Nat Fyfe led the way for the Saints again. Picture: AAP Images
Nat Fyfe led the way for the Saints again. Picture: AAP Images

Just how good are the Dockers?

AFTER a week of questions about what Fremantle stand for off the field, the nature of the Dockers' on-field identity in 2018 remains a riddle in itself.

Saturday night's 30-point win over lowly St Kilda at Optus Stadium, 13.11 (89) to 8.11 (59), reinforced plenty of what we already knew.

Fremantle are tough to beat at their new home ground, Nat Fyfe's ability to impose himself on a game might be unmatched and surfing buddies Ed Langdon and Connor Blakely continue to lead the next wave coming through.

Fyfe had a mammoth eight clearances directly out of the centre as part of his 36-disposal game, which included 25 contested possessions and probably another three Brownlow votes.

What is yet to be revealed is where the 4-4 Dockers sit in the greater scheme of things.

Fremantle's four wins this season - against Essendon, Gold Coast, the Western Bulldogs and St Kilda - have all come at home and against the teams who began this round in 15th, 13th, 14th, and 16th position on the ladder.

Nathan Fyfe was a standout for the Dockers on Saturday night. Picture: Getty Images
Nathan Fyfe was a standout for the Dockers on Saturday night. Picture: Getty Images

 

While Saturday night's showing against the Saints, who lost defender Jake Carlisle for the night before half-time, was not a complete one, it was better than it will probably get credit for.

The Dockers were dominant in the first half, nervy and beaten around the contest in the third term and then assured in the last when it mattered most.

Before the season, St Kilda were considered more likely than Fremantle to figure in the finals this season and the Dockers got the job done without five key players in the Hill brothers, dashing defender Nathan Wilson and forwards Matt Taberner and Michael Walters.

The next step is getting a result on the road and it's a crucial one in this team's development.

The teams were locked in an early arm-wrestle and the pause before scoring began 14 minutes in might have given the more pessimistic Freo fans cause to ponder whether the club's nightmare week could be capped with the worst possible ending.

By half time, even those fans must have thought the four points were in the bag after the Dockers had held the Saints to 1.5 (11), with their lowest half-time return in 16 years coming in perfect conditions.

Fremantle looked to have put contest to bed with seven goals, including four to none in the second term.

The lopsided scoreboard was a result of the dominance around the ball of Fyfe and his usual partner-in-crime Lachie Neale, combined with some effective outside run and drive from Blakely and Langdon.

 

Tom Hickey and Maverick Weller celebrate a goal during the Saints’ comeback. Picture: Getty Images
Tom Hickey and Maverick Weller celebrate a goal during the Saints’ comeback. Picture: Getty Images


The Dockers had the muscle to prevail in tight and then the legs, the brains and the skill to beat the Saints on the spread as well.

The margin ballooned to 43 points after Neale kicked a clever opportunist goal to begin the third stanza, however a run of four consecutive majors to the visitors would have caused some angst in the Fremantle coaching box.

The home side needed to summon a response and it came courtesy of first-round draft pick Adam Cerra.

But just as one first-round draft pick tried to shut the door, another opened it again when Mitch Crowden gave away a 50m penalty to allow Jack Newnes to goal.

When Jack Steven, who had got to work in the middle with Luke Dunstan to drive the St Kilda revival, got another just before the three-quarter time siren, the resurgent Saints had kicked six of the past seven goals and closed the gap to 14 points.

The first goal of the last quarter is often telling in games like this and Cerra bobbed up again. The Dockers were still living dangerously though.

The Saints had their chances and missed them, kicking three behinds in the early minutes of the final term. Two came from the boot of Tim Membrey, who finished with 1.5.

Tim Membrey struggled in front of goal. Picture: AAP Images
Tim Membrey struggled in front of goal. Picture: AAP Images

At the other end, the Dockers were taking theirs as Darcy Tucker added a crucial goal. When Brandon Matera snapped truly with four minutes on the clock, the Dockers were safe.

And Ross Lyon had avoided what might have proved one of the most damaging home and away defeats of his colourful coaching career.

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