The Fremantle Dockers were the underdogs of the top eight. While the AFL community was hot on the backs of Geelong, Carlton and Essendon, Fremantle went about their business rather unphased. Their regular season form stunned many, knocking off the likes of Geelong, West Coast and North Melbourne during the regular season.
While many wins came against sides from the bottom eight (though they had to fight against Richmond), their captain, Matthew Pavlich, was a defining instrument in showing just how the Dockers were going to attack the season-hard.
After beating Geelong in the first round of the season, it wasn’t until the latter half before the Dockers were able to claim another critical scalp-that of the West Coast Eagles. And while their top eight scalps were few, the likes of the pesky but sneaky Hayden Ballantyne, Michael Barlow, giant ruckman Aaron Sandilands and David Mundy were all valuable contributors.
Under former St.Kilda coach Ross Lyon, the Dockers displayed the kind of fire that got them into their preliminary final in 2006. Their opening win against the reigning premiers was a huge confidence booster, and they were able to do it again to Geelong in their elimination final.
The drive behind Pavlich’s captaincy was enormous. Ballantyne proved to be an extremely effective goalsneak, as well as being able to crash packs at will. Although out with a broken toe during the season, the height of Sandilands in both ruck contests and around the ground was influential all season.
While it might seem the Dockers didn’t receive the rewards they should have, they were efficient in executing their game plan. And they did it without fuss. While the AFL community was hot on the backs of Essendon’s form slump, and Carlton’s drop from grace, the Dockers were the quiet achievers. Luke McPharlin, Mundy and Paul Duffield formed an experienced and hard-nosed backline partnership. Barlow, after a 2011 season stagnated by recovery from a broken leg, once again displayed that he still had form from his debut season.
The Dockers look rejuvenated under Lyon. If they can utilise this season as a springboard for 2013, there is every chance the Dockers will finally be able to contend for a Grand Final, which has eluded them since 1995.
(Image source: afl.com.au)