Where and when: Optus Stadium, Sunday March 24, 3.20pm (AWST)
Last time they met: Optus Stadium, round 10, 2018: Fremantle 8.10 (58) lost to North Melbourne 12.14 (86)
North Melbourne became the first interstate side to leave a clash with Fremantle at Optus Stadium with the four points after overcoming some woeful early inaccuracy. Tagger Ben Jacobs (29 disposals, one goal) kept red-hot Dockers superstar Nat Fyfe (31, eight clearances) under control and was best afield, while Jarrad Waite booted three goals.
What it means for Fremantle: Fyfe described Freo’s favourable start to the season as “juicy” at captains day and with Gold Coast (away) and St Kilda (home) to come, the Dockers could set themselves up if they can overcome North.
What it means for North Melbourne: The Roos missed out on finals by one victory last year and this is the sort of 50-50 game they need to win to finish inside the top eight at season’s end.
How Fremantle wins: The Dockers’ forward stocks have been decimated, so it could take something special from midfield guns Nat Fyfe, Michael Walters and David Mundy to give the attack enough supply to kick a winning score.
How North Melbourne wins: The Roos bolstered their engine room during the off-season and if they get on top on Optus Stadium’s expanses and protect an understrength backline it will go a long way to victory.
The stat: Nat Fyfe tallied 31 disposals, 24 contested possessions, eight clearances and a goal last time the teams met but it still wasn’t enough to lead Freo to a win, with the Roos dominating contested ball (163-146) and inside 50s (60-46).
The match-up: Ben Brown v Joel Hamling
Hamling is Freo’s best shutdown defender and did a solid job on Brown last season, keeping the then Coleman Medal leader to two goals, albeit in wintry conditions. If Brown gets off the leash the Roos’ scoring power might be too much for the Dockers.
It’s a big week for: Rory Lobb
The bombshell news that Jesse Hogan wouldn’t be available for round one has heaped pressure on Lobb to stand up in attack in his first game for Fremantle. The Dockers were seemingly blessed with tall targets but injuries to Brennan Cox (hamstring) and Matt Taberner (calf) mean Lobb and previously out-of-favour ex-Giants teammate Cam McCarthy will need to lead the forward line.
Father Dougals’s Tip: The North by 3. I feel like the Shinboners have improved enough, and the Dockers declined enough, that North will be able to pull off an upset. I have low confidence in this pick, because both teams are capable of throwing out real stinkers and getting clobbered.
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