The build-up to this match had been dominated by Tayla Harris, viciously trolled online during the week for merely doing her job breathtakingly. Harris would have been forgiven had she been overcome by a week in which she led news bulletins and had her picture splashed on front pages. That she played a key role in Carlton’s first-half demolition spoke volumes for her character.
The Blues had controlled much of the early play, but wasted chances. Freo, by contrast, took advantage of an early opportunity, with Gabby O’Sullivan kicking the first goal of the game. But the Blues’ big names then stood up. Skipper Brianna Davey took a strong mark at half-forward before honouring the lead of Harris, who marked well around 25 metres from goal.
All eyes were stationed on the forward, who split the sticks in her inimitable style.
It was still a case of more behinds than goals for the Blues early in the second term, before Harris again turned it on. The former Brisbane Lions marquee player’s towering grab on the wing led to a running major from tall Breann Moody. From there the floodgates opened, with the Blues kicking three more goals for the quarter to all but seal the game. Harris took another commanding grab in the second quarter – taking out Docker Evie Gooch in the process – but missed the ensuing set shot.
Under first-year coach Trent Cooper, the Dockers had made huge strides this season. To have qualified for the finals in the stacked Conference A ahead of quality sides like North Melbourne and Melbourne was an enormous achievement. But for Freo they saved their worst for last. Bad luck played its part. Captain Kara Donnellan – a shining light for the Dockers in the competition’s early years – was a late omission because of knee soreness. Her absence was felt, especially with fellow stars Kiara Bowers and Dana Hooker both down on their best. Alas there were injuries to come for Freo. Ashlee Atkins hurt her shoulder early, Gooch was in tears on the bench after her arm took a battering in the marking contest with Harris, while Hayley Miller had to head off in the third term after hurting her shoulder. Deep in the last quarter Stephanie Cain came off worse for wear in a collision with Blue Chloe Dalton – who had in the third term kicked a stunning goal from 70 metres – while Bowers also walked off gingerly in the dying minutes.
CARLTON 1.5 5.7 7.8 9.10 (64)
FREMANTLE 1.1 1.2 2.2 4.4 (28)
GOALS Carlton: Dalton 2, Moody, Walker, Vescio, Prespakis, Hosking, Harris, Lucas-Rodd. Fremantle: O’Sullivan 2, Houghton, Duffy.