EVERY premiership story has its origins, the moment the rise became real, the talk became tangible, the pipe dream became palpable. This might have been Fremantle's.
In an extraordinary game, Narrm's 17-match winning streak is over after the Dockers produced a stunning comeback at the MCG on Saturday to end the Demons' unbeaten start to the season after last year's premiership.
DEES v DOCKERS Full match coverage and stats
The home side looked set to cruise to yet another win and dispatch yet another challenger when they led by 25 points at half-time before Dockers coach Justin Longmuir masterminded a brilliant third term that saw the visitors boot eight goals to one to set up the famous 38-point win.
After two poor defeats following their bright start to the season, questions over Fremantle's credentials were fair at the main break on Saturday afternoon. But half an hour later the Dockers had shown their brilliance in a phenomenal term that set up the 14.10 (94) to 7.14 (56) win, relit their top-four hopes and left the reigning premiers in a purple daze.
Their run kept on in the final quarter, with the Dockers kicking 10 goals in a row and keeping the Demons goalless in the last term.
The Dockers had heroes on the field and off. Longmuir's performance was as good as any. He sent defender Griffin Logue to Steven May to start proceedings and tried to throw out the Demons' heralded, organised defence.
When May was ruled out of the game in the second quarter through concussion, the Dockers then made a mission to take control of the game in the air (they led contested marks 16 to 10 and overall marks 130 to 74).
After Clayton Oliver dominated the first half with 24 disposals, Longmuir spun the magnets at half-time and sent James Aish to tag the Melbourne matchwinner, shutting him down thereafter for him to finish with 36 disposals.
Rory Lobb was terrific with three goals and Matt Taberner kicked two for the Dockers before being substituted out with a back issue, while the club's fleet of speedy types enjoyed a day out, with Lachie Schultz (four goals) and Michael Frederick (two goals) pivotal. Defenders Luke Ryan and Alex Pearce were top-shelf and midfield pair Andrew Brayshaw and Will Brodie were also significant for a side that will soon welcome back skipper Nat Fyfe.
The Dockers had the ascendancy across the opening term, with more disposals, inside-50s and clearances, but their efficiency was again costly as they kicked 1.6 to 2.2 for the first quarter.
But such is the strength of Narrm that it can quickly squeeze the spirit of an opponent. Fremantle felt that in the second term as the Demons put the foot down with four straight goals and stretched their lead to 28 points.
A late goal to Lobb – his second of an enterprising game from the Freo big man – helped reduce the deficit to 25 points at the main break, but the Dockers had serious work to do after being steamrolled for the quarter.
However, they were up for it. Lobb booted the first two of the term and then Matt Taberner slotted a shot from the top of the goalsquare to get the Dockers to within 14 points.
The Dockers started to expose the Demons' defence without May, with Harrison Petty also hobbled by an ankle issue. Fremantle's smalls got involved too, with Schultz and then Frederick kicking goals to get the Dockers back within one point.
When Sean Darcy floated forward and kicked truly from 40 metres, the Dockers had snatched the lead and then Michael Walters' perfect kick around his body snuck through.
And they weren't done yet, with Schultz hitting the scoreboard again to steer the Dockers to a 16-point lead at the final break. Their pressure remained red hot to start the last term before Frederick and Schulz swooped for goals midway through the quarter to steer the Dockers to an incredible victory.
Aish sticks to the task
Clayton Oliver was running riot in the first half on Saturday. He had racked up 24 disposals and was in everything as Melbourne powered its way to a comfortable lead. He looked set to surpass his 45-disposal effort from last week against North Melbourne, until Dockers utility James Aish was sent his way. The move worked, with the close-checking Aish quelling Oliver's influence with only (by his lofty standards) 12 disposals for the second half. Aish has played a number of roles at the Dockers after crossing from Collingwood and did his job again on Saturday.
Winning streak bows out
It must have felt a little unusual for Jake Bowey as Fremantle poured on goals in the second half. Bowey was set to equal the all-time record for most consecutive wins from debut if the Dees had gotten up over the Dockers. An 18th straight victory after debuting last year in round 20 would have seen the Demons half-back equal the 93-year-old record of Albert Lauder, who played in 18 consecutive wins to start his career with Collingwood in the 1920s.
Big man starts the run
Sean Darcy won Fremantle’s best and fairest last year and took it upon himself to kickstart his side’s second-half bonanza in the ruck. Against the premiership skipper Max Gawn, Darcy was instrumental in the Dockers’ comeback, leading his midfield and finishing with 16 disposals, 31 hitouts and a crucial goal in the third term. Gawn was solid with 20 disposals and 21 hitouts but Darcy got the honours in the big-man battle.
NARRM 2.2 6.8 7.10 7.14 (56)
FREMANTLE 1.6 2.7 10.9 14.10 (94)
Narrm: Fritsch 3, Bedford 2, Jordon, Pickett
Fremantle: Schultz 4, Lobb 3, Frederick 2, Taberner 2, Colyer, Darcy, Walters
Narrm: Oliver, Jordon, Viney, Fritsch, Brayshaw
Fremantle: Schultz, Brayshaw, Lobb, Frederick, Brodie, Ryan, Serong
Narrm: May (concussion)
Fremantle: Taberner (back)
Narrm: Luke Dunstan (replaced Steven May in the second quarter)
Fremantle: Bailey Banfield (replaced Matt Taberner in the fourth quarter)