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Demons grind past Dockers in AFL

Melbourne have ground past Fremantle by 22 points to kick off their AFL season with a win for the first time since 2017.

An unanswered four-goal opening quarter set the Demons on their way and they never lost the lead all day, prevailing 11.14 (80) to 8.10 (58) in front of 21,365 fans at the MCG.

It was a rough day for Fremantle, who saw luckless key defender Alex Pearce substituted off with a knee injury in the second term, while fellow backman Joel Hamling limped off in the final quarter.

In his 100th AFL game, Melbourne on-baller Clayton Oliver (35 disposals, seven clearances) racked up the ball at will and was well-supported by Christian Petracca (24 touches, two goals).

Fremantle’s Andrew Brayshaw (29 touches) and skipper Nat Fyfe (27 disposals, nine clearances) also had plenty of the Sherrin.

Melbourne defenders Steven May and Jake Lever excelled while Tom McDonald provided a strong forward target, booting two goals from nine marks.

It took nearly 15 minutes for either team to land a genuine blow in an error-strewn first quarter – but it was Melbourne who settled quickest.

After Kysaiah Pickett took a courageous mark then kicked truly for the opening goal, former Docker Ed Langdon quickly followed suit with a checkside on the run.

Bayley Fritsch, Petracca and impressive debutant James Jordon all struck before Sam Switkowski finally snapped the Dockers’ first in the second term.

Fremantle bounced back in the second quarter but copped a massive blow when Pearce limped off and headed straight into the rooms.

The 25-year-old, in his first AFL game since fracturing his ankle in round 11, 2019, was then substituted off for Stefan Giro.

The Dockers enjoyed a third-quarter resurgence, drawing within two goals, but were largely unable to make the most of their better moments.

Justin Longmuir’s side again butchered multiple chances to cut the deficit in the final term and when Petracca bounced through his second goal to put the Demons 23 points up, it proved enough to seal the deal.

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