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2024 Toyota AFL Premiership
Fremantle v Western Bulldogs
Round 7 •
95 14.11
Kennedy - Official Timekeeper Full Time
71 10.11
Dockers Won By 24
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    R7 preview: Cats, Blues in heavyweight battle, huge Anzac Day fixture

    An undefeated Geelong and in-form Carlton clash in arguably the match of the round

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    Mark Blicavs marks the ball in front of Patrick Cripps during the match between Carlton and Geelong at the MCG in round two, 2023. Picture: Getty Images

    A WILD weekend of shock results and 50-50 contests have shaken up the AFL ladder with more twists and turns set to come across the five days of play in round seven.

    Richmond and Melbourne return from their bye to kick off the round on Anzac Day eve, while Essendon and Collingwood meet in the Anzac Day blockbuster with both sides in fine form.

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    Greater Western Sydney will be looking to bounce back from its first loss of the season when it faces the under-fire Brisbane, as the undefeated Geelong and high-flying Carlton both eye top spot in arguably the match of the round.

    Here is who and what to look out for across round seven, as well as a tip for each match.

    24:01

    Richmond v Melbourne, MCG
    Wednesday, April 24, 7.25pm AEST

    Last time: Melbourne 20.10 (130) d Richmond 15.8 (98), R20 2023

    What it means

    The bye came at a good time for Richmond (1-5) with injuries piling up and the side suffering a surprise loss to West Coast. The Tigers will be determined to make amends for that defeat to the Eagles, even if it looks slightly less of an upset now, but face an equally-refreshed Melbourne that has won the past four Anzac Day eve clashes.

    Melbourne (4-2) had impressed while winning four on the trot before coming up against a fired-up Brisbane with their backs to the wall. The Demons were noticeably below their best in that defeat but will want to quickly bounce back against the Tigers especially with clashes against Geelong and Carlton to follow.

    The Anzac Observance ahead of the match between Melbourne and Richmond at the MCG on April 24, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

    Game shapers

    Toby Nankervis has overcome a heel issue in the pre-season to add more muscle at the coalface for Richmond in his first season as sole skipper. The 29-year-old is averaging career-highs for contested disposals (10.8), clearances (4.8) and tackles (6.4), but will be just as pivotal to the Tigers' hopes in trying to limit the influence of Max Gawn.

    Christian Petracca has stepped up in style while needing to to carry more of the midfield load with Clayton Oliver underdone and Angus Brayshaw forced into retirement. But the Demons need Petracca to add more goals to his game, as he averages the fewest in his career (0.67) with only four from six matches.

    Early tip: Melbourne by 22 points

    02:15

    Essendon v Collingwood, MCG
    Thursday, April 25, 3.20pm AEST

    Last time: Collingwood 16.5 (101) d Essendon 3.13 (31), R24 2023

    What it means

    Back-to-back victories have breathed plenty of life into Essendon's (4-2) campaign and it can enter the Anzac Day match with hopes unusually high. The Bombers have won only three of these traditional blockbusters since 2010 but, especially with Peter Wright set to return from suspension, can now target what would be a statement win. 

    Collingwood (3-3) was on the ropes after starting its premiership defence with three consecutive defeats but is looking formidable again with as many victories on the trot. The Magpies had 38 scoring shots as they overpowered Port Adelaide with their polish and pressure returning in ominous signs for a Bombers outfit looking to snap a four-match losing streak against their rivals.

    Sam Draper is tackled by John Noble during the match between Collingwood and Essendon at the MCG in round six, 2023. Picture: Getty Images

    Game shapers

    Nic Martin has barely skipped a beat since being a late addition to the Essendon squad ahead of the 2022 season but is now playing a starring role after a move to half-back. The 23-year-old is averaging 31.33 disposals as his ability to find the ball and use it well is becoming a key weapon for the Bombers.

    Scott Pendlebury has already achieved more than most in his 389 matches to date, but will set a new benchmark when becoming the first player to gather 10,000 disposals across a career. Even at the age of 36, the former Magpies captain remains crucial to his side's chances with his composure and clean hands ideally suited to the pressure of the biggest stages.

