Melbourne’s 17-game winning streak is over with Fremantle reeling in a five-goal deficit to pull off a momentous and confidence-boosting 38-point upset win at the MCG.
The Demons were cruising towards an 11-0 start in 2022 after leading by 30 points late in the second quarter before Fremantle slammed through the last 10 goals of Saturday’s match to make an almighty statement.
The Dockers, who were coming off disappointing defeats to Gold Coast and Collingwood, produced an eight-goal third-quarter burst to stun the reigning premiers.
Fyfey was all of us watching on from home yesterday 💜 #KalyakoorlWalyalup
— Fremantle Dockers (@freodockers) May 29, 2022
Justin Longmuir’s team led by 17 points at the final change and soaked up Melbourne’s pressure to run away winners, 14.10 (94) to 7.14 (56), kicking 13 of the last 14 goals.
“I’m just really proud of the players, clearly the last two weeks have been really disappointing,” Longmuir said.
“Sometimes when that happens you can go insular and become individual but from the very start of the week it is about getting back to playing team footy before those two bad losses.”
It was Melbourne’s first defeat since losing to the Western Bulldogs in round 19 last year.
Melbourne were rocked by the early loss of superstar defender Steven May, who was subbed out at quarter-time following a friendly fire collision with fellow premiership backman Jake Lever.
In a major blow for the Demons, May will miss next week’s clash with the Sydney Swans under the AFL’s concussion protocols.
But Melbourne’s downfall and Fremantle’s revival did not solely stem from May’s absence as the Dockers ran riot around the clearances to embarrass the Demons’ all-star midfield unit.
“It’s a tough competition and we played a very good side and they played very well, especially in that second-half,” Demons coach Simon Goodwin said.
“There were areas of our game that weren’t up to scratch and they got exposed and when you play a good footy team you have to be at your best, but full credit to the Dockers.”
The Demons’ defensive structure was undoubtedly rocked without May but Andrew Brayshaw, Will Brodie, Caleb Serong and Sean Darcy set up the comeback out of the middle.
Brownlow Medal favourite Clayton Oliver had 24 possessions by halftime but was kept quiet after the main break as the Dockers reigned supreme.
Fellow star Christian Petracca struggled with illness ahead of the match and finished with just 10 touches.
Oft-maligned ruck-forward Rory Lobb kept the Dockers in the contest early, booting two of Fremantle’s first three goals and asserting himself around the ground.
Lachie Schultz finished with a game-high four goals, Lobb kicked three, while the exciting Michael Frederick booted two and had an influential role in setting up many others, including a classy tap-on late in the third term.
The performance confirms Fremantle (8-3) as a genuine premiership contender, adding to the rare win they secured in Geelong in round seven.
The only downside for the Dockers was important forward Matt Taberner being subbed off with back spasms in the final term for Bailey Banfield.
Fremantle face another huge challenge next Sunday when they host second-placed Brisbane at Optus Stadium.