Form away from WA was once their Achilles heel, but Fremantle are proving to be road warriors this season.
Saturday’s 17-point win over Western Bulldogs at Marvel Stadium was not only enough to seal their finals spot, it also gave the Dockers their most ever premiership points in Victoria for a season.
The Docklands venue has proven to be a happy hunting ground this year with three wins and a draw from five visits.
Add to that a victory over top-ranked Geelong at GMHBA Stadium and one over reigning champs Melbourne at the MCG and it’s 22 valuable premiership points in the state, eclipsing the 20 they banked in their minor premiership campaign in 2015.
It’s confidence and experience that could come in handy come finals with five of the current top-eight teams – including the top two sides – based in Victoria.
“There is a lot of things that go into it,” Fremantle coach Justin Longmuir explained.
“We’ve worked really hard on our ability to prepare and we’ve kept our weeks really consistent and we’ve been able to focus on what’s important when we travel.
“I think we’ve had some good continuity in the back half of the year playing here a lot and that consistency is really helpful.
“We come back to a familiar stadium each week and that’s been helpful I feel.”
Longmuir was most pleased with his team’s contested work and dare with ball in hand, two things that had been lacking during their three-game winless run.
Luke Ryan (32 disposals and 15 marks) and Jordan Clark (26 and 10) rebounded brilliantly from the back half, running machine Nathan O’Driscoll provided a spark in his return to the senior side including a brilliant long-range goal in the third quarter and Caleb Serong (24 and eight clearances) and Andrew Brayshaw (21, eight tackles, five clearances and a goal) did the bulk of the damage in the midfield.
Tall forward Rory Lobb (four goals) and speedster Michael Frederick (three) were the beneficiaries up forward.
“I just think we competed really well around the ball, our contested ball numbers got a bit out of control in the second half but I thought we got back to our hunt and pressure and forward half game in the first half,” he said.
“In the second half when we were challenged we kept showing a bit of dare with the ball.
“Our players never rolled over or gave up, they just kept at it. There is still a lot to improve on out of that performance but I thought we took the ball forward a little bit more and showed a bit more dare with ball in hand and it paid off on the scoreboard.”
Longmuir said his players should be “proud but not satisfied” after qualifying for finals for the first time since 2015 and keeping their top-four hopes alive.
“It’s a credit to the work that we’ve put in, the players should be proud of themselves but not satisfied,” he said.
The win did come at a cost however with Matt Taberner going down in the third quarter with a calf injury.
Longmuir was disappointed for his key forward, who he felt was returning to his best form with two first-quarter goals before yet another setback.
The hulking Josh Treacy, who has only played four games this season, Bailey Banfield and in-form WAFL forward Sam Sturt will be the leading contenders for Taberner’s spot in Saturday night’s western derby should he not get up.
“It’s disappointing because he was just starting to look like the Tabs of old,” Longmuir said.
“He started marking the ball inside 50, his set shots were really strong and he was looking dangerous again so it’s disappointing for him and us.
“We’ll rehab it and see what the rest of the year looks like.
“We’ll see what the scan says and see what the doctors recommend for his time out but there’s not much of the season left to be too cautious so we’ll see how it pans out over the next couple of days.”
Most premiership points in a season in Victoria – Dockers history