    Early tip: Collingwood by 18 points

    03:14

    Greater Western Sydney v Brisbane, Manuka Oval
    Thursday, April 25, 7.35pm AEST

    Last time: Brisbane 16.12 (108) d GWS Giants 13.9 (87), R6 2023

    What it means

    Greater Western Sydney (5-1) might have been below full strength against Carlton but still failed its first test in a challenging stretch of matches as its undefeated start to the season came to an end. The Giants will be undermanned again for the clash with Brisbane but have no time to lick their wounds especially with Sydney, Essendon, Western Bulldogs and Geelong to come over the next month.

    It might be a touch early to declare that Brisbane's (2-4) season is on the line but its hopes of a critical top-four finish are fading more with every loss. The Lions are perhaps paying the price for spending five years at the pointy end, but will hope to stretch their winning streak against the Giants to six matches to get their campaign back on track.

    Jesse Hogan marks during the match between Greater Western Sydney and Brisbane at Manuka Oval in round six, 2023. Picture: Getty Images

    Game shapers

    Josh Kelly is enjoying another sublime season in the Giants' midfield with his ability to win the ball at stoppages and use it well on the outside. The former co-captain has also added more goals to his game, with three last week against Carlton lifting his average to a career-high 1.5, with his threat in the forward half set to be crucial for the undermanned Giants.

    Lincoln McCarthy has put the injury concerns that plagued his seven seasons with Geelong behind him to play 120 matches for Brisbane since heading north for the 2019 season. The 30-year-old is now a reliable part of the Lions forward setup and could be the player to stretch the Giants' defence in his 150th match.

    Early tip: Brisbane by nine points

    02:26

    Port Adelaide v St Kilda, Adelaide Oval
    Friday, April 26, 7.10pm ACST

    Last time: Port Adelaide 12.11 (83) d St Kilda 11.10 (76), R7 2023

    What it means

    Port Adelaide (4-2) missed yet another opportunity to claim a big scalp when overrun by Collingwood after leading the reigning premier by as much as 31 points. But the Power have proven in the past year and a bit that they can more easily handle teams sitting around the middle of the ladder, and have beaten St Kilda in 12 of their last 13 meetings.

    St Kilda (2-4) might point to playing three matches in 11 days ahead of its crushing defeat to Western Bulldogs, although its opponents only had one more day to rest and recover in that time, but is now on the road again to face Port. A one-paced on-ball brigade should be of just as much concern, especially against the Powers' powerful midfield, as the Saints search for a spark to stay within reach of the top eight.

    Ross Lyon and his players look dejected after the R6 match between St Kilda and Western Bulldogs at Marvel Stadium on April 18, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

    Game shapers

    Zak Butters has taken his game to another level this year as one of the leaders of the engine room that is out to propel Port Adelaide to a top-four finish. The 23-year-old is averaging a career-high 28 disposals a game while also setting the standards for pressure and tackling ahead of his 100th match.

    Riley Bonner has rejuvenated his career with St Kilda and is averaging a personal best 23.83 disposals a game after being axed by his former club. Bonner now has an opportunity to remind Port Adelaide of what they once had, with his run and carry from defence set to be crucial for the Saints in his 100th match.

    Early tip: Port Adelaide by 23 points

    01:49

    North Melbourne v Adelaide, Blundstone Arena
    Saturday, April 27, 1.45pm AEST

    Last time: Adelaide 21.12 (138) d North Melbourne 11.6 (72), R16 2023

    What it means

    North Melbourne (0-6) can have no excuses for failing to show up against the team sitting one spot above them in 17th position during a limp defeat to Hawthorn. The young Roos should be desperate to increase their intensity to improve on that showing, but can at least be buoyed by the fact they're coming up against the only side to score fewer points than them this season.

    Adelaide (1-5) might point to an umpiring error at the death for costing it a chance to snatch victory against Essendon, but arguably paid the price for losing the inside 50s 62-43 and relying on the wayward opposition to boot 10.18. The Crows are averaging just 67 points a game but their forwards will be licking their lips at the prospect of facing the Roos' undersized defence.

    George Wardlaw handballs away from Jake Soligo during the match between Adelaide and North Melbourne at Adelaide Oval in round 16, 2023. Picture: Getty Images

    Game shapers

    Jy Simpkin has been unable to have his usual impact for North Melbourne while playing in a different role after a delayed start to his season due to concussion. The co-captain has often lined up at half-forward but with five matches under his belt, could now be called on to add more experience and effort around the ball as Kangaroos search for a first win.

