Fremantle continued their bright start to 2014 by wearing down the talent-laden Gold Coast Suns in a scrappy contest at Patersons Stadium tonight.
The Dockers’ 48-point win in front of 35,583 fans for the annual Starlight Purple Haze match has given them a 2-0 opening to the season ahead of their grand final replay with Hawthorn at the MCG on Friday night.
Intermittent rain made it a physical battle with scores hard to come by for both sides, but Fremantle gradually strangled the youthful visitors to record the 12.15 (87) to 5.9 (39) victory.
Gold Coast started brightly, booting the first two goals in the opening minutes but found the going tough from there failing to score another major until late in the final quarter as the Dockers heaped the pressure on the young Suns.
Giant ruckman Aaron Sandilands monstered the young Gold Coast big men with 55 hit outs and Michael Barlow (32 touches, two goals) and David Mundy (33 disposals) made the most of his dominance to overpower the Suns’ promising midfield.
Ryan Crowley went to dual Brownlow medalist Gary Ablett (24 possessions) and managed to stop him from having a huge influence in tough conditions.
The rain came tumbling down before the bounce of the ball and the visitors played the better wet weather football early, putting two goals on the board in the opening minutes before the Dockers settled.
A chest mark to Sam Day inside forward 50m gave the Suns their first, while Brandon Matera took advantage of a 50m penalty for a push on Ablett off the ball to slot another.
But Ablett was penalised minutes later for pulling Crowley off the ball and when one of his teammates failed to hand the ball back properly the feisty tagger made him pay with a major.
Fremantle started to take a stranglehold on the match from there, drying up Gold Coast’s scoring and holding the ball in their part of the ground and scoring three goals late in the term to take a 13-point advantage at the first break.
The Dockers started the second term with strong momentum with Barlow putting through a set shot to give his a 19-point buffer.
But Day won a free kick just inside the arc minutes later and went back and converted to bring the deficit under two goals and from there it was a real arm wrestle with neither side able to break free.
Fremantle missed three consecutive set shots to let the Suns off before half time and both Nat Fyfe and Hayden Ballantyne came to the bench looking groggy after heavy collisions in the physical contest.
Michael Walters was up and about after the long break, taking a clever mark next to the point post and then snapping a goal to give Fremantle the perfect start.
Aaron Hall sent home a long bomb at the six-minute mark to give the Suns hope but the next 10 minutes were a scrap before Tendai Mzungu took advantage of a defensive error from the visitors to kick his second.
Matt Shaw was substituted off for Liam Sumner, while Jack Hannath made way for Tom Sheridan for the Dockers.
Barlow continued to be dangerous up forward, kicking a behind on the run, before Ballantyne set him up to snap his second and Fremantle took the 25-point lead into the final term.
The Dockers refused to give ground after the break, with only free-flowing running goals to Danyle Pearce and Stephen Hill breaking the dour nature of the game as they ran out comfortable winners.
|GOALS - FREMANTLE:Walters, Mzungu, Barlow 2; Crowley, Johnson, D Pearce, Hill, Duffield, Sheridan. GOLD COAST:Day 2; Matera, Hall, Lynch.|
BEST - FREMANTLE:Barlow, Sandilands, Mundy, Fyfe Mzungu, Hill. GOLD COAST: Prestia, Swallow, Ablett, Harbrow, Rischitelli.