FREMANTLE has edged closer to securing a preliminary final berth with an emphatic 36-point win over Geelong at GMHBA Stadium on Saturday.
Led by 19 tackles from tough midfielder Kiara Bowers – two short of Ebony Marinoff's AFLW record – the Dockers held the Cats scoreless in the second half in the 6.13 (49) to 2.1 (13) result.
The Dockers overcame the loss of defender Alex Williams who sustained a serious knee injury in a marking contest in the second term.
It propels the Dockers from third to the top of Conference A ahead of the rest of the weekend's matches before a final-round clash against Conference rival North Melbourne.
Despite leading at quarter-time, the Cats were able to add just one major after the first break and now find themselves in a battle to play finals.
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The Cats remain on top of Conference B but will be overtaken by the winner of Sunday's clash between Carlton and Brisbane.
A win for the Cats next Friday night against Greater Western Sydney will clinch a preliminary final position, however a loss will ensure they need to watch other fixtures.
After missing the first two seasons of the AFLW through injury, Kiara Bowers continued to impart her influence on this year's competition. Notching 13 tackles to half-time, she appeared on track to break the competition tackling record before becoming an offensive force after the main break – finishing with 17 touches.
Five minutes of madness
Dockers defender Alex Williams was helped from the field midway through the second term with what looked like a serious knee injury sustained in a marking contest. At the very next stoppage, opposing hard nuts Dana Hooker and Renee Garing clashed heads and drew blood, keeping the medicos on their toes.
From the losers' rooms
Geelong's Meg McDonald proved why she's become of the competition's best defenders with a dominant display across half-back. Marking everything in sight early in the contest, the 27-year-old has locked away her All Australian position. Club list managers will be scratching their heads how McDonald was left without a club in 2018 before Geelong snapped her up.
The ladder now
The six-goal margin was a crucial blow for the Cats' percentage, dropping 16.1 per cent. Still on top of Conference B, they'll be watching the second v third clash between Carlton and Brisbane closely on Sunday. The Dockers made up a crucial 14.9 per cent and sit one game ahead of Adelaide and North Melbourne before their respective fixtures. Even if both lose, the Dockers would still need to beat the Kangaroos in next week's last game to determine their own fate.
"We were up against a great midfield today. In the end, the weight of entries that Fremantle had, they just had too many for us to cope with for a whole game." – Geelong coach Paul Hood
"The key stat for us at quarter-time was our tackles were up, the pressure was there but we'd had 10 groundballs to their 30, they were getting to the ball first. The girls responded really well and from that part of the game we had control from that point on." – Fremantle coach Trent Cooper
The Cats travel to face Greater Western Sydney on Friday night (7.15pm AEDT) off a six-day break where a win will ensure finals action. A win for the Dockers next Saturday (5.10pm AWST) over North Melbourne will all but secure a preliminary final berth, given percentage will come into play.
GEELONG 1.1 2.1 2.1 2.1 (13)
FREMANTLE 0.1 2.2 3.5 6.13 (49)
Geelong: Darby, Clifford
Fremantle: Sharp 2, Houghton 2, Cain, Miller
Geelong: McDonald, McMahon, Purcell, Cranston, Garing
Fremantle: Bowers, Houghton, Miller, Hooker, Antonio, Laurie
Fremantle: Williams (knee)
Umpires: Burns, Strybos, Edwards
Official crowd: 4125 at GMHBA Stadium