MAKE no mistake, Fremantle is heading in the right direction.
The glimpses of a bright future that have been dotted throughout Justin Longmuir's first season in charge of the club have perhaps never been more evident than during Saturday night's comfortable 31-point victory over Sydney.
>>WATCH THE HIGHLIGHTS IN THE PLAYER ABOVE
The rock-solid defensive system that has been the focus of Longmuir's new-look Dockers side was at the forefront of a stifling 7.8 (50) to 2.7 (19) victory over the Swans at Optus Stadium.
DOCKERS CRUSH SWANS Full match coverage and stats
It added to the excitement that can be found in the emergence of quality young prospects, with Andrew Brayshaw (27 disposals, seven tackles) continuing his rapid improvement and debutant Liam Henry providing a lively option in the forward line.
Then there's the genuine A-Grade talent. Nat Fyfe (22 disposals, six clearances) and Michael Walters (18 disposals) were among the best, while Luke Ryan (26 disposals, five marks) continued an All-Australian campaign that is quickly gathering momentum.
For an injury-depleted Sydney side, the positives were harder to find. Having kicked the game's first goal just four minutes into the contest, the visitors then went more than three full quarters without another major in a bruising defeat.
Young midfielder James Rowbottom (19 disposals, eight clearances) was one of the few shining lights for the Swans, but there was no hiding the dramatic fall from grace after the high of last week's thumping win over crosstown rivals the Giants.
With Sydney held to just four behinds between goals, Fremantle piled on six unanswered majors on its way to a third victory in four matches.
Finals might be out of the equation this year, but the prospect of an exciting future certainly isn't.
Freo has its forward fix
It's been the season Matt Taberner has threatened throughout his 83-match Fremantle career. Despite having all of the attributes you would look for in a dominant key forward, the strong-marking Taberner had never kicked more than 20 goals in a single season. Until now. With vice-like hands, Taberner's second-quarter major meant he is now the only player in the League left standing to have kicked a goal in every game so far this year. Jeremy Finlayson also currently holds that achievement, but his run will come to an end on Sunday having been dropped for Greater Western Sydney's clash with West Coast. It capped a nice night for Taberner, who finished with 12 disposals, nine marks and two goals.
Keep the Lizard in the middle
Nick Blakey has found his niche. Having struggled trying to fill the void of Lance Franklin, Sam Reid and Tom McCartin as Sydney's go-to key forward target earlier this season, the highly-rated Blakey has been shifted into more of an inside midfield role over the last fortnight. He backed up his 18-disposal, two-goal outing against the Giants last week with another 15 disposals, seven contested possessions, seven inside 50s and four clearances against the Dockers on Saturday night. In that position, he was one of few shining lights in a dour night for a young Swans outfit. A big body at 195cm, but with an exceptional kicking ability, Blakey provides Sydney's midfield with a different type of midfield option. It's out of the centre where he therefore must stay in the future.
Another draft win for the Dockers
It was a 'nearly night' for Fremantle debutant Liam Henry. He displayed glimpses of his immense potential, but perhaps a few nerves cost him when it came to execution. Still, the Dockers know they have another beauty on their hands. The third of Fremantle's three successive top-10 picks from last year's NAB AFL Draft to debut this season – pick No.9 Henry has followed pick No.7 Hayden Young and pick No.8 Caleb Serong – the classy forward has plenty of tricks in his locker. Having burst onto the scene with 25 disposals in Western Australia's title-clinching victory over Vic Country at last year's national carnival, Henry's speed and evasive skills were on show on Saturday night – even if his normally impeccable finishing touch wasn't. He ended the game with nine disposals and six marks.
FREMANTLE 1.1 4.4 5.7 7.8 (50)
SYDNEY 1.2 1.4 1.4 2.7 (19)
Fremantle: Ryan, Brayshaw, Mundy, Taberner, Walters, Fyfe, Schultz
Sydney: Rowbottom, Lloyd, Dawson, Kennedy
Fremantle: Taberner 2, Mundy, Cerra, Frederick, Lobb, Schultz
Sydney: McCartin, Wicks