Callum Ah Chee celebrates a goal during the round 21 match between Fremantle and Brisbane at Optus Stadium, August 6, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

BRISBANE has moved level on points with Melbourne and Port Adelaide and set up a thrilling race for a top-two finish after hanging on for a three-point win against Fremantle at Optus Stadium.

The Lions trailed early in a rollicking final quarter before their key forwards took charge to kick three crucial goals and deliver a vital four points on the road, winning 11.11 (77) to 11.8 (74).

The Dockers, who were playing to keep their own slim finals hopes alive mathematically, looked potential winners when Sam Sturt kicked a clutch 50m set shot from the boundary.

DOCKERS v LIONS Full match coverage and stats

But small forward Charlie Cameron set up Eric Hipwood for the crucial late goal that gave the Lions an eight-point edge at the 26-minute mark.


Michael Frederick made them play right to the siren when he kicked a sublimely skilled banana goal on the boundary with one minute to play, but the Lions were good enough to soak up their opponents late charges and control the ball when they needed.

The win leaves coach Chris Fagan's men in third place, ahead of the Power on percentage and just 1.1 per cent behind the second-placed Demons as the clubs jockey for a vital top-two place in the final three rounds.


It was a gutsy win from the Lions, who were forced to grind through periods of the game when their midfield opponents were well on top but found a way to never let the scoreboard get out of control.

Star midfielder Lachie Neale typified his team. The Brownlow medallist was beaten early by big-bodied Docker Hayden Young but stayed in the game and finished with a team-high eight clearances and 25 disposals.

Midfielder Hugh McCluggage (22 and five inside 50s), and the versatile Cam Rayner (19 and 12 marks) were excellent, while Cameron (two goals and six marks) stood up in important moments.


Overall, the Lions were not at their best, but they were determined and dug deep at crucial stages of the game to move their record to 14-6 ahead of another important clash against Adelaide next Saturday at the Gabba.

The Dockers stood up to the fierce Brisbane pressure to win just their third opening quarter of the season, having previously edged only Essendon and Hawthorn in what has been one of the repeated concerns of their year. 

They did it through a midfield unit that was led by Luke Jackson in the ruck and Young at ground level, attacking the contested ball and linking up well out of congestion to take a four-point lead at the first break.


The Lions steadied at the start of the start of the second as the well-held Josh Dunkley and Neale worked into the game, with back-to-back goals for Jack Gunston and Joe Daniher giving them some momentum.

The Dockers responded again, however, and enjoyed a four-goal run either side of half-time as Jackson asserted his authority on the match from the ruck, in attack, and even drifting back to take intercept marks and spoil on the goal line.

The third quarter was a shootout, with Fremantle getting out to a game-high 17-point lead early before the Lions responded with three on the trot, including an excellent running effort from Jarrod Berry from 50m.


Cameron also started to get on top in a tight match-up with Jordan Clark, taking a contested mark and then using smart body work to draw a free kick for his two goals.

A 55m running shot from Jackson as the siren sounded levelled scores at the final break before a thrilling final quarter that went down to the wire. 

A tag with two winners?
Young's run-with role was not a typical tag, with the Docker focused on Neale at stoppages before working off his man and winning his own ball. He took the points early, winning 10 first-quarter disposals and holding Neale to four, but the match-up became more even thereafter, with Neale lifting in the critical final term. The Brownlow medallist had nine disposals and four clearances after the final change to be one of his team's most influential players. Likewise Young, who had 29 and six clearances, laying a game-high 10 tackles to stake his claims as a future midfield star. 

Hayden Young tackles Lachie Neale during the round 21 match between Fremantle and Brisbane at Optus Stadium, August 6, 2023. Picture: Getty Images

Jackson continues to fly as main ruck 
Fremantle ruckman Luke Jackson looked a likely match-winner through the second and third quarters as he threatened to rip the game away from the Lions with his versatility. The big man, who is shining in Sean Darcy's absence, had 14 disposals across the two quarters as the Dockers started to capitalise on their midfield ascendency. How to use him alongside Darcy remains the big questions for Fremantle to ponder going into 2024. He kicked an impressive 45m goal, linked up through midfield chains like a ground-level midfielder, and pushed back defensively. The 21-year-old's first year at Fremantle has been a big tick, with significant scope still for improvement. 

Luke Jackson in action during the round 21 match between Fremantle and Brisbane at Optus Stadium, August 6, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

Rayner's bounce back
Talented Lion Cam Rayner has been down on form recently, sparking the question of how to get the most out of him. With some of the Lions' better players down on form on Sunday, the 23-year-old chose a good day to bounce back to and play one of his best games in some time. Rayner has been stationed mostly forward with occasional centre bounce duties, but he pushed higher up the ground on Sunday and was a dynamic presence when around the ball, finishing with a game-high 12 marks. If the Lions can maximise his impact in the coming weeks, he shapes as an important September player.

FREMANTLE     2.2    5.4    8.8    11.8 (74)
BRISBANE       1.4    3.5    8.8    11.11 (77)   

Fremantle: Sturt 3, Frederick 2, Schultz 2, Amiss, Corbett, Jackson, Treacy
Brisbane: Cameron 2, Daniher 2, Gunston 2, Ah Chee, Berry, Hipwood, McCarthy, McCluggage

Fremantle: Serong, Jackson, Young, Brayshaw, Sturt
Brisbane: Neale, McCluggage, Berry, Cameron, Rayner, McCarthy

Fremantle: Hughes (leg)
Brisbane: Nil  

Fremantle: Matthew Johnson (replaced Ethan Hughes at three-quarter time)
Brisbane: Deven Robertson (replaced Jaspa Fletcher in the fourth quarter)

Crowd: 37,845 at Optus Stadium