assault, and when Grigg cleared long for Garlett to score a late goal, the game was still alive on the scoreboard,  8-6 to 6-2 at the long break.

For the record, the free kick count stood at 18-11, Freo’s way. A more pressing problem still for the Blues was an inside 50 tally favouring their opponents 32-18.

Once again, too many Navy Blue jumpers weren’t contributing enough.

There was a lull in tempo early in the third quarter, only disturbed when Sandilands handballed straight to Judd in defence. His startled shot went wide.

Although the constant body contact around packs was obviously having an effect, Judd strived to lift his team, beginning a passage which eventually saw Henderson mark near the goal line to kick his 2nd. As the margin narrowed, Hill responded with a brilliant snap around the corner from the right pocket.

For all their efforts to claw their way back, the Blues couldn’t find a reliable path forward, and the Dockers reasserted control. Soon, the Carlton  defence was besieged again. It was a relief when they finally cleared a kick-out.

Johnson had started quietly for Fremantle, but was quickly gaining in prominence. When he was obviously held, his goal stretched the lead to nearly five goals.

¾ time saw the score 11-11 to 7-6. That inside 50 count still indicated clear Docker advantage, 47-28.

Murphy had been Carlton’s best, and he raised his team’s hopes by intercepting a handball and bouncing one through from long range to begin the final term.

Scotland had been moved forward, and his ability to win some one on one contests gave the Carlton forward line a semblance of structure. Simpson and Judd lifted along with Murphy, as the Blues regained control of the centre.

The Dockers were wobbling, as they anxiously surrendered the ball in midfield. Garlett was threatening, and a Simpson interception saw him close the gap to 11 points.

But when their side needed it, some of the Dockers impressive youngsters rose to the occasion. Hill took a fine saving mark in defence. Then Fyfe found Johnson for a steadying major. When Morabito took the ball from a clearance and goaled, the margin was out to 23 points again.

If Carlton was hoping Sandilands would tire after a month out, the big man refused to co-operate. If anything, his bulk became more telling as time wore on, and he was a constant menace when he went forward. His ability to follow up ruck contests by winning contested ball was vital.

Still Carlton came. Scotland gave to Ellard, who split the middle. In reply, Hill found the dangerous Mayne, who missed. Robinson was striving hard, but lacking a clean finishing touch. He snapped out on the full.

With the tempo now frantic, Garlett kicked a magnificent long goal on his left foot: the margin now back to 13.

With enough time remaining, a some blunders now saw Carlton’s window close. Eddie ran into an open goal and missed. Simpson marked the resultant kick-in, and passed to Robinson, who crucially spilled it. Henderson failed to see Judd clear, and missed Betts with an attempted pass.

Though Scotland and Gibbs combined to create a Betts goal, time was now running out, despite the Dockers continuing to surrender the ball in midfield.

Garlett desperately hacked a kick out of mid-air, but Broughton took a saving mark . Waite marked in the pocket, but the siren sounded as he missed to the left.

The Dockers were home by a solitary straight kick.

Though the Blues had charged hard, too much ground had been conceded earlier, when too few were left to fight the cause.

On the balance of the season, the Dockers deserved their win, and the home final it earned. Until injury struck, they’d been clearly a more consistent side than Carlton: two narrow wins against the Blues this season providing evidence to this. It’s been a fine effort from a young squad.

Despite their game fight back, Carlton now face a tough finals assignment away from home. Given their patchy second half of the season, it’s a fate they have probably earned. They have players who can make an impact, but not yet enough of them to sufficiently sustain against the better sides.

Depending on results, both sides may well be repeating the exercise next week. If that should occur, hopefully the contest matches this one.

Fremantle  3.4  8.6  11.11  13.15 (93)
Carlton  4.2  6.2  7.6  13.9 (87)

GOALS:
Fremantle: Hill 2, Mayne 2, Pavlich 2, Walters 2, Johnson 2, Ballantyne, De Boer, Morabito
Carlton: Garlett 3, Henderson 2, Simpson 2, Waite 2, Betts, Ellard, Murphy, Scotland

BEST:

Fremantle: Hill, Sandilands, Johnson, Pavlich, Mayne, McPhee

Carlton: Murphy, Judd, Simpson, Gibbs, Garlett

About John Butler

John Butler has fled the World's Most Liveable Car Park and now breathes the rarefied air of the Ballarat Plateau. For his sins, he has been a Carlton member for more than 30 years.

Comments

  1. Tony Robb says:

    JB
    It was poor finishing in general that hurt the Blues. Bombing it into the fwd 50 with no purpose. The big bloke killed us as did the maggots at times with pedantic decisons. Off to Sydney next Sunday which is probably better than the alternative of back to back WA trips. I might pop up the road to give it to the footie avatars from the eastern suburbs.
    cheers
    TR

  2. John Butler says:

    TR

    Agreed on the poor finishing. We’re playing some blokes (Armfield. Ellard, Joseph, Griggs, Carrazzo) for their work ethic and/or speed. Their disposal skills are lacking, so it’s the old robbing Peter…situation.

    Just not enough depth through the team to be consistently high level performers.

    Still, Sydney shouldn’t be an impossible task. Enjoy the ride if you take it.

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