It took yet another goal of the year contender, but Ebony Antonio was again the difference as Fremantle survived an almighty scare from the Western Bulldogs to remain undefeated in season 2022.
Against the run of play as the Bulldogs surged with the wind at their back, the Dockers utility kept the ball in play and kept her feet, sending the ball home on a tight angle and from distance as Fremantle ran out six point victors.
Fremantle captain Hayley Miller said post match Fremantle were “lucky to come away with the win” and the sentiment couldn’t ring truer of the 3.7 (25) to 2.7 (19) scoreline.
“I thought we were in real trouble at three quarter time and to the girls credit they fought it out really well,” senior coach Trent Cooper said.
“The backline put on their superhero capes and then Ebony Antonio with the goal, I thought it was better than her first one of the year or I enjoyed it more.
“In the last quarter, it would’ve been easy to say woe is me and things are going against us but the resilience of the group to produce that last quarter.”
A combination of Fremantle’s condensed schedule and the vigour of a team who have already been forced to postpone two games, the Bulldogs very nearly beat the Dockers at their own game.
Up against the number one clearance side in the competition, the Bulldogs won the statistic 31-19 and also strangled Fremantle’s route to goal.
“To the Bulldogs credit, they owned the corridor so every time we looked up, the players decided not to go there,” Cooper said.
Ellie Blackburn (19 touches, three clearances) and Kirsty Lamb (eight clearances, one goal) inspired their teammates in the midfield.
But the perpetual class of Fremantle pair Kiara Bowers (20 touches, 12 tackles) and Miller (18 touches, seven tackles) was enough.
The Dockers did themselves no favours, going goalless in the first and third quarters when they had what was described as a four-goal breeze, relying on Antonio’s slice of individual brilliance to cut though the Bulldogs press.
For the second game in a row, Fremantle dominated inside 50s (37-22) but Fremantle’s forwards were often caught out of position as Bulldogs defender Eleanor Brown continues to grow in stature.
Debutant Amy Franklin got her AFLW career off to a dream start with two goals in the second quarter, making the most of Fremantle’s patient ball movement against the wind.
The first came via a 50 metre penalty but the second was a true mark of an emerging key forward, the Claremont product plucking a mark from a busy pack close to goal.
But the Bulldogs hit back with two goals of their own, Bonnie Toogood and Lamb winning their own football and converting from close range.
It was finally reward for supply and pressure for the home side, who forced a 16-all stalemate at the main break.
But the Bulldogs will rue a raft of missed opportunities, any of which could’ve secured them their first victory of the season.
Fremantle’s win was soured by a sickening concussion to defender Matilda Sergeant who considered retirement after a head knock in 2020.
While defender Emma O’Driscoll is likely to come under scrutiny for a tackle that left Gemma Lagioia concussed.
FREMANTLE 0.3, 2.4, 2.7, 3.7 (25)
WESTERN BULLDOGS 0.1, 2.4, 2.4, 2.7 (19)
Goals — FREMANTLE: A Franklin 2, E Antonio
WESTERN BULLDOGS: B Toogood, K Lamb
Best — FREMANTLE: H Miller, E Antonio, K Bowers, S Verrier, E O’Driscoll, G O’Sullivan
WESTERN BULLDOGS: E Blackburn, K Lamb, E Brown, C Moody, E Bennetts, K Lynch
INJURIES – WESTERN BULLDOGS: G Lagioia (concussion)
FREMANTLE: M Sergeant (concussion)
Crowd: TBC at Victoria University Whitten Oval