Fremantle Dockers finish season in 11th place after losing to St Kilda at Hobart’s Blundstone Arena
A chilly Hobart turned out to be an appropriate setting as Fremantle were condemned to a sixth straight season frozen out of the finals, courtesy of Sunday’s season-ending drubbing from St Kilda.
In their most consequential game since the 2015 preliminary final, the Dockers trailed at every change and never genuinely threatened the Saints, who had nothing to play for.
Veteran David Mundy, who played his 354th game to break the club’s games record, will be 37 when he returns to the finals stage if the Dockers can end their long finals drought in 2022.
A ruthless St Kilda piled on 11 goals to three in a second-half mauling to stroll to a 58-point win, 17.5 (107) to 6.13 (49), gifting Essendon eighth spot before taking to the field in their clash with Collingwood.
Fremantle’s defeat came despite them dominating centre clearances 16-7, winning the contested ball count and having just two less inside 50s, again highlighting their method going forward as the obvious area for improvement.
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Mid-season draft pick-up Cooper Sharman shone with four goals in his fifth game for the Saints, while gun onballer Jack Steele shrugged off Bailey Banfield’s attention to finish with 35 disposals, six clearances and seven tackles in a fine leader’s outing.
The Dockers can at least console themselves with the fact their best performers were their younger players.
Caleb Serong followed up his Glendinning-Allan Medal win a week earlier with an equal career-high 35 touches, nine clearances and nine score involvements.
Andrew Brayshaw was typically gutsy with 29 disposals on return from suspension, while Hayden Young looks more comfortable with every game and his intercepting and kicking ability should be key to the club’s game plan for the next decade.
Griffin Logue and Luke Ryan did their best to intercept the St Kilda onslaught, while second-year forward Liam Henry stayed involved with a career-high 15 disposals to go with his third-quarter goal.
Trailing by 15 points as they began a crucial third term with the use of a strong breeze, the Dockers pulled a tactical switch as tagger Banfield went to Bradley Hill after being unable to stop Steele in the opening half.
But it was St Kilda who quickly moved to killed off Fremantle’s season, with goals to Jack Higgins and Tom Membrey, who kicked three, blowing the lead out to a game-high 25 points.
When Membrey got on the end of a Saints fast break to mark in the goal square running back with the flight against Ryan, he kicked St Kilda’s eighth goal. Seven of them had been generated from the back half as the Dockers struggled to come up with an answer to their more cohesive ball movement.
Fremantle needed to make their move in the third term but the Saints added four goals to one to end the contest before the margin blew out in the last quarter.
Earlier, Blake Acres was a late inclusion for his 100th game, with Adam Cerra not taking his place due to a corked thigh.
The Dockers had injury worries at half-time, with Sean Darcy requiring treatment and Sam Switkowski in significant pain as he was helped from the ground after landing on Nick Coffield’s heel in a run-down tackle.
The Saints had stretched their advantage to 20 points when Jack Bytel guided his attempt through the wind early in time-on of the second term, having won a holding the ball decision against a struggling Lloyd Meek.
Matt Taberner provided the lifeline for Fremantle, taking an intercept mark near the arc before a 50m infringement from Brad Crouch brought him to the goal square.
It was a dirty double for Mundy, with the Dockers losing his 350th game a fortnight ago by 40 points before Sunday’s heavy defeat as he became the club’s games record holder.
Mundy wasn’t a major factor but finished strongly to rack up 24 touches, as he overtook Pavlich’s mark of 353 games.
The 36-year-old will enjoy a well-deserved rest after being just one of four players, along with Serong, James Aish and Travis Colyer, to play every game.
Back-up ruckman Meek’s dirty day reinforced the point that Fremantle will need to import a ready-made player to fill the forward-ruck role if they lose Rory Lobb.
With Lobb expected to push for a trade away from the Dockers despite being contracted, the Meek-Darcy combination doesn’t look like a permanent one even though it was handy with Darcy restricted by injury.
Meek is a genuine ruckman but the Dockers need breakout star Darcy to be doing the bulk of their ruckwork, so a key forward who can pinch hit in the ruck will be on the menu for Fremantle during the trade period.
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