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Five talking points: Essendon v Fremantle

Sarah Black  August 27, 2017 3:50 PM

Highlights: Essendon v Fremantle The Bombers and Dockers clash in round 23
AFL 2017 Round 23 - Essendon v Fremantle

James Stewart gets up close and personal with the Essendon fans

1. Sweet September dreams, Bomber fans
A six-goal third quarter was enough for Essendon to shake off a dogged Fremantle and secure themselves a finals spot. The Bombers will now likely finish the season in seventh place, although they could drop to eighth if West Coast upsets Adelaide. It was a sleepy first half from the Bombers, who were rather Joe Daniher-centric in their attack. They sharpened up in the third term before giving their fans a few nervous moments in the last term, conceding five goals, but held on to secure that precious top-eight spot.

Full match coverage and stats

2. Fremantle rebounds after horror fortnight
It's been a rough end to the season for Fremantle fans, their team losing by 104 points to Sydney and Richmond in successive weeks. With the Dockers locked into 14th spot on the ladder regardless, Sunday afternoon's match was an opportunity to end the season on a positive note. They lifted their pressure all over the ground, running hard and spreading the Bombers thin. There were impressive performances from the Dockers' lesser lights, with Jonathon Griffin (32 hitouts and two goals), Luke Ryan, Lachie Weller and Ethan Hughes all important while stars Nat Fyfe, Lachie Neale and David Mundy put in solid shifts to give Dockers fans some hope for the future.

3. Final chapter in the book of Jobe and friends
Essendon promoted its final match of the home and away season as "cheer the champs" match, with the club saying an official farewell to former captain Jobe Watson, James Kelly and Brent Stanton (who was not playing). Jobe Watson masks were given out on the concourse between the stadium and Southern Cross train station and the former skipper received a rousing reception with every touch. It may have also been the last time Heath Hocking, an extremely late inclusion for Cale Hooker, dons the red and black, with the midfielder remaining out of contract.

Jobe Watson is carried off Etihad Stadium for the last time. Picture: AFL Photos

4. Merrett does it all
It was a stellar performance from young Essendon star Zach Merrett, who broke the game open in the third quarter with two goals (including a bomb from 50 metres) inside a minute. He finished the match with 31 disposals and four goals, and was rarely wasteful with ball in hand. Merrett looks to be in red-hot form coming into finals, and will prove to be a dangerous match-up with his pace and skill. He was averaging a career-high 30 touches a match coming into Sunday afternoon's clash, as well as five clearances and seven tackles.

WATCH: Merrett marshalls the Dons superbly

5. Always keep your eye on the ball
You're taught from a young age to always keep your eye on the ball, and neither Essendon defender Marty Gleeson nor the goal umpire could be faulted for the dedication they showed in the first quarter. Fremantle's Tommy Sheridan broke away from a pack and snapped the ball towards goal. Gleeson ran at full pelt in a vain attempt to get a fingernail on it, directly into the goal umpire. The umpire took a moment to gather himself, before moving back to the goal-line to signal a goal.