ANOTHER injury blow for recruit Scott Gumbleton dampened Fremantle's impressive 28-point victory over an enthusiastic Western Bulldogs on Wednesday night at Etihad Stadium.
The Dockers won 0.15.7 (97) to 0.9.15 (69), restricting the Bulldogs to just two goals after half-time.
A frustrated Gumbleton left the ground in the first quarter with a suspected hamstring injury and went to the rooms at quarter-time.
It continues a tough run for the former Bomber, who has battled numerous injuries since being selected at pick No.2 in the 2006 NAB AFL Draft. The tall forward has played just 35 games since his 2007 debut.
"I feel for him because he has worked his hardest [and] he has shown his character," Lyon said.
"He needs to be resilient from here and keep going and not drop his bundle."
It took the Dockers until midway through the third quarter to kick into gear, bringing their trademark pressure to bear and chipping away at the scoreboard. Freo closed down the Bulldogs' space and smothered their ball movement.
The Dockers eventually overhauled the Western Bulldogs – who led by 14 points at half-time – and Ross Lyon's side should take confidence from the win.
However, the Bulldogs were also impressive, particularly in the second quarter when Brownlow medallist Adam Cooney - who was skipper for the night – turned in a vintage performance to ensure Fremantle had to work hard for its win.
Cooney kicked one goal and had 17 disposals and put the ball inside 50 six times in the first half as the young Bulldogs dominated the stoppages.
It was no mean feat, as the Dockers had 20 members from last year's Grand Final side playing. Only Nat Fyfe and Zac Clarke were absent.
In the first 20 minutes of the second quarter, the Bulldogs kicked four unanswered goals and kept the Dockers scoreless. Cooney capped off the dominant period of play with a long goal that put his team 13 points up.
Michael Walters and David Mundy were impressive for the Dockers but the hard-working Bulldogs midfield found a way to penetrate the Fremantle defence, using handball and short kicks to free players to break them down.
However, once Fremantle gained the ascendancy, it dominated the tiring Bulldogs. Suddenly its opponents were unable to score and Freo controlled the game.
Walters continued to dominate in an excellent four-quarter performances and its talls at either end of the ground - Luke McPharlin, Michael Johnson and Matthew Pavlich - found form.
"They (Fremantle) are a hardened strong team and we have a way to go," McCartney.
"There was a lot to like but we would have liked to finish closer or in front. The effort was really good. The intent was really good."
WHAT WE LEARNED
Western Bulldogs: The Bulldogs' core of young midfielders continue to progress. Led brilliantly by experienced Adam Cooney, it was Koby Stevens, Tom Liberatore, Mitch Wallis, Luke Dahlhaus and Jack Macrae who led the way. In the second term the Bulldogs had 29 more disposals and won 15 more contested possessions. Stewart Crameri will help the forward line function better – although he missed two gettable set shots – but in the absence of Liam Jones, the Dogs remained one marking forward short. Stevens looks to be a good prospect as a strong-bodied midfielder.
Fremantle: The Dockers can take time to tune-up as their success depends on synchronised movements and hardened defensive efforts. Walters is an exciting player who could take another step this season. He works hard both ways and is skilful with the ball. The Dockers need Aaron Sandilands to stay fit early as they have some injury issues among their ruck division. They moved the ball well at times and their forward line remains exciting. Once they increased their pressure, they never looked like losing.
Western Bulldogs: Mitch Honeychurch kicked a goal with his first kick but showed he had the stomach for the contest. In the third quarter he confronted David Mundy, tackled him to the ground and won the free kick. Tom Williams was tentative early but worked his way into the game up forward while Shaun Higgins came on at half-time and showed he still had class in tight. Both Williams and Higgins will gain confidence from the hit-out.
Fremantle: Chris Mayne has struggled with back issues this pre-season but he showed intent and his usual class in front of goal when he came on at half-time. He took a diving mark and converted from the boundary late in the third term to show he had lost none of his trademarks in the off-season.
Head and shoulders above the crowd: Aaron Sandilands wins a clear hit-out against the Dogs.
WESTERN BULLDOGS 0.2.3 0.7.6 0.8.10 0.9.15 (69)
FREMANTLE 0.4.4 0.5.4 0.9.5 0.15.7 (97)
Western Bulldogs: Nil
Western Bulldogs: Giansiracusa 2, Stevens, Cooney, Dahlhaus, Hunter, Wood, Honeychurch, Crameri
Fremantle: Walters 4, Ballantyne 2, Pavlich 2, Mzungu 2, Barlow, Mayne, Sandilands, Mundy, Suban
Western Bulldogs: Cooney, Stevens, Macrae, Dahlhaus, Wallis
Fremantle: Mundy, Walters, Sandilands, Johnson, Mzungu, Duffield, Pavlich
Western Bulldogs: Nil
Fremantle: Scott Gumbleton (hamstring)
Western Bulldogs: Williams replaced Campbell in the second quarter; Higgins replaced Johannisen in the third quarter.
Fremantle: Hannath replaced Gumbleton in the first quarter, Mayne replaced Tanner Smith at half-time.
Umpires: Ben Lehner, Brett Ritchie, Ray Chamberlain, Shane Stewart
Official crowd: 4914 at Etihad Stadium