Bombers hold off late Dockers' AFL charge

Jason Phelan
Essendon have survived a big Fremantle comeback to win their first-round AFL clash by six points

It wasn't perfect, not even close, but Essendon put an injury-riddled preparation behind them with a six-point win over fast-finishing Fremantle at an empty Marvel Stadium.

Dockers debutant Sam Sturt kicked two of his three goals as the visitors slammed through four majors in Saturday afternoon's final term, but the Bombers grimly hung on for a 9.9 (63) to 8.9 (57) win.

In Justin Longmuir's first game as senior coach, Fremantle started poorly but finished strongly, with Andy Brayshaw missing a late shot on goal which would have made it one point the difference with just under two minutes left on the clock.

It was the sort of performance from Essendon which perhaps was to be expected after they endured a disjointed pre-season preparation with injuries and surgeries to key players.

"There was some stuff that we knew was going to be a bit rusty," coach John Worsfold said.

"But overall, we saw some really good understanding of what we're trying to do.

"It's not perfect - we understand that as well.

"Credit to Fremantle - they put on a lot of heat on in that last quarter and were better around the contest.

"We're disappointed with a few factors around that last quarter, but it's great learning."

Dylan Shiel starred for the Bombers with 35 possessions and eight clearances, with Adam Saad (28 disposals) and Andy McGrath (23) important, while Jacob Townsend finished with three goals.

The former Richmond premiership player booted two majors in the opening quarter, as Essendon jumped out to a 19-point lead at the first break.

Worsfold's men led by 26 points at halftime but managed just two goals in the second half to leave the door open for the visitors.

Nat Fyfe led the way for Fremantle with 26 touches and Sturt tallied three majors in a promising debut.

"I was really disappointed with the way that we started," Longmuir said.

"We don't want to be a team that has to chase from behind and have honourable losses.

"I was so proud of them for coming back but so disappointed in them for starting the way that we did.

"You can't let a team like Essendon get off to the start we did.

"We could've won it late but we don't want to be in those situations."