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Five talking points: Fremantle v Essendon

Highlights: Fremantle v Essendon The Dockers and Dons battle for round three honours at Patersons Stadium
1. Heroics for Hird
James Hird entered the game under unprecedented pressure after the allegations of the last 48 hours. Even the AFL chief executive Andrew Demetriou suggested Hird should stand down. Throughout the opening half, Hird could have been excused for wondering if he had made the right call to coach on Friday night. But he made the bold move of subbing his most reliable player and premiership teammate in Dustin Fletcher to inject the pace of Travis Colyer, and the move sparked a seven-goal run for his side. Hird’s celebrations were reserved in the box when the siren sounded, but his players were very emotional on the ground.

Under-fire Essendon coach James Hird addresses his troops at quarter time on Friday night. Picture: AFL Media

2. Temporary shutdown
Last week, reigning Brownlow medallist Jobe Watson and Dyson Heppell had 38 and 36 disposals respectively and kicked five goals between them. Fremantle set its sights on shutting those two down, and they did so - for half the game at least. Watson managed just one kick in the first half, Heppell just two. Matt de Boer did the lock down job on Watson, and Ryan Crowley went to Brent Stanton, leaving David Mundy to run head-to-head with Heppell. Watson broke free in the second half with some key touches, and set up a Heppell goal in the last quarter to give Essendon a 10-point lead.

3. Goalless quarters
Essendon kicked 28 goals against Melbourne last week, yet they couldn’t manage one in the opening term on Friday night. Fremantle had never held the Bombers goalless in an opening term in their previous 26 meetings, and it was the first time Essendon was held goalless in a first term since round 17, 2011, when Adelaide managed it at AAMI Stadium. Perhaps in what was a sign of things to come on Friday, Essendon still managed to win that night against the Crows. Fremantle was later held goalless in the third term, just as they were when they failed to kick a goal in final term against Essendon last year in round 13.  

4. Fletcher’s early night
The substitute rule was unheard of when Dustin Fletcher debuted in 1993. He was subbed once last year, in round 21 against Carlton after suffering a hip injury that ended the veteran’s season, but he was given the red vest early in the third term on Friday night after being exposed in a mismatch with Hayden Ballantyne. Fletcher, so often a barometer with his rebounding and ball use from defence, was held to just eight possessions at 50 per cent efficiency before Travis Colyer replaced him. Meanwhile Ballantyne was a livewire throughout the opening half, kicking a goal and having a hand in several others.

5. McPharlin out
Luke McPharlin’s 200th appearance lasted just five minutes after the 2012 All Australian defender was heavily concussed by a bump from Essendon Patrick Ryder. McPharlin was reaching for a loose ball that looped above his head and Ryder lined him up with a heavy hip and shoulder, with the latter making contact with McPharlin’s chin. The defender lay motionless for several seconds before trying to get to his feet unsuccessfully. He was helped from the ground and subbed under the concussion rule, but he never returned.  
The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of the AFL or its clubs