Fremantle players were left stunned by a costly umpire howler in Sunday’s 28-point AFL loss to North Melbourne at a rain-drenched Optus Stadium.
The Dockers were a chance of pulling off a come-from-behind victory when Michael Walters kicked a goal-of-the-year contender to close the margin to three points at the 11-minute mark of the final term.
But just minutes later Fremantle’s momentum was brought to a crashing halt by a controversial goal to Shaun Atley.
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Dockers defender Joel Hamling should have been paid a free kick after being tackled to the ground without the ball by Ben Jacobs.
But with no free kick given, Atley was able to swoop on the loose ball and shoot truly from 35m out.
Dockers players were left shocked by the non-decision, with Atley’s major sparking a run of four straight goals that secured the 12.14 (86) to 8.10 (58) win in front of 37,575 fans.
Fremantle ruckman Aaron Sandilands might miss a week after being heavily concussed in a clash of heads with Sam Durdin in the final quarter.
Durdin also left the field looking groggy, while teammate Kayne Turner copped a heavy hit to the head earlier in the match.
Spearhead Jarrad Waite stood tall in the wet with three goals – including two at crucial points of the third quarter.
Fremantle skipper Nat Fyfe (31 disposals, one goal) and Ben Jacobs (29 disposals, one goal) enjoyed an intriguing battle.
Sunday’s result improves North Melbourne’s record to 6-4, while Fremantle (4-6) face a major challenge to work their way back into finals calculations.
The Kangaroos were left kicking themselves after a wasteful opening quarter, with the visitors registering six behinds in the opening six minutes before finishing the period with 1.8 (14) to their name.
Fremantle made the most of their limited forays forward to lead by eight points at quarter time, with Fyfe influential.
North Melbourne’s score moved to 1.10 early in the second quarter before they finally found their range, with three straight goals propelling them into the lead.
The third quarter was a wet-weather arm wrestle as the rain started to pour down, with Fremantle’s defence put under the pump for long periods.
Waite’s third goal extended North’s lead to 15 points early in the final quarter, before Fremantle made their move.
A long goal from Michael Johnson and a piece of brilliance from Walters closed the gap to just three points.
Walters soccered the ball forward with a dinky chip to create space for himself, before following it up with another soccer that went through for a goal.
But Atley’s controversial goal halted Fremantle’s momentum, and proved to be the turning point.
NORTH MELBOURNE 1.8 4.12 7.13 12.14 86
FREMANTLE 3.4 5.5 6.8 8.10 58
GOALS – NORTH MELBOURNE: J Waite 3; M Wood, B Brown 2; J Simpkin, B Jacobs, K Turner, S Atley T Goldstein.
FREMANTLE: M Walters 2; A Brayshaw, N Fyfe, B Cox, D Mundy, C McCarthy, M Johnson.
BEST – NORTH MELBOURNE: B Jacobs, K Turner, J Waite, S Atley, B Hartung, J MacMillan.
FREMANTLE: M Walters, J Hamling, N Fyfe, E Langdon, L Ryan, D Mundy.
INJURIES: Fremantle: A Sandilands (concussion). North Melbourne: S Durdin (concussion).
UMPIRES: Nathan Williamson, Craig Fleer, Sam Hay.
CROWD: 37,575 at Optus Stadium.