Never Say Die.
Today will be remembered as the day a young Fremantle team came of age.
A day where against all odds, they fought back from 36 points down despite being two men down on the bench and with a host of big names watching from the grandstand.
Oh, and they did it with their dual Brownlow medallist Nat Fyfe spending half the game playing as a deep, stay at home full-forward.
Some games are won by superstars, some games are won by tactics and some games are won by skill. This 12.7 (79) to 11.7 (73) win was based on heart, belief and attitude.
Fremantle had every reason to drop their heads and look to next week after a shocking first quarter.
It started badly and it only got worse from there.
The opening 40 seconds at Metricon Stadium went like this – Michael Walters won the centre clearance and kicked it the wrong way.
Then St Kilda won a free kick for holding the ball against Darcy Tucker, before Nathan Wilson kicked the footy away and conceded a 50m penalty to allow Tim Membrey to kick an easy goal.
It was an ominous sign and 30 minutes later, St Kilda led by 36 points and the game seemed over.
St Kilda’s smaller players ran amok and it looked like Fremantle were already half way back to Perth.
Nothing was going right. Fremantle lost exciting young defender Hayden Young to an ankle injury during the first quarter, robbing them of exuberance and skill.
Then they lost ruckman Sean Darcy following a brutal bump to the head from Ben Long.
It had all the signs of being a disaster. But the Dockers had other ideas.
Their big names turned the momentum back their way. Fyfe had eight disposals and kicked one goal for the second term.
Michael Walters and Darcy Tucker got busy and that work ethic reaped the rewards on the scoreboard.
Rory Lobb kicked a goal from a mark, Lachie Schulz followed up with another and when Matt Taberner, Brett Bewley and Fyfe followed with their majors, Fremantle were back in the contest and trailed by only 13 points at the long break.
From there, Fremantle had an old fashioned crack. With Fyfe playing inside 50, they forced the ball forward, competed with aggression and refused to let the Saints have easy possessions.
The Dockers led by eight points at the final change. Surely now Fyfe would go into the middle and drag his team home.
No. he stayed forward as coach Justin Longmuir backed David Mundy, Michael Walters and Andrew Brayshaw to get the job done in the middle.
Fyfe appeared to have put the game beyond St Kilda’s reach with a goal that gave Fremantle a 19-point lead. Then it all went wrong again.
The Saints surged and when Zak Jones levelled the scores after a 50m penalty it appeared Fremantle’s work counted for nothing. Wrong.
Lachie Schulz put them back in front and they produced a victory they will never forget.
Justin Longmuir took a massive punt by starting Nat Fyfe in the goal square to start the third term. But he was even more gutsy to leave him there for the rest of the game. Fyfe didn’t leave the 50m area unless the ball was just outside the arc. His presence stretched the field and made St Kilda nervous. But Fremantle had to win the ball to do that. The other players stood up and Longmuir held his nerve.
Wrapt for Serong
Small midfielders aren’t usually the targets inside 50 but Caleb Serong took a great overhead mark in between three Saints and then put Fremantle in front during the third quarter. The Dockers raced to celebrate his first AFL goal but the moment didn’t end there. Good friend Hayden Young hobbled his way onto the field on crutches during the three quarter time break to give him a hug.
Fremantle ruckman Sean Darcy was arguably his team’s best player midway through the second quarter. He’d kicked a goal, taken two contested marks and was giving the team an imposing presence. But then Ben Long smashed him with a solid bump to the head and ended his day. Former star David King was far from impressed by the bump and called for a four-week ban.
Lachie Schulz is small in stature but he was big when it mattered. The small forward kicked two goals, including the match winner. He also laid a huge tackle on Jade Gresham late in the match that earnt him a free kick for holding the ball and denied St Kilda the chance to go forward. But it was that final goal that he’ll always remember. He was calm under pressure.