FREMANTLE spearhead Matt Taberner had a night out under the Marvel Stadium roof on Sunday, booting a career-best seven goals as the Dockers moved to second on the ladder while resigning a limp Essendon outfit to a 1-4 start to the season.
Having led by just three points at half-time, Fremantle booted 10 goals to three after the main break to run out 48-point winners, 16.11. (107) to 8.11 (59).
Taberner was the beneficiary of his side’s ability to cut a swathe through Essendon's midfield, with Andrew Brayshaw (equal game-high 34 touches, five clearances and a goal) continuing his excellent start to the year, while Will Brodie (26 disposals at 88 per cent efficiency) again showed he is a great fit for Fremantle.
BOMBERS v DOCKERS Full match coverage and stats
The Dockers went into the clash having lost their past five games against the Bombers (and six of the past seven), so they will be well-pleased to have snapped that streak in such pleasing fashion.
Alarmingly, Essendon has conceded 97 points or more in all five games in 2022.
The Bombers will doubtless come under intense scrutiny ahead of a massive ANZAC Day clash against Collingwood at the MCG on Monday.
In what was a low-scoring first quarter, it took close to 10 minutes for the opening goal to be kicked, and it came via Michael Frederick.
The Bombers were dealt an early blow when they lost ruckman Andrew Phillips to a hamstring issue, bringing medical substitute Tom Cutler into the game.
Essendon’s lone goal for the term was kicked by Nic Martin, who swooped on a Fremantle error.
After a combined three goals kicked in the first quarter, both sides added four in the second.
Bailey Banfield booted two goals in the term, while Taberner and Martin both added their second.
The Dockers took a three-point advantage into the main break, although the Bombers could have held the lead had Nik Cox converted his set after the siren, having been handed a 50m penalty when Sam Switkowski failed to hand the ball back on the full.
SEVEN-YEAR ITCH Longmuir, Dockers keen to keep good times rolling
Freo came out full of running in the third term, and when Taberner slotted his third, it was 10 points to the good and appeared to be on the cusp of breaking the game open.
Taberner then won a free kick and curled one around the corner to make it four, and seconds later, ruckman Sean Darcy joined the party, extending the Dockers’ lead to a game-high 22 points.
Fremantle entered the final term with a 40-point lead, and while Essendon kicked three late goals, it was all in vain, as the Dockers coasted to a hugely impressive victory on the road to enhance their finals credentials.
Taberner too much to handle
The Fremantle full-forward finished with a career-high seven goals (straight), bettering his previous best, a five-goal performance against Brisbane in 2016, and he now has 11 goals to his name in just three games in 2022. Fremantle’s leading goalkicker last year with a personal best 37, Taberner clearly enjoys playing the Bombers, improving his record to 25 goals in 10 outings against them. Now in his 11th season, if Taberner can become a consistent weapon, it will go a long way to Fremantle returning to September action.
Hobbs debut a silver lining
On a woeful afternoon for the Bombers, one shining light was the debut of 18-year-old Ben Hobbs. The 13th pick in last year’s NAB AFL Draft, Hobbs looked comfortable at the level from the outset. He finished with 15 disposals at 80 per cent efficiency. Hobbs also laid nine tackles and had three score involvements. Unlike many of his more senior team-mates, Hobbs can hold his head high.
What’s happened to Michael Walters?
Perhaps Walters’ form isn’t getting the scrutiny it deserves, due to the fact Fremantle is playing so well, but there’s little doubt the livewire is miles off his best. In 2019, when he won All Australian honours, Walters kicked 40 goals (an average of 1.82) and laid 78 tackles (3.55). That dropped to 15 (1.07) and 40 (2.86) in 2020, then 14 (0.88) and 33 (2.06) the following year. Walters has kicked just two goals in 2022, and missed some relatively easy chances on Sunday. His confidence looks shot.
ESSENDON 1.4 5.8 5.10 8.11 (59)
FREMANTLE 2.2 6.5 12.8 16.11 (107)
Essendon: Martin 2, Waterman 2, Caldwell, Cox, Draper, Guelfi
Fremantle: Taberner 7, Banfield 2, Darcy 2, Frederick 2, Switkowski 2, Brayshaw
Essendon: Parish, McGrath, Heppell, Caldwell, Martin
Fremantle: Taberner, Brayshaw, Brodie, Darcy, Serong, Clark, O’Driscoll
Essendon: Phillips (hamstring)
Essendon: Tom Cutler, replaced Andrew Phillips in the first quarter
Fremantle: Darcy Tucker (unused)