Dockers look to dispel doubters
On previous occasions it has been enough for Fremantle to simply make the finals, but with the club in a better position than it has ever been after 16 rounds, Dockers fans should expect nothing less than a tilt at the premiership in 2010.
If Mark Harvey and his men are serious about their premiership credentials, then they must beat the Bulldogs on Sunday and put themselves in pole position for a crucial top-four spot.
The Dockers have been the great underachievers of the national competition having made the finals only twice in 16 seasons. Time after time, their fans have had their hopes raised by a promising season, only to be dashed by Fremantle’s inability to back it up.
In the first eight years, when it should have been capitalising on draft advantages, it was battling in the lower reaches of the ladder, finishing no better than 12th. Then in 2003, things looked set to turn around.
In its second season under Chris Connolly, the club finished fifth. A first-up elimination final loss to Essendon at Subiaco was considered a mere slip on an upward slope. But despite winning 11 games in each of its next two seasons, Fremantle failed to figure in the finals again until 2006.
That season was by far the club’s most successful as the Dockers won their last nine games of the season to finish third overall. A qualifying final loss to Adelaide was followed by a win over Melbourne which put the Dockers within a game of a Grand Final for the first time. However, they were outclassed by Sydney.
The next season things fell apart again. The club finished 11th, Connolly walked out mid-season and Harvey took over and managed just six wins in each of the next two seasons.
But in the mould of being the most unpredictable club in the league, just when most pundits had Harvey in the gun, the Dockers have experienced a revival in 2010, powering their way into fourth with 11 wins in the first 16 rounds, their best ever return at this stage of a season.
Again, the Dockers seem poised, but such is their record for failing to flatter when it matters most they are still $21 for the premiership, while the Bulldogs, four points behind them on the ladder, are in single figures.
The truth is the football public have a lack of faith in the Dockers and given the record outlined above and a horrible overall away record of just 45 wins from 128 games, it is little wonder.
The only way to change perceptions is to start winning games you are not expected to. With the exception of a home win over Geelong and perhaps the recent away win against Carlton, that has not happened this season.
The Dockers cannot afford to see Sunday’s clash with the Dogs at Etihad as a crossroads in their season. They must see it as an opportunity to frank their premiership credentials, damage the hopes of their rivals and to ensure the doubts that everybody else seems to have about them are unfounded.