Matthew Cottrell celebrates during the round four match between Fremantle and Carlton at Adelaide Oval, April 6, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

CARLTON has risen at the death against Fremantle to become the new king of close finishes, kicking three goals in the last five minutes to seal a thrilling 10-point win in controversial style at Adelaide Oval.

The Dockers looked poised to continue their undefeated start to the season when they held a nine-point lead deep in the fourth quarter of a gruelling arm-wrestle, but a late goal to Charlie Curnow put the Blues in striking distance.

DOCKERS v BLUES Full match coverage and stats

Half-forward Matthew Cottrell was then awarded a mark and converted his set shot as Dockers players pleaded with the umpire that the ball had been touched, with dissent continuing and resulting in a follow-up free kick for the Blues and a 'double goal', with Matt Kennedy icing the match.

The Dockers would have had 40 seconds to steal the lead back with a quick centre clearance if not for the umpire dissent, with the team ultimately falling to its first defeat of the season after a low-scoring clash that ended with the Blues winning 10.13 (73) to 9.9 (63).


It was the Blues' seventh win by 10 points or less from their past 10 clashes, with the 2023 preliminary finalists undefeated after four games this season.

Curnow (12 marks, including six contested) was critical in the result, kicking three goals in a low-scoring match, including the belief-builder in the dying minutes and back-to-back goals at the start of the third quarter that gave the Blues their first lead since early in the game.

Josh Draper and Charlie Curnow compete during the round four match between Fremantle and Carlton at Adelaide Oval, April 06, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

Key defender Jacob Weitering (21 disposals and 12 marks) was also vital, while ruckman Tom De Koning competed hard with Luke Jackson to finish with 16 disposals, 32 hit-outs and five inside 50s in an impressive outing.

The Blues got the win despite having their usual ball-movement and midfield strengths taken away as the Dockers controlled clearances (44-27) and kept Carlton to its lowest score of the season in a grinding clash with little outside flow for either team.

Forward-half turnovers created most of the Blues' opportunities, with former Docker Adam Cerra seizing on one to get Carlton on the board early with a right-foot snap.  


Chances were hard to come by otherwise, with the Blues conceding back-to-back goals to pressure forwards Tom Emmett and Bailey Banfield before Patrick Cripps stepped up deep in the quarter, celebrating his set shot goal with a nod to his newborn baby.

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Leading by one point at the end of the first term, the Dockers accelerated to start the second as midfielder Caleb Serong worked into the game and set up the Dockers' best passage of play with his vision in congestion, allowing Jye Amiss to kick his first goal.

The little things that Fremantle is doing so well this season, like desperate smothers and chasedown tackles, remained central to its game as Matt Taberner caught former Docker Blake Acres holding the ball for his first goal.

For all Freo’s hard work keeping Carlton in check with disciplined defence, the Blues were still able to create a run of opportunities late in the quarter with front-half turnovers. Misses from Harry McKay, Cripps and then De Koning, however, left them with 1.4 for the quarter and a three-point deficit at the main break. 

The Dockers were dealt a setback in the third quarter when important running forward Michael Frederick suffered a right hamstring injury, grabbing at his leg as he strode through the middle of the ground.


The game never broke open and tension built, particularly after a late hit on Nat Fyfe in a marking contest from Carlton forward Lachie Fogarty that will draw scrutiny.

The final term was brutal and came down to who could win the critical contests. When Jeremy Sharp and Michael Walters converted back-to-back opportunities, it looked the Dockers would win enough of those to end Gather Round undefeated.

They lost their cool late, however, and the Blues were there to pounce, proving they love a close finish more than any team in 2024.


Aerial battle the key for Blues
In a game that saw their ground-level strengths neutralised by a brilliant Freo midfield, the Blues needed to get the job done in the aerial contests. In the end they took 16 contested marks to the Dockers' six, with Curnow (six) the key figure in the second half. Weitering and Brodie Kemp combined for 26 marks in defence, while also keeping Freo's tall forwards relatively quiet in the air. The game was largely on the Dockers' terms, but the Blues kept themselves close enough by controlling the airwaves.

Brodie Kemp marks during the round four match between Fremantle and Carlton at Adelaide Oval, April 06, 2024. Picture: Getty Images

Freo moving on from lost wingman
In a game that saw former Fremantle wingman Blake Acres lining up for the Blues, it was new Docker Jeremy Sharp who was the star on the outside on Saturday. Sharp played the best of his four games for Fremantle, finishing with 29 disposals, seven inside 50s and a late goal. His running power is an asset for the Dockers, and he used his speed several times on Saturday to break the line and kick long. Acres has been an asset to the Blues and the Dockers felt his absence last year. With Sharp, however, the club now has one wing well covered.


Fogarty floors Fyfe in untidy contest 
Nat Fyfe was positioned to take a chest mark on the wing when Lachie Fogarty charged through in a desperate but attempt to spoil that will draw the attention of the Match Review Office. Fogarty's eyes were on Fyfe as his right forearm appeared to make contact with the dual Brownlow medallist's neck, drawing a strong response from the Fremantle players. Fogarty's fate will be determined by where initial contact was made and if he was engaging in a legitimate spoiling attempt.



FREMANTLE    2.2   4.2    7.7     9.9 (63)   
CARLTON        2.1   3.5   5.10   10.13 (73)

Fremantle: Emmett 2, Amiss, Banfield, Sharp, Switkowski, Taberner, Treacy, Walters
Carlton: Curnow 3, Cottrell 2, Kennedy 2, Cerra, Cripps, Owies

Fremantle: Brayshaw, Young, Clark, Aish, Sharp, Fyfe, Serong
Carlton: Weitering, Curnow, Cripps, Saad, De Koning, Kemp, Cerra

Fremantle: Frederick (hamstring)
Carlton: Nil

Fremantle: Jaeger O'Meara (replaced Matthew Johnson in the third quarter) 
Carlton: Matt Owies (replaced Elijah Hollands in the third quarter) 

Crowd: 43,158 at Adelaide Oval