A DEPLETED Fremantle has strangled the life out of Gold Coast and cruised to a comfortable 45-point win at Metricon Stadium on Saturday night.
The Dockers kicked the first four goals of the match and held that advantage for most of the night, being rarely troubled in winning 15.9 (99) to 7.12 (54).
Despite missing key players Aaron Sandilands (hamstring), Matthew Pavlich (Achilles), Nat Fyfe (suspended) and Stephen Hill (quad), the Dockers did what they do best – harassed, tackled, competed and eventually won.
Michael Walters was the spark-plug up forward, kicking three of his four goals in the third quarter to keep the Suns at bay.
They won thanks to an even midfield contribution from David Mundy (22) Nick Suban (21) and Michael Barlow (20), while ruckman Jonathon Griffin was a strong forward presence, finishing with three goals.
Gold Coast won most statistical categories but rarely looked like troubling the visitors, who successfully set up a spare man – usually Garrick Ibbotson who finished with 22 touches - one kick behind the play.
The Suns could not figure out the jigsaw despite winning the disposal count (348-333), clearances (43-31), contested possessions (139-138) and going inside 50 an equal 45 times.
The victory moves Fremantle to a 4-2 record ahead of next Saturday night's huge match-up with Collingwood at Patersons Stadium.
One of the most intriguing battles of the night was Ryan Crowley's duel with Suns skipper Gary Ablett.
There's no love lost between the pair, with Ablett calling the Freo tagger a "joke" on Twitter last year for his niggling tactics against Carlton superstar Chris Judd.
Ablett and Crowley were into each other from the opening minutes, including plenty of ground-level wrestling.
Crowley initially got under Ablett's skin as the Brownlow medallist gave away a couple of free kicks, but the champion midfielder responded and finished with 28 disposals, 21 of them contested, and one goal.
For the Suns, Jarrod Harbrow was superb with 32 disposals, while David Swallow was terrific off half-back.
But last week's six-goal star Charlie Dixon was subbed off in the third quarter with an ankle injury.
Silvagni recalled, Duffield returns - Hill injured
Fremantle will be without Stephen Hill for Saturday night’s clash with the Gold Coast Suns at Metricon Stadium.
The injured midfielder was among four changes to the Freo team for the Suns’ clash, with the inclusions being Paul Duffield, Alex Silvagni, Hayden Crozier and Cam Sutcliffe.
Kepler Bradley (knee) and Nat Fyfe (suspension) were unavailable and midfielder Lachie Neale was omitted.
The emergencies are Tom Sheridan, Tanner Smith and Neale.
Fremantle assistant and senior development coach Simon Lloyd said Hill was close to playing this week and that his injury was only minor.
“He’s got a tight quad at the moment,” Lloyd said.
“We’re hoping that he’ll be right to go for Collingwood after the Gold Coast game.”
Lloyd said Duffield was an important inclusion, after the defender was a late withdrawal from last week’s game against Richmond with a calf injury.
“It’s been great to have Paul Duffield back out on the track this week,” he said.
“He’s an excellent user of the football and has a great understanding of the way we want to play.
“That really helps us set up down back.”
Crozier earned his call-up after a big game for Peel Thunder in the WAFL last week.
The 19-year-old had 24 possessions in the second half of the Thunder’s close loss to WAFL giants Claremont to finish with 34 for the game.
“’Croz’ is really maturing as a footballer and he’s getting over to support the contests,” Lloyd said.
“He’s a really good user of the football as well, he had 10 inside 50s last week.
“He’ll be important coming in against the Gold Coast who have got some great run.”
Silvagni has battled to win his place back into a settled Freo back six over the past two seasons.
His flexibility could be crucial given Freo will be without key forwards Matthew Pavlich and Bradley.
Lloyd labelled the 25-year-old a great competitor who would bring a lot to the side.
“If you’re playing any brand of football, you’d want Alex Silvagni in your team,” he said.
“He can play in defence or he can go forward, and you always know that he’s going to give uncompromising effort.”
Lloyd said Sutcliffe, who has played four of five games this season, earned his place with a strong performance in East Fremantle’s Anzac Day Derby win over South Fremantle last week.
“Cam gives us enormous run and will be a great inclusion,” he said.
Gold Coast almost pulled off a surprise win over Fremantle at Metricon last year without superstar Gary Ablett Jnr.
The Suns have won two from five games this season over St Kilda and GWS.
“They’re a developing and improving team,” Lloyd said.
“We were probably very lucky to get away with the four points last year over there.
“We know a lot more about Gold Coast now.
“But the thing about us as a football club is that we’re very clear on the Fremantle brand of football and how we want to play as a group.”