Loss shows Richmond has work to do
Docker destroyer: Two Richmond defenders are left floundering as Matthew Pavlich claims another mark. Photo: Joe Armao
FREMANTLE 4.1 7.3 9.6 12.6 (78)
RICHMOND 5.2 6.3 8.8 9.12 (66)
Goals: Fremantle: M Pavlich 6 H Ballantyne 2 C Mayne J Crichton J Griffin M De Boer Richmond: S Edwards 3 D Martin J Riewoldt R Nahas S Tuck T Cotchin T Vickery
Umpires: Chris Donlon, Justin Schmitt, Jacob Mollison
Official Crowd: 43,801 at MCG
FOR Richmond, it was a day of reminders. The Tigers were reminded that, for all their progress, they sit at five wins, six losses and well outside the eight. They were reminded that the wet ball doesn't allow running and spreading, that the game becomes brutally basic and that there's no substitute for strong bodies.
They were reminded that if you think the draw ''opens up'' after a tough run, then you will be opened up.
For those with bad memories, they were given an even more unpleasant reminder of their club's decision, more than a dozen years ago, to overlook a young South Australian forward named Matthew Pavlich and instead pick Aaron Fiora.
Pavlich sank Richmond. That's the text message description of the match. ''Pav'' booted six of Fremantle's 12 goals as Richmond recorded reversals on multiple fronts.
Brett Deledio was tagged out of the game, a sometimes failing that he'd overcome this year. Ivan Maric bumbled back to his short-haired Adelaide form, and Alex Rance suddenly looked more like the 2010 version of himself, as Pavlich rendered him a second-rung defender. For Rance, the major problem was that Pavlich, too, was his former self.
Jack Riewoldt, who hurt his ankle but stayed on, slipped back to where he'd been before his eight-goal explosion against the Saints, and Dustin Martin played like a kid, rather than a bullocking man.
The only gun who maintained his outstanding 2012 output, predictably, was Trent Cotchin, who shapes as one of the truly great players impervious to their circumstances. Wet ball, dry ball, winning or losing, tagged or not, it matters not for Cotchin. He isn't stopped.
It used to be said that on wet days, ''you pick your Tasmanians and drop the West Australians''. Well, that was another reversal yesterday. The bigger-bodied Dockers, in fact, were much better equipped to handle the slippery ball, since it reduced Richmond's greatest asset - its ability to run and create loose players once it gets hold of the ball.
The wet-ball game is more contested and brings tackling to the fore. Fremantle held an edge on both counts for most of the match, finishing with a club record 117 tackles to Richmond's 82. While the contested ball count was even at the end, this was misleading, since the Dockers led it comfortably (by 16) to three-quarter-time. The Tigers surged in the final term, locked the ball into their attacking half, but couldn't score, their 19 forward-50 entries yielding a dismal 1.4.
Fremantle's victory didn't seem likely in the middle of the first quarter, when it trailed 3.1 to 1.1 and leviathan ruckman Aaron Sandilands was subbed out with what was described as a foot injury. When Stephen Hill limped off minutes later, Richmond seemed blessed.
But this was a ferociously combative game, in which Riewoldt hurt his ankle, Cotchin his arm and Fremantle's second ruck, Jon Griffin, grasped his opportunity. Griffin kicked an improbable goal with a left-foot snap from the boundary and was certainly more effective than Maric, his former Crows teammate.
The other point is that Fremantle won the crucial contests, either at centre bounces or in each team's scoring area. Pavlich's one-out victories over Rance were paramount. The champion booted three of his six goals in the opening quarter and then unleashed the knockout in the final term, with two very classy goals that pushed the margin out to a decisive 15 points.
The first of that Pav pair was created by young Docker Lachie Neale, who cleverly created a loose man by delaying his release of the ball.
Needing a long kick, Pavlich lowered his eyes and booted the ball low, enabling it to skid through. His sixth came when he marked a high ball on his chest as he out-bodied Rance.
But Pavlich's greatest moment was a contest late in the third quarter. The Tigers led by a point - the lead had changed three times already that quarter - when Pavlich found himself outnumbered and facing his goal as the ball was kicked forward. He just needed, somehow, to square the contest, which he did, bravely running into a pair of Tigers, getting collected (not badly) by Jake Batchelor. Tendai Mzungu pounced on the spillage, found Matt De Boer, who booted the goal that ensured the Dockers led at the last break. They weren't headed again.
Deledio's subjugation by Ryan Crowley was also instrumental in the result, particularly given that Nathan Foley was absent. Flint-hard Shane Tuck supported Cotchin in the midfield trenches, Shane Edwards was clean with the ball and enterprising - his three goals compensating for Riewoldt's eclipse. Shaun Grigg maintained his recent output.
But none of this toil was enough. Fremantle had Pavlich. He reminded us that Richmond has some distance to travel, and that he isn't done yet.