Fremantle Dockers walk onto the ground at the start of their match against St. Kilda. Click for more photos

AFL Round 23: St Kilda vs. Fremantle

Fremantle Dockers walk onto the ground at the start of their match against St. Kilda. Photo: Joe Armao

ST KILDA 4.4 9.6 12.9 16.16 (112) FREMANTLE 0.0 4.3 5.5 6.5 (41)
GOALS St Kilda: Lee 3, Montagna 2, Riewoldt 2, Milne 2, McEvoy, Blake, Steven, Hayes, Ross, Curren, Ledger. Fremantle: Crozier, Hannath, Simpson, De Boer, Pavlich, Taberner. BEST St Kilda: Montagna, Steven, Dal Santo, Curren, Geary, Blake, Dempster, Hayes. Fremantle: Barlow, Mzungu, Crowley, de Boer.
INJURIES St Kilda: Roberton (ankle). Fremantle: Mayne (rested) and Ibbotson (calf) replaced in selected side by Simpson and Moller.
UMPIRES Schmitt, Jeffery, Hay.
CROWD: 22,476 at Etihad Stadium.

A game between the third-placed and 16th-placed teams in the final round would not normally live long in the collective memory.

Yet, this particular mismatch will endure, for two reasons.

Nick Riewoldt drops a mark under pressure.

Nick Riewoldt drops a mark under pressure. Photo: Joe Armao

Time
FT
Team
STK
Score
16.16.112
Team
FRE
Score
6.5.41
St Kilda versus Fremantle
View Match Statistics
Players Lee (3.1), Milne (2.3), Montagna (2.0), Riewoldt (2.0), Curren (1.2), Blake (1.1), Hayes (1.0), Ledger (1.0), McEvoy (1.0), Ross (1.0), Steven (1.0), Koschitzke (0.4), Schneider (0.2), Hickey (0.1) Scorers Crozier (1.1), de Boer (1.0), Hannath (1.0), Pavlich (1.0), Simpson (1.0), Taberner (1.0), Barlow (0.1), Mzungu (0.1), Neale (0.1)

One is that the Saints sent off three stalwarts, each of whom had played 200 games or more, and honoured them with a resounding victory.

Stephen Milne, Justin Koschitzke and Jason Blake each had farewells that encapsulated the distinct ways they had served the Saints.

The second reason is that their old coach Ross Lyon, who brings a ruthless actuarial logic to the business of football, opted to "play the percentages", in his words, and withdrew no less than 12 players from the team that played Port Adelaide seven days earlier in Perth.

The Fremantle team that takes on Geelong next weekend could well have 13 different players to the quasi WAFL team belted by 71 points.

In addition to the 10 players not selected on Thursday night, either for the purposes of rest or overcoming niggles, Chris Mayne and Garrick Ibbotson were late scratchings, bringing first gamer Craig Moller and Josh Simpson in.

The withdrawals included most of Freo's midfield (David Mundy, Nathan Fyfe, Stephen Hill), their premier small forwards (Michael Walters and Hayden Ballantyne), their support ruck (Zac Clarke) and No. 2 and No. 3 tall backs (Michael Johnson, Zac Dawson). Luke McParlin, their best tall back, also should return for Geelong.

Lyon had weighed up the prospect of travelling twice in a week and decided it was better to have mass resting, which would also mean handing the points to the Saints. He did not do it for sentimental reasons. He reckoned it would enhance the Dockers' prospects at the Geelong slaughterhouse.

But his ruthless calculation almost went awry, as the Brisbane Lions came within a point of beating Geelong and deeply embarrassing the Dockers.

Had the Lions won, Lyon acknowledged, there would be a different conversation.

So, we had a strange one-sided match in which the lowly placed team picked its strongest side, bar the fact that it brought back the adored Kosi for his 200th and final game. Koschitzke had no match conditioning and was thus made the substitute, third quarter, to a Moorabbin-like roar.

But that roar was surpassed in the third quarter, when Milne scored his first goal, and in the final term, when Kosi sank a "goal" from a strong mark on the lead.

Alas, in a development that Blake said typified Koschitzke's star-crossed career, this goal was redacted by a video review that showed Kosi had hit the post. He finished with 0.4, but no one really cared.

Blake got a fair cheer, too, when he crept forward and sank one. Blake had subdued Matthew Pavlich for much of the match.

So while one team was hibernating, and avoiding injuries, the other was celebrating.

The Saints owned the ball to the point that two players – Leigh Montagna and the rapidly rising Jack Steven – had 47 disposals each, with Nick Dal Santo, left unmolested in the first quarter (14 touches) and allowed to notch 34.

Dal Santo did damage with those touches.

Jarryn Geary and Clint Jones, too, had 34 each, as the Saints managed an absurd aggregate of 519 disposals, the most in AFL/VFL history, bettering Geelong's 510 in 2011.

Montagna's 47 included 40 uncontested balls.

The Dockers laid an unLyon-like 41 tackles. This was not, as these numbers hint, a high pressure contest.

The disparity in inside forward 50 entries (62 to 27) also suggest that St Kilda can and should have won by a greater margin.

The game was played in St Kilda's half. Often early in the game, Fremantle players would have to hold the ball when they won possession in defence, waiting for a team mate to run forward and provide an option, since no one was forward of the ball.

The Dockers didn't score a goal until the middle of the second quarter, and aside from a late second and early third term rally (closing to within five goals), weren't really part of the story.

And that story centred on three players. A cheeky goal sneak who riled opponents as much as he enthralled his own, a courageous big forward who had a knack for mishap and a no-frills defender who played what used to be called Saints footy.

The Dockers didn't play Dockers footy. They had other objectives.