AFL Round 3 – Fremantle v Essendon: One night, two games.


One night, two games.

Fremantle versus Essendon
6.40pm, Friday, 12 April
Subiaco Oval

Les Everett


With their coach caught up in either a career-ending, defamatory or highly-embarrassing drug controversy, the Bombers could go one of three ways. They could be wrung out. They could be inspired. They could be unaffected. As it turned out on this warm, drizzly, slippery Friday night in Subiaco the Bombers were all three.

Most of the first quarter was played in Fremantle’s forward line. Essendon were finding it hard to find room to move. Luke McPharlin, in his 200th game, was knocked out by a Paddy Ryder shirtfront, and substituted, but the defence had little defensive work to do so he wasn’t missed. After more than ten minutes of tackles, blocks and smothers Hayden Ballantyne slotted through a goal and then things started happening. The home team was 30 points in front at quarter time and it should have been more. One thing I noticed was that the Bombers took a lot of marks in their defensive 50. It didn’t seem significant.

The domination continued in the second quarter but opportunities to take the lead beyond 37 points were squandered. Matthew Pavlich, playing the worst game of his career, produced the worst kick of his career with one that went out on the full from 30 metres. Crameri finally got Essendon’s first but the Bombers were 36 points behind at half time and there was no sign that they were back in the game. If the coaches were looking for a positive message to relay at the break it was that things could have been a lot worse.

It took a minute for anyone to get a kick in the third quarter and the Dockers again had chances to go further ahead before things changed. The Bombers began to win the loose ball and, challenged for the first time in the game, Fremantle’s celebrated organisation became frayed. Jobe Watson, who was subdued by Matt de Boer in the first half, became influential, Brendan Goddard’s kicking became a factor, Crameri and Michael Hurley were looking dangerous in attack with McPharlin’s absence now a factor. The goals started coming. In defence Jake Carlisle was making life very hard for Pavlich with timely spoils, positional strength and surprising speed. Fremantle steadied towards the end of the quarter but Michael Walters and Ballantyne missed shots for goal and, incredibly, when three quarter time came the game was alive.

Essendon took their sequence to seven unanswered goals. It was no surprise to me to see Nic Kommer kick one in the last quarter. Kommer came to East Perth in 2011 via the Claremont colts and Scarborough amateurs. He went from sloppy enthusiast to annoying tagger to influential midfielder over two seasons and he was certainly someone who enjoyed making a difference in a close game.

Fremantle finally regained some kind of grip on the game and the lead but then a snap from Ryder snatched it back. A pleasant Friday night out had turned into a thriller but still it appeared the home team would get home. Pavlich willed himself into the game. Danyle Pearce kept popping up in range of goal and missing, defender Paul Duffield, who was poised and polished all night, got a shot for goal on line but it took a cruel leg break. Chris Mayne then scrambled a shot that hit the post. The Dockers kicked 2.7 in the last quarter. The siren went and somehow Fremantle hadn’t won the game.

Inexplicable losses at home hurt Fremantle during the Chris Connolly years. This one may prove costly but I think it won’t be typical of the new Fremantle. Visiting teams will find it’s hard to get a kick against the Dockers but they’ll also be taking note of the vulnerabilities in this well-coached team.

Essendon, meanwhile, looked this good last year until the much hyped – especially by Brian Taylor on TV –fitness regime unravelled. The chances are that same problem will ruin this season too – in unprecedented ways.

There will be a lot of reflection going on at the Essendon Football Club. One of the observations of former ASADA boss Richard Ings on the 730 Report must be ringing in their ears.

“I’m really very surprised that the parties involved were not sitting down with ASADA and presenting ASADA with the programs that they had in mind to make sure that they were absolutely above and beyond and complied with the World Anti-Doping Agency code.”

If only.





Fremantle 5.3 7.5 7.7 9.14  (68)
Essendon    0.3 1.5 6.10 10.12 (72)

Fremantle: Mayne 3; Walters, Fyfe 2; Ballantyne, Duffield

Essendon: Crameri 3, Hurley 2, Heppell, Howlett, Kavanagh, Kommer, Ryder


Fremantle: Fyfe, Duffield, Walters, Ballantyne, Barlow, Griffin

Essendon: Carlisle, Goddard, Watson, Hurley, Hibberd, Crameri, Dempsey, Hooker

Umpires: Margetts, Farmer, Mollison

Official crowd: 35,963

Our Votes: 3.Carlisle (E) 2 Fyfe (F) 1Goddard (E)






About Les Everett

A Footy Almanac veteran, Les Everett is the author of Gravel Rash: 100 Years of Goldfields Football and Fremantle Dockers: An Illustrated History. He is the WAFL correspondent and uses the money he makes from that role to pay for his expensive websites and and fund the extravagant Vin Maskell at


  1. Good, well tempered report Les. Not sure if the Hawks left a little of their ‘play hard in the first half and the game will be yours’ dust on the ground, left over from their game against the Cats but there were eerie similarities. And both against oppositions playing for their freakin lives.

    I’m still not a fan of your new coach’s style. It shits me actually. A lot of last nights game was a low grade rugby match. When it flowed as the Bombers allowed it to in the second half then the viewing got a whole lot better.

    Freo may have 3 shots at goal in the top 5 worst shots come seasons end.


  2. Rick – I’m with you. Always like to see the team that aims to kick 8 goals and win, lose to a team that aims to kick 15 plus goals. Ross (get stuffed) Lyon may suffer the same heartbreak at Freo as he did at the Saints because he strangles games; he doesn’t set up to win them.

    Bombers were mighty last night. Full credit.

  3. Very fair report Les. The game was low scoring because it rained most of the day in Perth. The ball was very greasy before half time and that made ‘first grab’ ball handling difficult.
    Personally I had a lovely evening. Got home and sat down to do my footy tips. My head said Freo, but I thought “I couldn’t bear to spend 3 hours hoping that mob win.” So I ticked the Bombers box in all my tipping comps, and enjoyed the game and the shiraz thoroughly.

  4. Ken Richards says

    I’m with you Dips. I can’t stand the Rossball style. Pleased to see the Dockers lose this, reducing their chance to secure the opportunity of playing a preliminary final in Perth.
    For the rest of us, it looks likely that Rossball is maybe just too flawed to win a GF. Rossball playing teams can dominate their opponents for long periods, but the style prevents them maximizing the benefits of that domination. The effort takes too much out of the team, they can (and have) been run down. The longer the season goes, the more they are worn down. Exhibit A Saints 2009. Exhibit B Saints 2010. Exhibit C Dockers v Adelaide 2012.

  5. nathan jarvis says

    Nice report, Les.

    “Rossball” may be difficult to sustain for all four quarters of all 26 rounds, but playing on the degree of emotion Essendon are playing on has the shelflife of liquidised pork brain extract in the sun.

    Suspensions to Ryder and Kommer will be the beginning of the inevitable slide.

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