Nat Fyfe celebrates a goal during the R7 match between Fremantle and Western Bulldogs at Optus Stadium on April 27, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

FREMANTLE star Nat Fyfe produced his most sustained performance since returning from a run of injuries, with coach Justin Longmuir excited to see the dual Brownlow medallist being rewarded for his persistence. 

Fyfe was integral to the Dockers' 24-point win against the Western Bulldogs on Saturday night, winning 37 disposals and seven clearances in his best ball-winning game since 2019 as the Freo engine room fired. 

DOCKERS v BULLDOGS Full match coverage and stats

Longmuir paid tribute to the 32-year-old, who has worked back from plantar fascia and stress fractures in his feet, as well as shoulder, back and hamstring injuries during two heavily interrupted seasons. 

"I think we've seen snippets of [that form] and quarters of it, but we probably haven't seen a sustained game like that from him since he got back," Longmuir said. 

"But his body of work since day one of pre-season has been phenomenal and I've spoken a lot about that work and how it set him up for the season. 

"His ability to bring his teammates into the game and make his possessions contribute to us hitting the scoreboard was really, really good. It's good to see him get reward for all the persistence and all the effort.


"He just wants to be a part of a successful team, and he's doing everything he can to be able to help build a successful team and he's contributing really well."

Fremantle's midfield was outstanding against the Bulldogs, winning the clearances 47-30 and helping generate its equal highest number of forward entries this season (52) in a more attacking display.  

Longmuir, who joked about his supposed nature as a "dour, defensive coach", said the team's high handball numbers (179-159) reflected an intent to take the game on, with the approach evident on Saturday night. 

"We've been top four or even top two in handballs in the comp for the last three years, so we like our players taking the game on and bringing their teammates into the game," he said. 


"We don't always get it right, and there's times when we could have taken field position today, but I think it shows their mindset to take the game on when we play like that.

"We'll keep working on that balance, especially from stoppage. There's times when we went backwards with our handballs and got ourselves into trouble, but overall I thought our handball helped us to create scoring opportunities." 

On Bailey Banfield's ability to respond to his missed chances last week by kicking a pair of crucial late goals, Longmuir said: "To stand up under pressure and deliver when we needed it was great. He's been thrown around a bit this year in different roles … so it's good for him to get a bit of reward."


Western Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge said the contested ball had been critical on Saturday night, losing the indicator 136-124 as Caleb Serong and Fyfe shared 38 contested possessions alone. 

Beveridge sent Caleb Daniel to Serong in the second half, but the brilliant young Docker was still able to finish with 37 disposals and a club-record 17 clearances. 

The loss of clearance specialist Tom Liberatore to illness pre-game in his planned return from concussion had not helped the team, which slipped to 3-4.  

"He came over healthy and then somewhere between dinner and going to bed last night he fell ill," Beveridge said. 


"So I can't tell you whether it's food poisoning or he's just got gastro from something else … but he just wasn't well enough to play. He couldn't keep anything down. 

"It wasn't too dramatic for us in preparation that Tom came out because we managed it last week and we figured we've had a rehearsal. But they got well on top through the midfield area and it was hard to peg back."

Beveridge confirmed Cody Weightman had injured the same elbow that has troubled him through the past two seasons, with the small forward to be assessed after he landed awkwardly from an aerial contest in the first quarter and left the ground nursing his left arm.  

"We hope he's OK, but he will need to have it looked at again and we need to take a long-term approach with him," Beveridge said. 

The coach was hopeful Jamarra Ugle-Hagan would be available against Hawthorn next Sunday at Marvel Stadium, with the star forward training strongly on Saturday morning after missing the Fremantle clash because of personal reasons.