Fremantle did the unexpected against Richmond on Saturday, ending an awful few weeks for the club by defeating the Tigers in Melbourne to get their season back on track. In just about torrential rain, the Dockers broke their MCG hoodoo by winning their first game at the venue after ten consecutive losses, 12.6(78)-9.12(66). The Dockers needed the win in the worst of ways after three successive defeats and a general poor five weeks of footy, and they did it against a quality opponent in Richmond who had one four of their last five.
Matthew Pavlich was fabulous playing almost predominately up forward and kicking six goals while Matt De Boer, Michael Barlow and Stephen Hill starred around the ground. Ryan Crowley just about cemented his spot as the best tagger in footy, holding Brett Deledio to just 15 possessions.
It looked disastrous for the Dockers to begin the match, Edwards and Riewoldt soccered balls off the turf in the game’s first couple of minutes to take an early lead. When they went inside 50 for the first time they did it with a typical high and long kick and had the fans thinking “oh no”, but it fell to Pavlich on one knee who went back and slotted through the goal. It came at a pivotal point; star ruck Aaron Sandilands had to be subbed out of the game with an injury while Stephen Hill also limped to the direction of the bench. Youngster Crichton added a second and Freo were surprisingly in the game.
Fremantle, a supposedly good defensive team, let through their third goal in just eight minutes, a snap by Martin, but it came at a cost; star forward Riewoldt hobbled off with an ankle injury that would take 15 minutes to fix. Nahas added a fourth but Pavlich after the siren cut Richmond’s lead to just seven at the first break.
The conditions got the better of the game in the second with play coming mostly between either side’s 50 meter arch. Ballantyne registered first blood and it brought Fremantle to within a point. A ten minute drought ensued before Griffin, the tallest man on the Fremantle side, fashion a remarkable goal from an impossible angle; their first lead of the game. Edwards was gifted with a late goal in the square before Pavlich marked and kicked his fourth with a minute remaining, becoming the only player in the game whose kicking was apparently unaffected by the rain.
Edwards’ third attempt of a still young quarter resulted in a Tigers goal but Mayne answer in heavy congestion when substitute Hayden Crozier fed his forward with a great handball in a pack situation. Fremantle were probably better over a longer stretch in the quarter but Cotchin kicked a fabulous goal as the Tigers streamed forward in transition. Cotchin’s goal came with just three and a half minutes remaining, however the Dockers managed one more courtesy of De Boer, rewarded for his great on ball efforts, to give the visitors a four point lead heading into the final quarter.
It was Pavlich that saved the game in the fourth. The Tigers pounded the ball inside 50, and kept it there for a long stretch, but on the Dockers first go inside 50 Pavlich finessed a ball along the ground and through the big sticks. He added a second a minute later giving Fremantle the buffer they needed to keep the game. Tuck brought it back to within seven with less than five minutes remaining but Ballantyne was able to steal the victory when he stayed alive in a one-on-one contest and soccered through a goal that sent the Tigers fans packing.
It simply was a fantastic win for Freo at best possible time. They now get a week off due to the bye and have and are just percentage points out of the eight at the half way mark. Kudos must go to the Dockers defence, they were fantastic. Not just at shutting down a hobbled Riewoldt, but the whole Tigers attack. It was their spoiling and rebounding effort out of the backline that propelled Fremantle to victory.
Unfortunately the Sandilands injury is a major blow for the Dockers. Although Griffin was good and maybe better than his direct opponent on the day, it became evident that there was a huge gap in terms of athleticism and ability between Griffin as the Fremantle No.1 ruckman compared to Maric of the Tigers and his early exit just about confirms some sort of major damage.
Great things always come to an end but Tigers fans can remain optimistic. The horrible conditions are not something that is experienced every week and they received subpar performances from a number of key guys; namely Riewoldt, Martin and Deledio.