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Hawks and Dockers: grand final rematch

Rohan Connolly previews the three big games at the MCG this weekend, including the grand final rematch between Hawthorn and Fremantle.

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While Fremantle understands Friday night's grand final rematch cannot atone for last September's disappointment, the Dockers know there is a chance for redemption of another kind.

They are out to break a run of five straight losses to the Hawks. In fact, they have lost eight of the past nine, with the exception being the 2010 elimination final.

No wonder Fremantle skipper Matthew Pavlich says it's time to do something about a team that has "had it over" his men for some time.

Fremantle skipper Matthew Pavlich.

Fremantle skipper Matthew Pavlich. Photo: Getty Images

''What is done, is done,'' he said. "Obviously, you people [media] will look into that and think why they have the wood over [us] and what-not ... but the facts of it are, Hawthorn have had it over us and we need to get to work and really play our brand of footy and worry about us on Friday night, because that will give us the best chance for victory.

"They have been a pretty good side for a long time. We, obviously in 2010, we played finals and then fell away in 2011, [but] from there we have been relatively consistent. They have been one of the sides to beat, if not the side to beat in the last three seasons. It’s no surprise we don’t have a very good record against them, because they are a very good team.''

When the Dockers head into the MCG dressing room on Friday night, some players may give a fleeting thought to the last time they were at the hallowed ground - on that final Saturday of September.

Fremantle had much to be proud of last season and could have secured its first flag had its kicking and composure been better.

Redemption, though, won't begin until September, when the Dockers are again expected to be a top-four side.

''There is no real way to erase that memory until later in the year when we hopefully get back and give ourselves an opportunity," Pavlich said.

"The game against the Hawks this weekend is about improvement and hopefully showing ourselves that we have improved on some of the things that we have tried to put in place over the summer period.

"I mean this wholeheartedly and, it’s not a throwaway line, but any sense of revenge, or getting something back, that’s an absolute load of you know what. That’s how it is built up externally but, certainly internally, there has not been one mention of it.''

The Dockers remain the league's stingiest defensive team but, importantly in the eyes of some, appear now to want to kick more goals. They are averaging 101.5 points after two rounds, up from an average of 91 in the 2013 campaign. While they ranked 14th in offence last season, they were the third-best offensive team after round 15.

When the opportunity arises, they want to attack through the centre corridor and look to carry the ball coast to coast.

''It’s probably been a focus for 18 months now - to take the game on a bit more, play with a bit more penetration and attack a bit more, but we will still want to maintain our defensive methods as well," Pavlich said.

"The Pies' game was a really good way to start the season. Albeit there were some things that didn’t go perfect for us against the Suns, to come away with an eight-goal victory was satisfying."

No doubt it would be more than satisfying for Fremantle should it slay the giant on Friday night. Lance Franklin's defection to Sydney has meant there is a new look to the Hawks' forward set-up, but their versatility remains a major threat.

''Even if you go back to last year, where their goal sources were coming from, it wasn’t only a couple of key forwards - obviously [Jarryd] Roughead and Franklin had reasonable years - but [Luke] Breust and [Paul] Puopolo and [Jack] Gunston and all their midfielders often hit the scoreboard as well," Pavlich said.

"It’s a lethal combination they have got, whether it’s their own forwards or lesser types getting forward from the midfield and kicking goals. We know what we are up against. They are a powerful unit and they are the team to beat, there is no doubt about that, with form they have shown over the pre-season and early in the season.''