Marcus Bontempelli celebrates a goal during the Western Bulldogs' clash against Fremantle in round 14, 2024. Picture: Getty Images

FREMANTLE has blown a crucial chance to secure four points amid a congested top eight, the pressure and pace of the Western Bulldogs proving far too much in a 67-point thrashing at Marvel Stadium.

The Dogs – keeping their own finals hopes well and truly alive with a hard-working, scintillating performance – kicked five goals to one in the second term to set up the 23.11 (149) to 12.10 (82) victory.

BULLDOGS v DOCKERS Full match coverage and stats

The loss is set to be compounded for Fremantle by what appears to be a relatively serious right hamstring injury to veteran Michael Walters, the 33-year-old trudging forlornly from the ground in the second term.

Fremantle was coming off the bye, and it showed. The Dockers – like they did against Melbourne – struggled to get going while the Western Bulldogs were sharp.


The Dogs kicked 2.2 from their first five inside 50s, Cody Weightman celebrating his return from a serious elbow injury with the opening goal from a somewhat lucky free kick and finishing with three for the match.

Sam Sturt kicked two in the opening term, his second an impressive effort that started with a useful intercept halfway up the field, before getting the follow-up handball and burning the Dogs defenders for pace.


While Fremantle's midfield has been a cut above the competition this year, the combination of Tom Liberatore, Marcus Bontempelli, Ed Richards and Adam Treloar held firm against Nat Fyfe, Caleb Serong, Andy Brayshaw and Hayden Young, overwhelming the Dockers' normally resolute defence as they started to build out the match-winning lead.

The momentum continued into the second half – half-back Lachie Bramble (in arguably a career-best game) drifted forward and was duly rewarded, Tim English plucked the ball from a sea of opponents and Jamarra Ugle-Hagan booted two in a minute and suddenly the Dogs had kicked another five in the first 12 minutes of the term.

It was the type of fast, high-pressure footy of which Dogs fans know their side are more than capable, but don't always produce. The result saw the margin balloon out to 58 points, before Young began to assert himself in the centre bounces, dragging the Dockers back into the game.


Fremantle didn't lie down, kicking six of seven goals either side of three-quarter time, just to make things a little bit interesting, but Weightman's third put paid to any idle musings of a comeback.

Without Alex Keath (hamstring), the Bulldogs defence looked slightly outsized by the Docker talls, but the Dogs solved that issue by simply limiting the supply into Fremantle's forward line, while young key back James O'Donnell also impressed in his 21st game.


Molto, molto bene, Bontempelli
The Bulldogs skipper has been ill all week, missing two training sessions and only taking part in the mildest of captain's runs on Friday. You wouldn't have known it by his second goal, coming in the second term. Manned by not one, but three Fremantle players – and no slouches in Alex Pearce, Luke Ryan and Karl Worner – he brought the ball to ground, wheeled around and snapped truly to take the margin to 21 points. While possibly spending more time in attack throughout the game after his interrupted lead-in, Bontempelli was excellent with 30 disposals, seven clearances and three goals.


A crucial miss
With the margin at just 16 points late in the second term, Josh Treacy had a set shot from directly in front, about 25m out from goal. Simple? Not so. The Dockers key forward appeared to get his grounded foot caught up somewhat in the turf, stabbing at the footy as it sprayed wildly left. The Bulldogs promptly kicked 4.1 either side of the half-time break before Fremantle had another shot on goal, coincidentally another Treacy behind.

The rise and rise of Hayden Young
The return of the tagger – Young's role if the Dockers opt to employ the close checker – has perhaps lessened the acknowledgement of the midfielder's offensive weapons. At half-time, he had 11 disposals and two clearances, but as Fremantle flirted with the idea of hauling in the Bulldogs, it was Young who drove the charge. He recorded 15 touches after the break, as well as four clearances, his fourth quarter somewhat limited by a knock to the knee.

WESTERN BULLDOGS          4.5     9.8     15.11     23.11 (149)
FREMANTLE                         4.1     5.4       9.5       12.10 (82)

Western Bulldogs: West 4, Weightman 3, Ugle-Hagan 3, Lobb 3, Bontempelli 3, Gallagher 2, English 2, Treloar, Richards, Bramble
Sturt 3, Banfield 3, Treacy 2, Jackson 2, Frederick, Amiss

Western Bulldogs: Liberatore, Bontempelli, Treloar, Bramble, Dale, West
Young, Serong, Banfield, Jackson, Clark

Western Bulldogs: Nil
Walters (hamstring)

Western Bulldogs: Nil
Heath Chapman (hamstring awareness) replaced by Karl Worner

Western Bulldogs: Caleb Daniel (replaced Anthony Scott at three-quarter time)
Matthew Johnson (replaced Michael Walters in the second quarter)

Crowd: 21,796 at Marvel Stadium