Fremantle ruckman Aaron Sandilands was singing in the rain after lifting the Dockers to a 48-point win over Gold Coast in Saturday night’s AFL clash at Patersons Stadium.
Sandilands tallied 58 hit-outs – including 20 to advantage – in the 12.15 (87) to 5.9 (39) win, with his dominance in the wet and windy conditions proving too much to handle for the Suns’ talented but young midfield.
The 211cm giant was on track to break the AFL/VFL record of 63 hit-outs set by North Melbourne’s Gary Dempsey in 1982, but he fell short after tallying ‘only’ 13 taps in the final quarter.
Fremantle midfielders David Mundy, Nat Fyfe and Michael Barlow feasted off Sandilands’ dominance, while Luke McPharlin was masterful in defence.
Gold Coast skipper Gary Ablett was restricted to 24 possessions in his battle against master tagger Ryan Crowley, while David Swallow and Dion Prestia battled valiantly all day.
Sam Day kicked two goals, but was starved of opportunities once Fremantle’s engine room clicked into gear.
Suns defender Steven May kept Matthew Pavlich goalless.
Dockers goalsneak Hayden Ballantyne was carried off late in the second term after having his head slammed into the turf during a tackle.
But the feisty forward returned after half-time and managed to play out the match.
Gold Coast kicked the opening two goals of the match, but they were outclassed from that point on as Fremantle’s battle-hardened bodies took control.
Driving rain in the opening half ensured for an error-riddled display from both sides.
Gold Coast’s ill discipline cost them dearly in the opening quarter, with two of Fremantle’s four goals coming as a direct result from 50m penalties.
The second quarter was an arm wrestle that saw each side register just one goal.
Fremantle won the hit-outs 32-10 in the opening half, but lost the clearances 23-21 as Gold Coast’s midfielders fed off Sandilands’ taps.
However, Sandilands’ dominance grew as the match wore on, with his work in the ruck helping Fremantle’s on-ball division bury the Suns.
Fremantle improved their record to 2-0 with the win, while the Suns are 1-1 ahead of next week’s clash with arch rivals Brisbane.
Fremantle coach Ross Lyon praised the work of Sandilands and the team’s on-ball division.
“I often say it’s won and lost in the midfield, and I think our midfield stood up today,” Lyon said.
“It started with Aaron, and then (flowed to) Fyfe, Mundy, Hill. And Crowley was super on Ablett.
“I thought we cracked them wide open in the end. We dominated the game, and with a bit more accurate kicking it would have been even more emphatic.”
Gold Coast coach Guy McKenna said some basic errors early in the match handed the ascendancy to Fremantle.
“I thought the effort was there,” McKenna said.
“But to come over here and have a two-goal start and then hand them two goals on the back of probably being undisciplined with two 50 metre penalties … all of a sudden, they’ve got their tails up.”