Fremantle unwittingly embroiled itself in controversy by bringing in Aaron Sandilands as a last-minute inclusion against Richmond, but the move paid off with the 211cm ruckman outstanding in his comeback game from ‘turf toe’.

Sandilands replaced Jonathon Griffin in Freo’s team 10 minutes before last Saturday’s match at Paterson’s Stadium, with Tigers coach Damien Hardwick later questioning whether the change was “in the spirit of the game”.

Fremantle coach Ross Lyon responded to Hardwick’s comments by saying Griffin had been replaced after suffering a “bona fide” injury in his pre-match warm-up, having “tweaked” his groin.

But the AFL told on Monday Fremantle was facing a fine if it could not satisfactorily justify the extent of Griffin’s injury.

Even if Freo is fined, it may be money well spent given Sandilands racked up 18 possessions and a game-high 33 hit-outs and nine clearances against the Tigers, in his first match since round 11.

Hardwick, himself, was able to put aside his post-match frustration and acknowledge Sandilands’ stellar performance. Together with Lyon, he awarded the competition’s tallest player eight votes in the AFL Coaches’ Association Champion Player of the Year award.

Sandilands’ return was timely to say the least.

Freo currently holds eighth spot by a game from Carlton (ninth) and Essendon (10th), and to be certain of playing finals must beat North Melbourne at Etihad Stadium this Sunday and Melbourne at Patersons Stadium in round 23.

The clash with North, in particular, shapes as a season-defining game for both teams, with Sandilands’ battle with Roos counterpart Todd Goldstein one of several key match-ups.

Meanwhile, Richmond midfielder Trent Cotchin extended his lead in the AFLCA award from five to eight votes after polling four votes against Freo.

With just two rounds to go, Collingwood’s Dayne Beams climbed into second place on 89 after polling six votes against North last Saturday night, while Essendon skipper Jobe Watson remains on 88 after failing to poll in the Bombers’ 96-point loss to Carlton.

Round 21 votes
Geelong v St Kilda

9 Tom Hawkins (Geel)
9 James Kelly (Geel)
3 Mitch Duncan (Geel)
3 Josh Hunt (Geel)
2 Taylor Hunt (Geel)
2 Stephen Milne (St K)
1 Brendon Goddard (St K)
1 Leigh Montagna (St K)

Essendon v Carlton

10 Marc Murphy (Carl)
8 Jarrad Waite (Carl)
4 Kade Simpson (Carl)
3 Bryce Gibbs (Carl)
3 Brock McLean (Carl)
2 Chris Yarran (Carl)

Greater Western Sydney v Melbourne
9 Toby Greene (GWS)
7 Lynden Dunn (Melb)
7 Jeremy Howe (Melb)
5 Jonathan Giles (GWS)
2 Jack Trengove (Melb)

Fremantle v Richmond
9 David Mundy (Frem)
8 Aaron Sandilands (Frem)
7 Hayden Ballantyne (Frem)
4 Trent Cotchin (Rich)
1 Paul Duffield (Frem)
1 Ryan Crowley (Frem)

Collingwood v North Melbourne

10 Scott Thompson (NM)
6 Dayne Beams (Coll)
6 Brent Harvey (NM)
4 Todd Goldstein (NM)
2 Ryan Bastinac (NM)
1 Ben Cunnington (NM)
1 Andrew Swallow (NM)

Brisbane Lions v Adelaide
8 Jack Redden (Bris)
7 Patrick Dangerfield (Adel)
5 Daniel Rich (Bris)
4 Jed Adcock (Bris)
2 Pearce Hanley (Bris)
2 Daniel Merrett (Bris)
2 Scott Thompson (Adel)

Port Adelaide v West Coast

10 Scott Selwood (WCE)
8 Jack Darling (WCE)
6 Kane Cornes (Port)
2 Darren Glass (WCE)
2 Nic Naitanui (WCE)
2 Justin Westhoff (Port)

Western Bulldogs v Sydney Swans
10 Ryan Griffen (WB)
8 Josh Kennedy (Syd)
6 Lewis Roberts-Thomson (Syd)
2 Kieren Jack (Syd)
2 Nick Smith (Syd)
1 Shane Mumford (Syd)
1 Ryan O’Keefe (Syd)

Hawthorn v Gold Coast
10 David Hale (Haw)
7 Gary Ablett (GC)
6 Luke Hodge (Haw)
3 Steven May (GC)
3 Brad Sewell (Haw)
1 Jarryd Roughead (Haw)

97 Trent Cotchin (Rich)
89 Dayne Beams (Coll)
88 Jobe Watson (Ess)
85 Gary Ablett (GC)
81 Patrick Dangerfield (Adel)
76 Scott Thompson (Adel)
74 Matthew Boyd (WB)
73 Scott Pendlebury (Coll)
71 Josh Kennedy (Syd)
63 Brett Deledio (Rich)

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