By Nathan Schmook 5:35 PM
Sun 21 June, 2009
GEELONG maintained its perfect record on Sunday, but was given plenty to think about by a disciplined and desperate Fremantle, the Cats eventually running out 19-point winners at Subiaco Oval.
It was Geelong's 12th straight win in their undefeated campaign and its 12th consecutive triumph outside of Victoria – now an AFL record.
But the Cats were held to their worst start of the season, and didn't put away the 14th placed Fremantle until well into the final term.
Shannon Byrnes (five goals and 26 possessions) was superb for the Cats, while Paul Chapman (31), Joel Corey (30) and Jimmy Bartel (26) worked hard in an uphill battle.
Cameron Ling played a crucial and effective run-with role on Paul Hasleby (21) and came out with 27 possessions and five clearances.
For Fremantle, it was their young brigade's best collective output, while leaders Mathew Pavlich (31 possessions and two goals) and Aaron Sandilands (37 hitouts and 20 possessions) had a big say in how tight the game was.
Matt de Boer played an accomplished game on star Cat Joel Selwood, while Byron Schammer held Gary Ablett for the majority of the match, with help form Garrick Ibbotson and Steven Dodd.
Fremantle lost the match, its ninth this season, but showed plenty of encouraging signs.
Geelong, playing its second consecutive game at Subiaco Oval, won once more but took a quarter to awake from its split-round slumber, turning in its worst first quarter for the season.
The usually fast-starting Cats managed just 1.3 as Fremantle tackled ferociously and gave them no midfield space. It was just the second first term they've lost this season.
Fremantle started positively and some attacking midfield play from Stephen Hill and de Boer resulted in a Sandilands goal after nine minutes.
Pavlich was on the scoreboard early as well, but it took the Cats 25 minutes to get their first – Steve Johnson awarded a free kick within range after Fremantle defender Antoni Grover was reported for rough conduct off the ball.
Fremantle took a seven-point lead into the first break, but they should have been much more comfortable after missed shots on goal from Schammer, Michael Walters and Scott Thornton.
An improved Geelong came out in the second, with Corey Enright booting a running goal from 50m out two minutes into the term.
Tom Hawkins unconventionally ran around from a slight angle to boot his first before Fremantle small forward Michael Walters found space in his second game to level the scores.
Hawkins broke free of Luke McPharlin to add another and Byrnes had two goals for the term to send the Cats into the main break 13 points clear.
De Boer brought the margin back to seven points within a minute of the third term starting, but Geelong grabbed the ascendancy before long.
Through Byrnes and Ryan Gamble they built a four-goal lead and star midfielders Bartel and Corey were having a profound influence.
But as the floodgates threatened to open, a dubious hit from Ling on Fremantle youngster Nic Suban sparked the home side into action.
Paul Duffield and Hasleby kicked straight, but Luke McPharlin and de Boer missed set shots.
Suban made amends with a super snap on his left before Hill set the ground alight, breaking a tackle and booting a running goal from 50m out to level scores at the last change.
Ablett broke free of Schammer's claws for a five-minute period in the fourth to play a hand in two goals to Steve Johnson, before Ibbotson snapped superbly to get Fremantle within a goal.
Byrnes and Pavlich traded goals to keep the fans on the edge of their seats, but when Byrnes kicked his fifth 25 minutes into the finale the points were Geelong's, just. Fremantle
2.4 4.5 9.7 11.9 (75)
1.3 6.6 8.13 13.16 (94) GOALS
: Pavlich 2, de Boer, Dodd, Duffield, Hasleby, Hill, Ibbotson, Sandilands, Suban, ThorntonGeelong
: Byrnes 5, Steve Johnson 3, Hawkins 2, Chapman, Enright, GambleBEST
: Pavlich, Sandilands, de Boer, Tarrant, Broughton, SchammerGeelong
: Byrnes, Ling, Chapman, Corey, Bartel, Enright INJURIES
: Grover (Fremantle) reported by umpire Grun for rough conduct on S. Johnson (Geelong) in the first quarter Umpires
: Rosebury, Grun, KeatingOfficial crowd
: 33,213 at Subiaco Oval The views in this story are those of the author and not necessarily those of the clubs or the AFL.
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