Fremantle looks like a different team in 2011. It’s not just the new jumper.

After last season’s promise, victories are expected rather than hoped for.

There’s a fierce determination seemingly running through the club, from senior players like Matthew Pavlich and Aaron Sandilands, through to their young rising stars like Nat Fyfe and Stephen Hill.

Despite a preseason marred by injury to key personnel, Mark Harvey’s men have continued to build on the foundations they laid during last season’s run to the semi-finals.

The Dockers are playing like a top four side, but to be considered genuine contenders outside of their own parochial purple pastures, they’ll have to pass a serious test this Saturday against Richmond at football headquarters.

Fremantle’s record at the MCG is miserable. It’s a paltry nine wins from 33 games. The Dockers lost their first 10 games at the ground.

Their most recent victory at the spiritual home of gootball was back in round four of 2007 against Melbourne. At the time, the Demons were winless and rock bottom.

There are good reasons to as to why the MCG has been so unwelcoming to the Dockers. Fremantle’s excursions there are few and far between.

Last year, Freo’s only trip to the MCG was for their semi-final against Geelong.

They lost by 69 points and the game was over at quarter-time as the Cats cruised to an eight-goals-to-one opening term.

Fremantle has run out onto the hallowed turf just 10 times in five years. More than half of the Dockers’ squad have never won there. It would be an understandably daunting experience.

Fremantle has made a strong start to this season, with away wins against Brisbane and Adelaide, and home victories over north Melbourne and the Bulldogs. Its one loss was by 11 points in round five to Geelong.

The Cats’ unbeaten start to the season has also put that narrow defeat into perspective.

But to be truly considered a contender in 2011, Fremantle must start winning on the AFL’s biggest stage.

There is reason for Freo’s fans to be hopeful, last year the Dockers put a sword through some of the club’s major hoodoos.

In 2010, The Docklands became no longer a stadium of woe for Freo.

8 games and three years had passed until Fremantle vanquished Essendon by 44 points in round 2.

Brisbane was beaten at the Gabba for the first time in the Dockers’ short history, halting an eight-game losing run.

Finally, Fremantle vanquished Sydney at the SCG, ending a nine-game losing run that stretched back to the club’s early days in 1996.

Those wins clearly demonstrated Fremantle was growing as a club.

The challenge now is drowning out the cries of yellow and black. Fremantle’s only had one win in seven games against Richmond. And that was back in 2007.

A victory over the Tigers on Saturday would be another major step forward.

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