    Adelaide has taken steps to add a spark to its midfield but arguably still needs to get more from two-time All-Australian Rory Laird. The 30-year-old now has an opportunity to fine-tune against a young on-ball bridge as the Crows look to make it six in a row against the Roos.

    Early tip: Adelaide by 29 points

    01:59

    Geelong v Carlton, MCG
    Saturday, April 27, 4.35pm AEST

    Last time: Carlton 13.12 (90) d Geelong 12.10 (82), R2 2023

    What it means

    Geelong (6-0) is now setting the pace as the only undefeated side remaining after overcoming Brisbane on its home deck in wet and wild conditions. That was just the first in a long stretch of matches where the Cats will get to test their credentials, with Carlton looming as a top-four contender and Melbourne, Port Adelaide, Gold Coast in Darwin and Greater Western Sydney to follow.

    Carlton sent a warning shot across the competition as it dismantled then League-leaders Greater Western Sydney with a second-half blitz that included six goals in 13 minutes. The Blues handed the Giants their first defeat of the season, despite being ravaged by injury, and could make an even stronger statement against a purring Cats outfit that is now the only team without a loss.

    Tom Hawkins kicks for goal during the match between Carlton and Geelong at the MCG in round two, 2023. Picture: Getty Images

    Game shapers

    Tyson Stengle has booted multiple goals in Geelong's past four matches as he returns to the sort of form that earned him an All-Australian blazer in 2022. While the Blues will rightly be focused on containing the Cats' formidable key forwards, the silky-skilled Stengle is one player that can fly under the radar and quickly take the game away.

    Tom De Koning has been able to have more impact closer to goal, as well as spending time in the ruck, since the reintroduction of Marc Pittonet. De Koning booted three goals in the win over the Giants as the Blues' triple threat of tall forwards combined for nine majors, and is now likely to cross paths with younger brother Sam in a mouthwatering match-up that could influence this clash.

    Early tip: Geelong by 17 points

    02:24

    Fremantle v Western Bulldogs, Optus Stadium
    Saturday, April 27, 5.40pm AWST

    Last time: Western Bulldogs 16.6 (102) d Fremantle 11.7 (73), R16 2023

    What it means

    Fremantle's (3-3) promising start to the season stuttered in narrow losses to Carlton and Port Adelaide but suffered a bigger blow with a shock defeat to crosstown rivals West Coast. The Dockers have averaged only 64.66 points a game in their three-match losing streak and will have to take the shackles off to have their best shot against the hot and cold Western Bulldogs.

    Western Bulldogs (3-3) has been on a rollercoaster ride as it looks to blend more youth with experience while also trying to stay in the finals race. Veterans Adam Treloar, Jack Macrae and Jason Johannisen were among those to lead the way in the thumping win over St Kilda, but concerns remain over the gap between Bulldogs’ best and worst.

    Adam Treloar and Jack Macrae in action during the match between Greater Western Sydney and the Western Bulldogs at Giants Stadium in round 15, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

    Game shapers

    Sean Darcy made an immediate impact for Fremantle with 13 disposals, four clearances and 30 hitouts in his first match of the season. The return of the ruck allows Luke Jackson to spend more time roaming around the ground and closer to goal but the Dockers will want to make even more of the one-two punch in Darcy's 100th match.

    Bailey Dale was back to his best with a career-high 39 disposals for 867m gained against St Kilda after starting the previous match as the sub. The All-Australian can be a weapon for the Bulldogs with his penetrating kicking and looms as crucial to breaking down the Dockers' dour defence.

    Early tip: Fremantle by 14 points

    02:09

    Gold Coast v West Coast, People First Stadium
    Sunday, April 28, 1pm AEST

    Last time: Gold Coast 16.17 (113) d West Coast 6.7 (43), R9 2023

    What it means

    Gold Coast (3-3) briefly threatened to match it with Sydney but were blown away whenever the pressure ramped up. The Suns are yet to win on the road in three attempts this season but return to the comforts of home where they have a 100 per cent record from as many matches.

    West Coast (2-4) is riding a wave of momentum after beating an injury-hit Richmond then stunning crosstown rivals Fremantle to clinch back-to-back victories for the first time since 2021. Prized draftee Harley Reid has been a key to the resurgence while the return to form and fitness of veterans like Elliot Yeo means the Eagles again have the foundations to test the young Suns.

