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Fremantle Dockers to face North Melbourne away in week one of finals after 37 point win over Gold Coast

Fremantle coach Trent Cooper believes it’s still possible for the Dockers to win the premiership this year from fifth place, undaunted by the prospect of winning three straight finals on the road.

The Dockers will be forced to travel and face North Melbourne on Saturday at Arden Street in week one of the AFLW finals series after defeating Gold Coast by 37 points, falling just short of closing a percentage gap on the Kangaroos.

PERTH, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 13: The Dockers run out onto the field during the round 10 AFLW match between the Fremantle Dockers and the Gold Coast Suns at Fremantle Oval on March 13, 2022 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Will Russell/Getty Images via AFL Photos )
Camera IconPERTH, AUSTRALIA – MARCH 13: The Dockers run out onto the field during the round 10 AFLW match between the Fremantle Dockers and the Gold Coast Suns at Fremantle Oval on March 13, 2022 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Will Russell/Getty Images via AFL Photos ) Credit: Will Russell/via AFL Photos

But it was too little too late, the Dockers kicking a mere three goals in the opening three quarters and eventually falling two goals shy of a home final.

Instead, the Dockers finished fifth after late-season losses to fellow finalists Melbourne (88 points) and Adelaide (nine points) and will need to win three knockout finals if they wish to win their maiden AFLW premiership.

But Fremantle are set to embrace their underdog status, finishing the season with a 1-3 record against fellow finalists.

“A lot of people don’t expect us and that’s fair enough with our record against other teams but we still think our best football can be really good,” Cooper said.

“This year, because there’s so little between them (top six), it’s a possibility. There’s no one that is that far above other teams.

“There’s a lot of pressure on those sides who’ve had really good years but there’s probably not as much pressure on us considering where we’re coming from. We’re looking forward to playing with some freedom.”

PERTH, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 13: Hayley Miller of the Dockers runs with the ball during the 2022 AFLW Round 12 match between the Fremantle Dockers and the Gold Coast Suns at Fremantle Oval on March 13, 2022 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Daniel Carson/AFL Photos)
Camera IconPERTH, AUSTRALIA – MARCH 13: Hayley Miller of the Dockers runs with the ball during the 2022 AFLW Round 12 match between the Fremantle Dockers and the Gold Coast Suns at Fremantle Oval on March 13, 2022 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Daniel Carson/AFL Photos) Credit: Daniel Carson/AFL Photos

Cooper said percentage wasn’t a focus heading into Sunday’s match and the Dockers would relish the opportunity to travel back to Melbourne after a successful hub stint earlier in the season.

“It will bring back some really good memories,” he said.

“To be honest, we’re fine to go on the road. For us to go flat out today and try and win by that margin was going to be counterproductive considering we’re happy to go on the road.”

With nothing to play for, Gold Coast overcame a shaky start and at times challenged Fremantle in the contest but never seriously threatened to take the lead.

“They (Dockers) will shake the finals series, if not be right up there,” Suns coach Cameron Joyce said.

Fremantle were able to welcome back reigning league best and fairest Kiara Bowers after four games on the sidelines, the powerful midfielder laying 17 tackles to pair with 18 touches and five clearances.

PERTH, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 13: Kiara Bowers of the Dockers  celebrates after the teams win during the round 10 AFLW match between the Fremantle Dockers and the Gold Coast Suns at Fremantle Oval on March 13, 2022 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Will Russell/Getty Images via AFL Photos )
Camera IconPERTH, AUSTRALIA – MARCH 13: Kiara Bowers of the Dockers celebrates after the teams win during the round 10 AFLW match between the Fremantle Dockers and the Gold Coast Suns at Fremantle Oval on March 13, 2022 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Will Russell/Getty Images via AFL Photos ) Credit: Will Russell/via AFL Photos

Bowers is set to be joined by All-Australian defender Janelle Cuthbertson in finals, the first time the pair have combined since round two.

“She (Bowers) managed that in less than 60 per cent game time which is what we were aiming for today. That was risk mitigation,” Cooper said.

Defensive pairing Ange Stannett (21 touches, five rebounds 50s, five marks) and Sarah Verrier (20 touches, five marks, four rebound 50s) were exceptional in defence.

Gemma Houghton also returned to form, kicking two majors after three goalless games.

“Today we saw her back to something like her best because we’re a lot better side when she’s up and about,” Cooper said.

“It wasn’t the scoreboard that impressed me today. It was her running really hard to give our defenders an outlet on the far wing in the last quarter.”

AFL Women’s Finals Series

WEEK ONE

Saturday, March 19

Kangaroos vs. Fremantle, Arden St (VIC) (Seven), 11:10am AWST

Brisbane Lions vs. Collingwood, Gabba (QLD) (Seven), 1:10pm AWST

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