In 1993, Mark Harvey had a major mullet, just a few seasons left to play and a changed role in his Essendon side, not only as an undersized, but always courageous, centre half-back.

The Bombers’ babies captured most attention in their unexpected premiership season, and why wouldn’t they have: James Hird, Dustin Fletcher, Mark Mercuri, Joe Misiti and Gavin Wanganeen went on to prove they were worth all that hype.

But they weren’t, really, at the heart of the team. Were Mark Thompson, Gary O’Donnell, Harvey and a few others not there to cover them, protect them and to keep things steady, it might have been a much bumpier season.

Harvey is a Fremantle man now, with a much more sensible haircut, but watching his Dockers’ side refuse to give in to Hawthorn yesterday, it was difficult not to be reminded of where their coach had come from.

There were 10 first- or second-season players in the Fremantle side, and they gave it what they have given it all year: energy, speed and excitement. Effort, over and over again, never deflated if their first chase, tackle or handpass didn’t quite come off.

Stephen Hill was all grace and anticipation, slipping and sliding his way out of tight spots. Dylan Roberton ran around like an over-excited puppy, waving not only his hands but his arms for the ball, flinging his entire body at oncoming players. Michael Walters clung on for dear life each time he got his hands on an opponent, too, an extra bit of urgency in his first few steps. Nat Fyfe held his small, skinny body steady under high, slow, incoming balls, over and over, and in the biggest game he has played, Anthony Morabito played possibly the best of his 22 games, certainly during the first half.

Trapped in the middle of packs, he was the player to juggle high, bobbing balls from his right fingertips to his left, then tuck it to his boot as he busted his way out of there. He was the player who, as Hawthorn began to slow the first quarter down, grabbed the ball on the wing, took three bounces and zoomed towards the goal, never looking like he was going to do anything but kick it.

The Dockers’ kids played like they wanted to be out there, like they belonged there, like they were having the best time of their lives.

It said something, though, that as Morabito thumped his second bounce to the ground, looking up towards goal, Aaron Sandilands loomed behind him, rattling Rick Ladson with a heavy shepherd. It was as if the ruckman was admonishing him, for daring to try and spoil his young teammates’ huge moment. It said something also that, as Hill flew down the wing, placing a perfect pass in Morabito’s hands late in the match, that an exhausted Adam McPhee mustered the energy to knock Tom Murphy out of the way.

The Dockers won because their old, experienced players were their best players. Luke McPharlin, under constant pressure, kept Lance Franklin to six marks and two goals. Antoni Grover conceded four to Jarryd Roughead, but considering Hawthorn took the ball forward 29 times in the first half, it could have been a whole lot worse.

David Mundy was the player winning the ball in the first quarter, when patterns were being set. Matthew Pavlich was the one who took himself into the centre square after the half-time break, making sure the Hawks were not able to make up anything but some temporary ground. The simple fact he drew opposition players to him – three of them in one early contest – helped his teammates out.

Then there was Adam McPhee, who returned to Fremantle at the end of last season convinced he was a midfielder, even if others were nowhere near as sure. He played on Luke Hodge, almost from start to finish, and kept Hodge to 13 fairly inconsequential touches. How well the young Dockers do against Geelong next week will probably depend on one thing: whether their senior, experienced, more hardened teammates allow them to keep doing their thing.

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