    Liam Duggan and Elliot Yeo celebrate West Coast's win over Fremantle at Optus Stadium in round six, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

    Game shapers

    Sam Flanders showed more than just glimpses of his ball-winning ability in the back-end of last season but has taken huge leaps forward to average more than 30 disposals a game this year. While the Suns can rely on their emerging on-ball brigade around the stoppages, Flanders' run and carry from half-back adds another string to their bow.

    Liam Duggan might be one of the more unheralded leaders in the game but the co-captain's return to form has been integral to West Coast's surprise resurgence. Duggan has stood tall while fellow first-year skipper Oscar Allen has been sidelined for all but one match, and is holding down a defence still finding their way.

    Early tip: Gold Coast by 33 points

    02:08

    Hawthorn v Sydney, MCG
    Sunday, April 28, 4pm AEST

    Last time: Sydney 17.16 (118) d Hawthorn 4.13 (37), R2 2023

    What it means

    Hawthorn (1-5) avoided disaster with a comprehensive victory over North Melbourne as its midfield fired against their younger opponents. The Hawks piled on eight goals in a blistering second term but impressed just as much with their pressure that will be crucial to trying to slow down a Sydney outfit that looks to move the ball with speed.

    Sydney (5-1) had shown signs of fatigue as it limped to the bye but quickly burst back into form when putting Gold Coast to the sword. The Swans have depth in all areas as the addition of Brodie Grundy and Taylor Adams adds to their assets at the contest, but there will be no room for complacency against the Hawks especially with a Sydney Derby to follow.

    Brodie Grundy and Taylor Adams in action at Sydney training on February 7, 2024. Picture: Phil Hillyard

    Game shapers

    Hawthorn has set out to add more firepower but Dylan Moore is still the mostly likely spark in the forward half. Moore booted four goals as the Hawks passed the 100-point mark for just the third time since the start of last season, and now has 11 majors in six matches to be their most reliable scorer.

    James Rowbottom might fly under the radar to the point that he is yet to poll a vote in the Brownlow Medal but the Swans' midfielder is crucial to their success. Rowbottom leads the League for tackles with 55 this season, and can be expected to nullify the Hawks' prime movers while also winning plenty of the ball in his 100th match.

    Early tip: Sydney by 28 points

    02:06

    High on Fyfe: Superstar winds back clock as Freo sinks Dogs

    Fremantle overcame a stern challenge from the Bulldogs thanks largely to a vintage effort from the two-time Brownlow medallist

    Hayden Young and Nat Fyfe celebrate a goal with Bailey Banfield during the R7 match between Fremantle and Western Bulldogs at Optus Stadium on April 27, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

    FREMANTLE responded to its Derby defeat in thrilling style on Saturday night, breaking the Western Bulldogs late to win a tense clash by 24 points at Optus Stadium and return to the top eight. 

    Bailey Banfield emerged as the Dockers' unlikely hero in a field of stars, kicking back-to-back goals deep in the fourth quarter to secure the 14.11 (95) to 10.11 (71) win as the Dockers found a new gear after a low-scoring month. 

    DOCKERS v BULLDOGS Full match coverage and stats

    The game was alive through a nail-biting final quarter and only six points separated the teams before Banfield's intervention 22 minutes in, with the forward converting from 50m out and then again from a tight angle, finishing with three goals after kicking 0.4 last week. 

    The win, which was propelled by a significant return to elite form from star midfielder Nat Fyfe, saw the Dockers kick their highest score since round two, ending a month of poor supply for their forwards.

    Fyfe was sensational, finishing with an equal game-high 37 disposals as an inside bull who released his teammates constantly with clean handballs. His sidekick was club champion Caleb Serong, who also amassed 37 touches and had a club-record 17 clearances. 

    01:58

    The Dockers relied on captain Alex Pearce to support an undersized backline with his constant aerial interventions, while key forward Josh Treacy (five contested marks) was a frequent target, finishing with an equal team-high three goals alongside Banfield. 

    The team's return to form was built on clearance dominance (47-30) and chains of handballs that released their runners, with debutants Cooper Simpson and Pat Voss along for the ride in eye-catching first-up performances.

    06:27

    It was back to earth for the Bulldogs after a 60-point win against St Kilda, with Tom Liberatore's late withdrawal with illness a blow that impacted their clearance game significantly.

