Fremantle players look dejected after their loss to the Western Bulldogs in round 14, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

FREMANTLE has some "soul searching" to do after crashing from the highs of a 92-point win against Melbourne to a 67-point loss to the Western Bulldogs.

Dockers coach Justin Longmuir was at a loss to explain the sudden reversal in form, the two matches bisected by the bye, but said contest was a key issue in the thumping loss. 

BULLDOGS v DOCKERS Full match coverage and stats

"Clearly, something wasn't right, and we got dominated from go to whoa, really. We kicked four in a row in the first and the scoreboard would have looked OK, but we were doing it from the back half and never really got the game going on our terms," Longmuir said.

"We got beaten in all aspects we wanted to compete in today. 

"The contest numbers wouldn't have looked overly bad, but what they were able to get out of their contest wins versus what we were able to get out of our contest wins was chalk and cheese. 

"We had 11 (10) guys at half-time who hadn't had a tackle. Through that period where they kicked 12 or 13 goals, our pressure was 1.6 and that hasn't been us."


Longmuir said the difference in attitude between the two sides during the game was obvious, but he had been pleased with how the Dockers had attacked training after their week off.

"I can't really explain it. Going into the bye with a big win and everyone pumping your tyres up, I said to the players after the game, it just looked like a team that was desperate to keep their season alive and a team who were comfortable," Longmuir said.

"But there were no warning sides for me during the week, maybe we spoke about it too much, maybe we talked too much about it. But couldn't fault the players' attitude at training and their application to meetings and training, so we need to dig a bit deeper as to why.

"We've got some soul searching to do out of that. But we bounce back quickly in this League, it's a good reminder the opposition you're coming up against aren't going to give you any favours because of a good win or where you are on the ladder, you actually get the opposition's best, because as I said before, they looked like the more desperate team."


Longmuir said Michael Walters would require scans to determine the severity of his second-quarter hamstring injury, while late withdrawal Heath Chapman – who has a history of soft-tissue injuries – had pulled up with a tight hamstring after the captain's run. 

Western Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge lauded the even contribution from his side, which boosted its finals chances.

"I expected it to be an extremely tough and hard battle early, and the armwrestle inside. Obviously they got out to a bit of a lead in the first quarter that we managed to claw our way back, which was a positive sign," he said.

"The thing about Fremantle and what they've been able to do is we think they're a team who work extremely hard. Their balance in the game and all the phases has been really strong, and that's why they've been winning games.


"We just used the ball a lot better today (than in previous games), we really did. We used each other, but our distribution inside our front half was a lot better. We were able to really capitalise on a swag of forward 50 entries, and the differential there (14) suggests we should win the game.

"It meant if we didn't mark it, it meant the ground level contest was an opportunity for us, rather than their sweeping, uncontested mark game which really puts you on the edge."


Tom Liberatore not only produced 28 disposals and nine clearances of his own, he put his hand up to help limit the impact of Fremantle star Caleb Serong, who was forced to do it the hard way.

"Serong really towelled us up last time, so for him to play that role, similarly to what he did with Matty Rowell at Gold Coast, was really important for us," Beveridge said.


"Sometimes he offers [to shut down an opponent]. I don't know how many examples there are of players who come back from concussion and just play the house down. He probably wasn't at his best last week, and sometimes being task-oriented for a change and not being so creative can right the ship a bit.

"The glint's in his eye when he offers, and it twinkles when you agree. With their midfield, there's a number of guys who are influential, and we thought with this thing, if it's a half-result, it's good for us. Caleb's a very good player, we think he's a really strong leader as well."