Widely tipped to become a Western Bulldog at the end of the season, Fremantle big man Rory Lobb destroyed his likely future teammates at Marvel Stadium on Saturday.
Lobb put on a goal-kicking masterclass to inspire the Dockers to a pressure-releasing 17-point win – 14.11 (95) to 11.12 (78) – and all but cemented their finals spot.
The game-high four-goal haul, including three in the first half, to help his team end a three-game winless run and put them back in the top-four, for now at least.
Lobb was held goalless last week against Melbourne and was in doubt with a shoulder issue but showed no signs of any form or injury concerns.
He connected sweetly with four long bombs from around 50m before his first blemish of the night midway through the third term and finished with 4.2.
From rebound to forward pressure, slick ball movement and some imposing tall targets, everything the Dockers had been lacking in the past few weeks was back in the first half especially which helped set up the important four points.
The win didn’t come without a cost however, with Matt Taberner – who kicked two first-quarter goals in a lively start – done before three-quarter time with a right calf strain in another injury blow to the key forward.
There was also a scare with WA’s Aaron Naughton, who kicked three to take his season tally to a career-high 47, and a couple of costly turnovers sparking a third-quarter Bulldog revival.
The Bulldogs were the better team around the ground in that term, but Fremantle’s remarkable efficiency, with 4.4 from 10 inside-50 entries, saw them split it on the scoreboard.
Youngster Nathan O’Driscoll, who cost one of Naughton’s goals after an errant kick into the back post down back, made up for it soon after with a stunning long-range goal on the run and a huge celebration to go with it.
Caleb Serong was the star of the show in the midfield, helping Fremantle get on top in the clearance battle.
Serong had three center clearances on his own in the first quarter and finished with eight clearances all up from his 24 possessions.
The club’s games-record holder David Mundy, who announced his retirement during the week, showed he’s still got plenty left in the tank with some silver service inside 50, using it at 82 percent efficiency.
Livewire Lachie Schultz had his best game in a while, tackling ferociously, nailing his kicks and providing a link between the midfield and forward-line.
Winger Blake Acres also bounced back from a lean run since returning from a hamstring injury, while Brownlow Medal fancy Andrew Brayshaw’s defensive efforts and two-way running were again on display.
Recalled mid Darcy Tucker was another important contributor, transferring his red-hot WAFL form to the top level to press his case for a permanent spot in the 22.
Tucker had a whopping 10 score involvements which was the equal-most on the ground.
Speedster Michael Frederick booted three goals including the sealer midway through the final term.
Fremantle’s three-pronged tall forward attack, Lobb, Griffin Logue and Matt Taberner all hit the scoreboard in the opening term including two majors from the latter as the visitors opened up a nine-point quarter-time buffer.
Taberner, who was under pressure to hold his spot, looked set for a big day before his injury which saw sub Liam Henry come on and do a few nice things.
The rebound from defense was excellent from the get-go with Luke Ryan, Heath Chapman and Jordan Clark particularly damaging.
Ryan’s ability to roll off his opponent Josh Bruce was important, as was his connection with wingers Blake Acres and O’Driscoll on his way to 32 disposals and 14 marks.
For the Bulldogs, prolific midfielder Josh Dunkley was their most consistent, captain Marcus Bontempelli lifted after half-time, Naughton was their main man up forward and Tim English had his moments in a see-sawing ruck battle against Sean Darcy.
On the mark
The Dockers’ uncontested-marking game caused their opponents headaches.
In the first half alone, the victors had a whopping 44 extra uncontested marks and 61 uncontested possessions.
Their ability to hit target after target proved crucial to setting up the win.
“We didn’t go into the game looking to take so many uncontested marks, it just sort of happened,” Longmuir said at half-time.
“But I think we’ve found the good balance with our ball movement, we’ve gone at the game when we’ve needed to and we’ve found a mark when we’ve needed to.”
That differential settled down in the second half but was still significant.
Son (and grandson) of a gun unearthed
A third-generation Bulldog made his AFL debut, fittingly as the club celebrated Retro Round by wearing their old Robodog jumper design.
Sam Darcy, son of club great Luke Darcy and grandson of David, got the call up after a stunning run of form in the VFL.
The 19-year-old, who stands at 205cm and weighs 94kg, started in defense and got the big job on Matt Taberner.
His first touch was an intercept mark about five minutes into the match, getting a massive round of applause, and he flew at the footy with confidence in a promising start to his AFL career.
Remarkably retiring Fremantle veteran David Mundy played against Luke in the early years of his decorated 19-year career, likewise with Scott West, whose son Rhylee was also out there.