Can you imagine if Matthew Pavlich walked down Queen Street Mall without wearing any Fremantle Dockers gear?

How many people would know him? Sadly, he’d go largely unrecognised.

That’s no reflection on the Dockers captain. But it does confirm one of the big injustices in the AFL – that Pavlich is grossly under-rated.

Sure, it’d be different in Melbourne. Yet even in football heartland in comparison with St Kilda captain Nick Riewoldt, it’d be no comparison even though Pavlich and Riewoldt are on a par in so many ways.

I rate Pavlich among the best 10 players in the game, and he’s probably the most versatile superstar in the competition along with Gary Ablett.

Ablett, you ask? Versatile? Absolutely.

The inaugural Gold Coast captain kicked 44 goals for Geelong last year, which was more than most permanent small forwards. And yet he ranked among the most prolific ball-winning midfielders.

That makes him an A-grader in two roles, and there aren’t too many of them.

Yet Pavlich is an A-grader in three roles – key forward, key defence and midfield.

He’s been All-Australian six times in five different positions – fullback, half forward, centre half forward, full forward and interchange (twice).

A supreme athlete with strength, stamina, skill, leadership and a booming kick, he’s a five-time Fremantle club champion and has finished top three the past nine years.

It’s an incredible record, and as a four-year captain, set for year five at the helm, he’s an outstanding AFL ambassador.

If he was a Victorian, he’d be on up on a pedestal with the truly elite, yet because he’s an Adelaide boy playing in Perth he’s under-rated by eastern states football intelligentsia.

Not by the Lions. As we prepared for tomorrow night’s season opener at the Gabba, the two Fremantle players at the top of the “must contain” list were Pavlich and ruck giant Aaron Sandilands.

Each has the ability to win a game off his own boot, and if we are to top off a good pre-season with a first-up win, we need to limit their influence.

Sandilands, at 211cm, is a weapon. He dominates the ruck hit-outs and over the past couple of years has become a goal-kicking threat up forward.

But Fremantle, sixth last year, are no two-man side. Their overall team running power is a huge plus and they’ll be full of confidence after finishing 2010 on a high. The Lions will be happy if this week’s high humidity hangs around because it adds an extra dimension to the homeground advantage and we’ll go in cherry ripe after two good trial wins over Melbourne and Gold Coast.

It’s been a long pre-season and the boys were rapt to get back to the Gabba for training this week.

Round 1 is always special and a Brisbane win will be the perfect start to a campaign in which we are determined to prove the knockers wrong.

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