FREMANTLE might just be the real deal in 2022 after improving to a 5-1 record with an impressive 35-point win over Carlton at Optus Stadium on Saturday night.
The Dockers burst clear with five consecutive goals in the second quarter and never looked back, led by Lachie Schultz and Rory Lobb with three majors each as they won 14.13.97 to 9.8.62.
Fremantle's speedy small forwards did plenty of the damage, with Schultz's three along with two each from Sam Switkowski and Michael Walters. Matt Taberner, who kicked seven last round against Essendon, was kept to one showcasing the side's array of attacking weapons.
DOCKERS v BLUES Full match coverage and stats
Andy Brayshaw and Will Brodie had 27 possessions each in a tough midfield battle against the tireless Sam Walsh (36 disposals), Patrick Cripps (32) and Adam Cerra (32), coming up against his former club for the first time. Carlton won the disposal count (381-358) but lost the inside 50s (56-38).
Alex Pearce blanketed reigning Coleman medalist Harry McKay, who was kept to one goal from just three disposals and battled a knee issue throughout.
Cripps showed no signs of the hamstring injury that kept him out of round five, gathering a game-high 19 contested possessions along with three goals for Carlton, who slip to a 4-2 record.
The Blues weren't helped by an early knee injury to ruckman Marc Pittonet, with Sean Darcy and Lobb dominating the hitouts 50-18 against makeshift Tom De Koning.
Carlton's third-quarter struggles continued again yet they rallied in the last, dominating the centre clearances after Darcy was subbed out with concussion, but Fremantle repelled their best efforts to finish strong.
The Dockers had trailed by four points at the first break but pulled away with a six-goals-to-two second quarter, including five in a row after McKay converted a soft free-kick early in the term.
Schultz and Walters both kicked two each, the latter slotting a fine dribbling shot from 25m on an angle, as the Dockers opened up a 19-point half-time buffer.
Fremantle led by five goals after two more from Lobb early in the third quarter, while Cripps kept them alive with two of his own.
Carlton closed within 21 points in the final term after another Cripps goal was followed by Lewis Young's major, but Zac Williams' turnover allowed Switkowski – who kicked two in the fourth quarter - to ice the game for the home side.
Cerra cops the boos
Adam Cerra tested the endurance of the boo-boys' vocals throughout the evening, collecting plenty of footy on his return to Perth after leaving Fremantle in the off-season having played 76 games for the Dockers, who drafted him with pick five in the 2017 NAB AFL Draft. Cerra, who started alongside close friend Caleb Serong in the middle, had 13 kicks and 19 handballs for the game, greeted with boos from the Freo faithful on almost every occasion.
Michael Walters is back?
The 31-year-old former All-Australian has been down on his usual output in 2022, having kicked 2.6 coming into this game. The five-time Fremantle leading goalkicker appeared to lack confidence from set shots last round but lit up the second term, drilling a 35m set shot opportunity. Minutes later, Sonny produced a trademark moment with a wonderful dribbling finish. Blake Acres probably stole goal of the day off him, with a stunning snap from the boundary in the third.
Carlton's sluggish third quarters
Carlton's poor third terms have plagued them all season and the issue reared its head again, the Blues managing only 2.2 against Fremantle’s 4.3 in the premiership quarter, after trailing by 19 points at the long break. That was actually Carlton’s second best third quarter of the season, bettered only by 2.3 against Richmond in round one. The Blues managed only one goal in the third term of their past three games, so this was a slight improvement with both majors coming from captain Cripps, but with a 32-point deficit, the game was basically lost.
FREMANTLE 1.4 7.6 11.9 14.13 (97)
CARLTON 2.2 4.5 6.7 9.8 (62)
Fremantle: Lobb 3, Schultz 3, Walters 2, Switkowski 2, Brodie, Darcy, Acres, Taberner
Carlton: Cripps 3, C.Curnow 2, Owies, McKay, Martin, Young
Fremantle: Brayshaw, Cox, Brodie, Pearce, Serong, Schultz
Carlton: Cripps, Walsh, Cerra, Weitering, Hewett
Fremantle: Darcy (concussion)
Carlton: Pittonet (knee)
Fremantle: Bailey Banfield (replaced Sean Darcy in fourth quarter)
Carlton: Jordan Boyd (replaced Marc Pittonet at quarter-time)