    Luke Beveridge expected Fremantle to come out "breathing fire" after its dispiriting Derby loss in round six, and his instincts were right early as James Aish, Treacy and Voss laid big tackles and the Dockers kicked two quick goals. 

    Players appeared to struggle with the Optus Stadium surface and were slipping over frequently, but the Bulldogs were able to steady and kick back-to-back goals through Aaron Naughton and Tim English.  

    00:27

    A strong contested mark from impressive Treacy and a typically accurate set shot after the siren gave the Dockers an eight-point lead at the first break and some reward for their midfield ascendency. 

    Challenges came for both teams as Freo key defender Josh Draper was substituted with a hamstring injury and Bulldogs forward Cody Weightman succumbed to an elbow issue, landing awkwardly in an aerial contest and leaving the ground with trainers.

    00:38

    Bailey Dale, who was brilliant throughout for the Bulldogs, continued to lift and pushed forward to kick two goals in the second term, including a brilliant set shot from a tight angle that cut the half-time margin to just three points. 

    The margin never stretched beyond the 12 points it sat at halfway through the third quarter when Fyfe plucked the ball off Bulldogs interceptor Buku Khamis and snapped his second goal of the season. 

    With the Dockers' backline undersized after the loss of Draper, however, Sam Darcy emerged as the dangerman and kicked two goals from contested marks. If Marcus Bontempelli had converted from 15m out, the Bulldogs would have had a lead going into the tense finale. 

    The evolution of Fyfe 
    Nat Fyfe spoke during the week about judging himself differently in 2024 as he evolves as a player late in his career, but Saturday night's performance was a return to his ball-winning best, reaching 30 disposals for the first time since round 17, 2021, and matching the 37 he last accumulated back in 2019. The dual Brownlow medallist made a flying start, handballing 12 times among his 15 first-quarter possessions as he set up teammates around him. The three-time All-Australian said he was judging himself more on the collective midfield's output, and on that measure he was outstanding.   

    00:36

    Darcy impresses, but Dogs can't exploit height 
    Fremantle's backline was already undermanned, making the loss of key tall Josh Draper a gift for the Bulldogs' tall forwards. Sam Darcy took the chance to impose himself on the game, impressing in the air with seven marks and kicking three goals. Former Docker Rory Lobb had little impact in his return to Optus Stadium, however, finishing goalless and with two marks from eight touches. The Bulldogs hope to regain Jamarra Ugle-Hagan for next week's clash against Hawthorn, with the tall forward missed on Saturday night. 

    Debutants enjoy their moment 
    Draftee Cooper Simpson has generated plenty of excitement at Fremantle since joining the club with pick No.35, and he showed glimpses of why on Saturday night. Substituted into the game at quarter-time, he showed his rapid sidestep to set Andrew Brayshaw into space and grew in confidence from there. Late in the game, he used his speed to break the lines and set up Banfield for the crucial match-sealing goal. Voss was a strong target in the air and a pressuring force at ground level. He lifted the team midway through the second quarter when he converted a set shot for his first AFL goal. Both look like reliable options when chances for selection present through the season.  

    00:45

    ALL THE HIGHLIGHTS

    FREMANTLE                       4.4   7.6   10.9   14.11 (95)  
    WESTERN BULLDOGS      3.2   7.3   9.10   10.11 (71)   

    GOALS 
    Fremantle: Treacy 3, Banfield 3, Frederick 2, Jackson 2, Fyfe, Voss, Walters, Young 
    Western Bulldogs: Darcy 3, Dale 2, Naughton 2, English, Vandermeer, West 

    BEST
    Fremantle: Serong, Fyfe, Pearce, Treacy, Aish, Brayshaw, Young
    Western Bulldogs: Dale, Darcy, Treloar, Jones, Richards, English  

    INJURIES
    Fremantle: Draper (hamstring)
    Western Bulldogs: Weightman (elbow)  

    LATE CHANGES 
    Fremantle: Nil 
    Western Bulldogs: Tom Liberatore (illness) replaced in the selected side by Caleb Daniel 

    SUBSTITUTES
    Fremantle: Cooper Simpson (replaced Josh Draper at quarter time) 
    Western Bulldogs: Caleb Daniel (replaced Cody Weightman in the second quarter)  

    Crowd: 45,931 at Optus Stadium 

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