Playing hurt to make Fremantle tougher
Fremantle’s disastrous end to 2011 as a host of underdone players carried injuries into matches helped teach the Dockers the meaning of mental toughness, according to skipper Matthew Pavlich.
The Dockers lost their last seven games last season by an average of 50 points as the battered squad tried in vain to make the eight.
While the selection of players under duress appeared to backfire spectacularly as Fremantle tumbled from sixth before Round 18 to a final position of 11th, Pavlich is adamant the experience has helped toughen up the squad ahead of 2012.
“I actually look at it as a great learning tool, for the club but particularly for individuals who are a bit sore,” he said.
“To push through, I think it really drives resilience and understanding of mental toughness. That’s a huge element.
“So I’d like to look at that as a learning for the club and for the individuals, as compared to calling it mistakes or looking back in regret.”
The risks Fremantle took were brought sharply into focus against North Melbourne in Round 22, when a string of underdone stars were sent out in the must-win match, only for the Dockers to be slaughtered by 98 points as the finals dream was terminated.
Former coach Mark Harvey said after the game that he’d never seen so much carnage in a playing group and admitted a lot of the players were not able to train during the week.
Key midfielders Michael Barlow (leg) and David Mundy (ankle) were among those rushed back towards the end of the season and both are still yet to fully overcome their issues.
Pavlich said he had no hesitation playing against the Kangaroos with a calf injury and would do it again if asked.
A final decision on his inclusion was made only after he got through the warm-up and he had to be subbed out before halftime.
“To be frank, we’d probably rolled the dice for a few weeks in the lead-up to that last game that I played against North,” Pavlich said.
“You don’t want to put your body at risk, and there’s a fine line between playing sore and getting through as compared to doing what the team wants and needs, but I’d be more than willing to do that again.”
Pavlich has been freed from the burden fortifying the midfield by Ross Lyon this season and is looking forward to his return to being a key forward, the position he calls his most natural.
Despite high hopes among Freo faithful of a big haul of goals from the six-time Doig medallist, Pavlich said it was unrealistic to expect big individual bags or a Coleman Medal. The most goals he has kicked in a season is 72, in 2007.
“Fans have always liked the full-forward kicking bags of six, seven, eight, nine, 10, but that only happens on a rare occasion these days,” Pavlich said. “I think the successful teams have shown that they’ve got a really wide spread of goalkickers.”