Essendon has locked up a finals berth and slammed the door shut on Fremantle's slim top-eight chances with a spirited 32-point victory at Optus Stadium on Saturday night.

Wobbling after heavy losses to Port Adelaide and the Bulldogs, the Bombers arrived in the West under the blowtorch but responded with a committed and fierce effort.

Returning to their blistering counterattacking brand, the Dons sliced through the Dockers' defence, spoiling the farewell party for departing Freo veterans Aaron Sandilands and Hayden Ballantyne.  

The 13.9 (87) to 7.13 (55) victory, Essendon's 12th, ensures an elimination final appearance and eases what would have been a tense lead-in to next Friday night's encounter with potential September opponent Collingwood.  

The Bombers are likely to finish seventh or eighth, given Greater Western Sydney in sixth has a vastly superior percentage and game in hand against the Dogs on Sunday, before facing battling Gold Coast in the last round.  

Meanwhile, Freo's faint hopes of featuring in September for the first time since 2015 are officially over, a week after the hammer blow of their heartbreaking loss to St Kilda.  

The Dockers couldn't capitalise on the emotion-charged atmosphere at Optus Stadium, once again shooting themselves in the foot with ordinary ball use.

Essendon feasted on their wastefulness, booting 5.3 from turnovers in the opening half, compared to the home side's four behinds.

It was enough to open up a 22-point lead by the main break, which Worsfold's outfit never looked like relinquishing.

That's despite Fremantle dominating almost all of the major statistics, including disposals (+72), contested possessions (+55), clearances (+14) and inside 50s (+11).

The only downside for Essendon was a left-foot injury suffered by midfielder David Zaharakis in the opening to the second term.

Zaharakis was carried from the field between two trainers and was on crutches after half-time after his foot was caught underneath his body weight in an ugly position. 

It wasn't the only incident from the quarter, with Fremantle small forward Lachie Schultz accidentally running into field umpire Alex Whetton, whose night was over after the heavy collision.

Despite being a rotation down, the Bombers cruised to victory and benefited from regaining quality players Michael Hurley, Adam Saad, Darcy Parish and Aaron Francis from injury amongst six changes.

Star forward Jake Stringer also showed no signs of a hamstring issue, drilling two goals and wreaking havoc through midfield bursts. 

Stringer's only blemish came in the third term when he needlessly illegally shepherded Ethan Hughes in the goalsquare, robbing Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti of his second major. 

However, Dockers veteran David Mundy couldn't make Stringer pay at the other end and when Zach Merrett dobbed his second moments later the margin was out to what was a game-high 26 points nearing time-on.

It was that sort of night for Fremantle, and it was summed up when Sandilands marked 15m out from goal and missed in the dying seconds of the term. 

With superstar Nat Fyfe (26 disposals, one goal) enduring a difficult night opposed to Patrick Ambrose, too much was left to 150-gamer Michael Walters (36, two goals) and Bradley Hill (32).

The Bombers' runners Dylan Shiel (27 disposals, one goal), Merrett (23, two), Parish (22, one) and Saad (27) were too good, and they will take a much-needed confidence boost as they reset their sights on winning a final for the first time since 2004.


Fremantle: The Dockers seemed to get through without any injuries.

Essendon: David Zaharakis came from the field bleeding from the head in the opening minutes after copping an accidental knee from David Mundy. He returned soon after but just moments into the second stanza he had to be helped from the field by two trainers after his left leg was awkwardly caught underneath him. It was the end of his night.


The Bombers will have the chance to tune-up for September against potential elimination final opponent Collingwood next Friday night, while the Dockers head to face Port Adelaide – which might still have hope of playing finals – in the last game of the season at Adelaide Oval on Sunday.

FREMANTLE     3.4     4.6     5.10     7.13     (55)
ESSENDON        5.1     8.4     11.5     13.9     (87) 


Fremantle: McCarthy 3, Walters 2, Darcy, Fyfe

Essendon: Brown 2, Stringer 2, Merrett 2, Langford 2, Parish, McDonald-Tipungwuti, McKernan, Fantasia, Shiel 


Fremantle: Walters, B.Hill, McCarthy, Fyfe, Mundy, Sandilands

Essendon: Merrett, Shiel, Stringer, Saad, Hurley, Ambrose 


Fremantle: Nil

Essendon: Zaharakis (foot), Hooker (groin soreness) replaced in selected side by Zerk-Thatcher 

Reports: Nil

Umpires: Margetts, Whetton, Fleer

Official crowd: 47,833 at Optus Stadium