Fremantle finally have their captain back, 321 days after the inspirational two-time Brownlow Medallist last played for the club.
The Dockers weren’t afraid to put Nat Fyfe straight into midfield either, with the champion starting at the first centre bounce of their clash with Hawthorn at Optus Stadium.
He spent most of the first quarter on-ball, often running with big-bodied Hawthorn midfielder Jaeger O’Meara.
Any concerns over Fyfe’s return impacting Fremantle’s contest work were quashed early as they kicked two goals, including the first of the game directly from centre bounces.
He finished the quarter, which the Dockers lost 5.0 (30) to 4.3 (27) with five disposals — all of which were handballs — and two score involvements.
He spent 25 of the 30-minute first quarter on the ground.
Coach Justin Longmuir revealed before the bounce that Fyfe would be injected straight into midfield straight away.
“We want to start him in the middle of the ground and get him back to what he does best. Get him a few hits early and get him up around the ball,” Longmuir told Fox Footy before the bounce.
His first touch sparked a massive roar from the Optus Stadium crowd, as did a free-kick which he squandered late in the quarter.
But the biggest applause of the first term came when Fyfe received a forward handball from Sam Switkowski before dishing one of his own off the Lachie Schultz for Fremantle’s fourth goal.
He could have had a late goal of his own when he collected unopposed inside 50, but umpires pulled Lachie Schultz up for kicking in danger just moments before.
It was 20 minutes before Fyfe would roll forward and start in the goal-square.
The 30-year-old didn’t appear trouble by the dislocated finger he suffered 15 minutes into his WAFL return for Peel Thunder last week.
Fyfe had 24 disposals in his first and only hit-out at State league level against Subiaco.
Pre-game, his first appearance on Optus Stadium for the Dockers’ early warm-up received a smattering of applause, which he responded to with a beaming smile.