Fremantle earns home final
Fremantle 3.4 8.6 11.11 13.15 (93)
Carlton 4.2 6.2 7.6 13.9 (87)
Fremantle: Hill 2, Mayne 2, Pavlich 2, Walters 2, Johnson 2, Ballantyne, De Boer, Morabito
Carlton: Garlett 3, Henderson 2, Simpson 2, Waite 2, Betts, Ellard, Murphy, Scotland
Fremantle: Hill, Sandilands, Pavlich, Johnson, Mundy, Ibbotson, McPhee
Carlton: Murphy, Gibbs, Simpson, Grigg, Garlett, Judd
Carlton: Carrazzo (hamstring strain)
Umpires: McBurney, Chamberlain, Ryan
Official crowd: 39,376 at Subiaco Oval
Fremantle’s bold decision to rest almost half of its best line-up in round 21 has been justified after the rejuvenated side defeated Carlton by six points at Subiaco Oval on Friday night to secure a home elimination final.
Small forward Hayden Ballantyne’s late inclusion meant Fremantle made an incredible 11 changes to last week’s side and it might not have held off a late Carlton surge without the fresh legs, eventually prevailing 13.15 (93) to 13.9 (87).
Carlton booted the first three goals of the fourth term to chop a 30-point deficit back to just 11 points, and it kicked the final three of the game in a tense last quarter.
But Fremantle held on in front of a sell-out home crowd to notch one of the club’s most important wins in a thrilling finals-like contest.
Mark Harvey’s side now appears likely to host Hawthorn in the first week of September with the remote possibility that Carlton could be returning to Perth in one week’s time, should the Swans lose to the Lions on Saturday night.
The more likely scenario for the Blues, who will enter the finals after five losses in eight games, is a trip to Sydney’s ANZ Stadium for a do-or-die clash with the Swans.
Rested Fremantle players David Mundy (23 possessions and four clearances) and Matthew Pavlich (25 and two goals) were important in the win, while Aaron Sandilands returned from a three-week foot injury to have a massive 40 hit-outs, 13 clearances and 17 contested possessions.
The key trio played their best football in the first half as Fremantle dominated the stoppages and built a 16-point half-time lead.
Midfielder Stephen Hill, who was also rested last week, burst back to form with 25 damaging possessions, two goals and seven forward entries. The boom youngster benefited from a back-related hamstring strain to tagger Andrew Carrazzo in the first quarter and ran riot in the second half.
“If you have a look at our top five possession-getters, most of those guys were rested last week,” Harvey said after the game, adding there were no scars from the side’s 116-point loss to Hawthorn.
“We always believed we were doing the right thing. I’d also like to pay tribute to the guys that did play last week in Tassie, to get back up in six days and make sure we got back on track.
“The balance in the end proved to be right.”
Carlton ran out to a narrow early lead through goals to Kade Simpson and Jarrad Waite, but they were outclassed in the centre through the second term, as Fremantle kicked five goals to two.
“Probably in the back end of the second [quarter] we got beaten a fair bit around the stoppages,” Carlton coach Brett Ratten said, adding that he expected Carrazzo to be available next week.
“That was 10 or 12 minutes of the game that really cost us because they had the momentum around stoppages and still scored.”
Chris Judd and Adam McPhee renewed hostilities, with the Freo hard-man effective in his tagging role, despite Judd’s 30 possessions.
Marc Murphy was equally prolific for the Blues, with 30 disposals, and his creativity was telling early, while Bryce Gibbs (10 rebound 50s) was effective across half back.
Jeff Garlett was a livewire late, booting two of his three goals in the final term.