Stand-in Fremantle captain Luke McPharlin says it’s a sign of his team’s growing maturity that it was able to beat North Melbourne on Sunday without Matthew Pavlich.
The 53-point win was Fremantle’s first without Pavlich in the past seven matches the star forward has missed, dating back to 2008.
“He’s obviously a crucial cog in our team, but we like to think we’ve really grown as a team this year, and when one of our leaders can’t play, then the others can step up and everyone plays their role,” McPharlin told AFL.com.au.
“It’s a pleasing aspect that the entire fate of our football team doesn’t rest on the shoulders of Matthew Pavlich.”
Fremantle locked itself inside the top eight with the victory, and has now won six of its past seven matches.
With Aaron Sandilands and Nat Fyfe back in the team, Pavlich to return, and several others hitting top form, McPharlin felt the team was primed for September.
“We’ve been building for a number of weeks now,” he said.
“We’re continuing to train hard and put it together on the field, and that’s really pleasing from our point of view.
“We set ourselves a challenge at the start of the year to really grow as a team and give consistent effort over the journey, and I think over the second half of this year we’ve certainly been able to demonstrate that.
“That gives the guys confidence.
“We’re fit, we’re up and going, we have availability.
“That is a pleasing thing at this time of year, to not be limping into the finals.”
Not only did McPharlin lead the team to victory in Pavlich’s absence, he also did his captain a personal favour.
Kangaroos star Drew Petrie entered the match needing six goals to overtake Pavlich in the Coleman Medal race, but McPharlin kept him goalless.
“He (Petrie) works hard, he’s got tremendous hands and can really fly, so I was just trying to do some body work on him early,” McPharlin said.
“The pressure up the field really helps.
“If they’re coming in without any pressure and they’re able to hit him lace out, that makes my job difficult.
“But the forwards and the midfielders really got after them and tackled and pressed, and that meant the kicks were coming in high and under pressure.
“So it made my job easier.”
Fremantle could secure a home final if results go its way in round 23.
But McPharlin said that wouldn’t be a distraction leading into the Demons clash.
“We can’t think too much about all that sort of stuff,” he said.
“That’s been a strength of the group; we’ve been able to just deal with what’s in front of us.
“That’s Melbourne next week, and we look no further ahead than that.”