THERE was nothing pretty about this.
DOCKERS v CATS Full match coverage and stats
It was wet, it was wild, and there was hardly a clean possession in sight. But for Geelong, its mightily scrappy 32-point victory over Fremantle on Monday night represented a job well done. And a crucial one at that.
>> WATCH THE HIGHLIGHTS IN THE PLAYER ABOVE
The Cats were made to grind for their 6.12 (48) to 2.4 (16) win at Optus Stadium. The ball, more like a cake of soap than a footy given the wild conditions that were lashing down, was spraying off the boot in seemingly every direction bar the goal.
But in an uncompromising territorial battle, Geelong had more of the answers. The visitors camped Fremantle deep inside its defensive half, holding the Dockers to the second-lowest score in the club's 26-year history.
Mitch Duncan (26 disposals, one goal) relished the tough conditions and was the game's outstanding midfielder, while Cam Guthrie (30 disposals, eight clearances) was a driving force around the ground.
Tom Hawkins (12 disposals, three goals) was also crafty in the forward line, finding unusual avenues to goal and looking a constant threat in the trying conditions.
Andrew Brayshaw (27 disposals, eight tackles) battled hard for the Dockers, but the hosts found little respite from both the pressure of their more experienced Cats counterparts and the horrid weather.
INJURY WOES Worry for Sonny but worse news looms for Tucker
Ultimately, six goals was enough for Geelong – three of which were converted off the deck from close range – as the Cats re-established themselves in the top eight nearing the halfway point of the season.
The Dockers are all Tucker'd out
When the rain is pouring, goals are hard to come by and rotations are difficult to make, the last thing you need is an injury. Unfortunately for Fremantle, it had star midfielder Darcy Tucker go down just minutes into Monday night's contest. Tucker, who has been one of the side's best players this season, limped from the field with a hamstring issue in the opening stages of the contest. Having won more of the ball this year, and having had a significant impact on the scoreboard in various Dockers matches, Tucker was a crucial loss. Brennan Cox (hip) had already been a late withdrawal, with Tobe Watson introduced for his debut, as a tired and young Fremantle side failed to recover from the pair of early injury blows. Michael Walters also limped from the field late in the game with cramp in his hamstring.
A game of Close margins
Brad Close was drafted at 21 years of age as a SANFL premiership player with Glenelg. But he looked every bit an AFL footballer in the early stages of Monday night's clash. Making his senior debut, Close tackled and pressured with ferocity and, when the opportunity came, he also marked cleanly. In soggy conditions, Close's first kick was a calm set-shot and – in an opening term where scoring was hard to come by – his subsequent major was a crucial one in the game's early stages. Geelong has had success with mature-aged recruits in recent years, drafting Tom Stewart (2016), Tim Kelly (2017) and Tom Atkins (2018) in three of the last four seasons. Close already looks a winner from the 2019 NAB AFL Rookie Draft crop.
Freo's night of pain
It was hard, tough footy. But for Fremantle, unwanted records were still broken. The Dockers went 68 minutes before finally registering their opening major through Matt Taberner – kicked in controversial circumstances after the goal umpire initially signalled for a behind. Their final score of 2.4 (16) was the second-lowest in the club's history, with Caleb Serong's late goal edging it ahead of the 1.7 (13) it kicked in a 117-point loss to Adelaide back in 2009. Their half-time score of 0.3 (3) was also the second lowest first-half score in the club's history, behind the 0.1 (1) kicked in that game against the Crows. Three of Fremantle's four lowest scores in its history have now been kicked against Geelong – in 2004, 2018 and 2020.
FREMANTLE 0.2 0.3 1.3 2.4 (16)
GEELONG 1.2 2.9 3.9 6.12 (48)
Fremantle: Taberner, Serong
Geelong: Hawkins 3, Close, Duncan, Menegola
Fremantle: Brayshaw, Ryan, Serong, Walters, Cerra
Geelong: Duncan, Guthrie, Tuohy, Taylor, Menegola, Blicavs
Fremantle: Cox (hip) replaced in selected side by Watson, Tucker (hamstring), Walters (hamstring)