TWO LATE supergoals to Danyle Pearce and Lachie Weller have helped Fremantle to a come-from-behind 12-point win over Geelong at Domain Stadium on Saturday.
The Dockers trailed all day until back-to-back bombs in time-on in the last quarter turned an 11-point deficit into a seven-point lead. They eventually won 2.9.11 (83) to 0.10.11 (71) to finish the pre-season undefeated.
Geelong youngster Nakia Cockatoo seems unlikely to be available to face Hawthorn in round one after he was reported for a sling tackle that left Michael Johnson unconscious in the last quarter.
Cockatoo pinned Johnson in a strong tackle but slung him to the ground with a second movement and the veteran was left very groggy after his head hit the turf with force. Johnson had to be helped off and took no further part in the match.
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Johnson’s teammate Harley Bennell produced a classy debut, gathering 17 touches, four inside 50s, three score assists and kicking a goal in three quarters before resting in the final term. But his day was a microcosm of the Dockers' performance. He found plenty of the ball but only operated at 53 per cent disposal efficiency and kicked 1.2.
Despite his dominance, coach Ross Lyon said Bennell was no guarantee of playing round one, and will play in the WAFL next weekend for extra match practice.
"I thought he was OK (against Geelong). I didn't tune in to him too much," Lyon said.
"He impacted the scoreboard, I thought he had some really sharp hands. I thought he was selfless. His intensity at times could maybe be a bit better, I don't know.
"I think his teammates enjoyed playing with him, and he enjoyed playing with them. Ultimately that's the measure, isn't it? When you go down the race you want to be able to trust someone. You're sort of given trust, and build trust, so that's where it probably sits."
Patrick Dangerfield produced a masterful display for the Cats gathering 30 disposals, 15 contested, eight clearances, seven inside 50s and two goals in his final tune-up before the season proper.
Lincoln McCarthy was also impressive with three goals in the first half.
Geelong's director of coaching Simon Lloyd said McCarthy reminded him of Michael Walters and Hayden Ballantyne.
"A lot of people haven't seen Linc play," Lloyd said.
"He's had four years in the system and a number of injuries but he reminds me of a couple of the small forwards running around for Freo.
"He's a hard nose and he's like a pop-up sprinkler. He finds spaces around the ground and it's just great for Linc because he's really starting to find some continuity."
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Lachie Neale (29 disposals), Michael Barlow (27) and Nat Fyfe (26) all worked hard in the midfield while Hayden Ballantyne, Matt Taberner and Chris Mayne bagged two goals each.
The intensity matched the temperature in the opening half, before the 30-plus degree heat took its toll on the players in the second half. The AFL had enacted the heat policy giving both sides the option of using 26 players instead of 24 but neither team took the option. Both sides left the ground to escape the blazing sun at three-quarter time.
Geelong's tackling pressure was exceptional, laying 82 tackles to 60, and the Dockers struggled with their kicking efficiency as a result.
Geelong veteran Jimmy Bartel copped a heavy knock in the first term and did not return. He was tested for concussion but passed the test and will be fit for round one.
WHAT WE LEARNED
Fremantle: The Dockers are still vulnerable in the ruck without Aaron Sandilands. The Dockers won't have their reigning best and fairest in round one due to suspension. Zac Clarke and Jon Griffin were beaten in the raw hit-outs 33-40. The Dockers won the clearances but they did not enjoy their usual dominance out of the middle.
Geelong: The Cats can really stretch opposition sides with their tall timber up forward. The mobility of Mark Blicavs and Rhys Stanley means they could play four 198cm-plus players against Fremantle and they really stretched the Dockers at times in a game where Tom Hawkins was reasonably well held.
Fremantle: Harley Bennell was impressive in his first game for his new club. He played predominantly at half-forward but pushed up to the midfield at times. He showed his class and skill and his best is going to add significant value to the Dockers.
Geelong: Rookie Tom Ruggles was very impressive playing in defence for the Cats. He mixed and matched between manning the mid-sized Mayne and small dynamic Michael Walters. Dangerfield starred again while Lachie Henderson was rock solid in defence.
The Dockers travel to Etihad Stadium to face the Western Bulldogs in round one. The Cats have their traditional Easter Monday clash with Hawthorn to open the season proper.
FREMANTLE 0.2.3 0.5.6 0.7.9 2.9.11 (83)
GEELONG 0.3.2 0.7.6 0.9.8 0.10.11 (71)
Fremantle: Danyle Pearce, Weller
Fremantle: Ballantyne 2, Taberner 2, Mayne 2, Walters, Bennell, Neale
Geelong: McCarthy 3, Dangerfield 2, Gregson, Duncan, Guthrie, Vardy, Kersten
Fremantle: Neale, Bennell, Johnson, Barlow, Hill
Geelong: Dangerfield, Taylor, Guthrie, McCarthy, Motlop
Fremantle: Johnson (concussion), Spurr (hamstring tightness)
Geelong: Bartel (head knock)
Reports: Nakia Cockatoo for rough conduct on Michael Johnson in the fourth quarter
Umpires: Farmer, Dalgleish, Bannister, Schmitt
Official crowd: 8,624 at Domain Stadium