Caleb Serong celebrates after scoring a goal during the match between Fremantle and Gold Coast at Optus Stadium in round 15, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

FREMANTLE is knocking on the door of the top four after holding off Gold Coast on Sunday, claiming redemption in a vital 20-point win at Optus Stadium that was driven by its young midfield stars.

A spot in the top eight was on the line for both teams and the Suns, who had fallen 35 points behind in the third quarter, made a late charge when they cut the margin to just 15 points in the final term.

DOCKERS v SUNS Full match coverage and stats

But the Dockers steadied through a clutch long-range goal to midfielder Jaeger O'Meara and claimed fifth spot on the ladder, winning 12.13 (85) to 10.5 (65) in a mature performance from the young group.

With the colours lowered against the Western Bulldogs last week, it was the Dockers' engine room that led an impressive response as Hayden Young, Andrew Brayshaw and Caleb Serong took control of the midfield and gave the team a 44-32 clearance advantage.

It became a key scoring source for Justin Longmuir's team, with that trio itself combining for five goals in a new side to the Dockers' midfield that could prove crucial in the run home if it can remain a weapon.


Young was outstanding with 24 disposals and three goals, with his piercing front half kicking a feature, while Brayshaw (32 and eight tackles) set the standard for midfield pressure after it was lacking against the Bulldogs.

Key forward Josh Treacy was immense in his 50th game, flying for contested grabs and kicking two important goals while also setting up others, with Sam Sturt (two) lifting as well.

There was a late concern for the Dockers as captain Alex Pearce left the ground with a left forearm injury that ended his day after he landed awkwardly in a contest.


For the Suns, a potential spot in the top eight became 12th place as the ladder returned to parity following the mid-season bye period, with the visitors letting themselves down either side of half time when the Dockers kicked six goals to one.

The move of Sam Flanders (33 and four clearances) into the midfield inspired a late revival, but it was not enough, with Sam Day (three goals) also impressive in the absence of injured spearhead Ben King.


Longmuir's comments that Dockers had been "worried more about how many possessions they got" than other more important factors were still fresh on Sunday when the ball was bounced, and there was a watch on how his players would respond.

The early signs were concerning as Gold Coast burst from the blocks with two early goals, but the pressure, contest and team defence that Longmuir was looking for quickly emerged.

With that came their best offensive play as Young asserted himself and attacking kicks into the corridor became a feature through a second quarter run that saw them build a 24-point lead at the main break.


When Sean Darcy, playing his best game since returning from injury, hit the scoreboard early in the third quarter, the margin was 35 points and a comeback looked unlikely.

But the Suns' midfielders, led by Touk Miller and Flanders, got on top at the stoppages and ensured the game was within reach when Brandon Ellis cut the margin to 15 points with six minutes to play.

It mattered little in the end, with O'Meara's set shot from 50m enough to settle the contest and ensure the Suns road woes continued.

Dockers discover a new scoring weapon 
If there's been a criticism of the Dockers' talented midfield, it's that they do not take their opportunities to push forward and hit the scoreboard. Sometimes it has been through missed shots, while other times they have preferred to set teammates up instead of taking responsibility. But on Sunday, the No.1 midfield combination of Hayden Young, Andrew Brayshaw and Caleb Serong had a killer edge. The trio combined for five goals, with Sean Darcy also chipping in with one, having managed just nine as a trio before this week. The mids took advantage of their opponents and pushed forward hard at the right times, which proved the difference in the game.


Flanders on the move again 
The switch of Sam Flanders to half-back has been excellent for the Suns this season, but he almost became the match-winning magnet when coach Damien Hardwick put him in the midfield late on Sunday. Flanders had nine disposals and four clearances in the last quarter and gave the Suns some of the speed and dynamic movement they'd missed at stoppages. Whether Hardwick can afford to lose him from half-back, where he has been a star, is the question going forward.

Dominant Darcy hits career high
Sean Darcy was earmarked as the right ruckman to carry the load against the returning Jarrod Witts, and he showed why both in the air and at ground level. Darcy was excellent with 39 hit-outs to Witts' 29, but then at ground level he got it done with a career-best 12 clearances, which was also a game high. He launched the second quarter when he got on the move to win the opening centre clearance and kick inside 50 and then hit the scoreboard early in the third. It was a complete performance from the big man.

FREMANTLE           2.3   6.7   10.12   12.13 (85)
GOLD COAST           2.0   3.2   6.2   10.5 (65)

Fremantle: Young 3, Sturt 2, Treacy 2, Brayshaw, Darcy, Frederick, O'Meara, Serong
Gold Coast: Day 3, Lukosius 2, Swallow 2, Ellis, Graham, Long

Fremantle: Young, Brayshaw, Treacy, Serong, Darcy, Chapman
Gold Coast: Flanders, Powell, Day, Collins, Uwland, Rowell

Fremantle: Pearce (forearm)
Gold Coast: Nil

Fremantle: Karl Worner (replaced Alex Pearce in the fourth quarter)
Gold Coast: Brandon Ellis (replaced Bailey Humphrey in the third quarter)

Crowd: 40,637 at Optus Stadium