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Five talking points: Fremantle v Richmond

Highlights: Fremantle v Richmond The Dockers and Tigers clash in round 22

1. Harley finally gets started at Freo
Harley Bennell's output on Sunday afternoon served only as a footnote to the tale of frustration and perseverance the 24-year-old has endured since crossing to Fremantle from the Gold Coast at the end of 2015. Many – including senior coach Ross Lyon – feared Bennell wouldn't add to the 81 games and 92 goals notched with the Suns. Upon his return to competitive football last month, Lyon even declared the former No.2 draft pick a "better man" than himself, conceding he would've retired if faced with the same set of circumstances. But after overcoming a string of career-threatening calf complaints to both legs, Bennell's first foray onto an AFL field in 723 days was more than the Fremantle brains trust could've hoped for. If the reception he received running onto the field was loud, the response to his first goal – a holding the ball decision on Nathan Broad – was ear-splitting. So too was the noise when he registered his second – a classy snap off two steps – just minutes before the quarter-time siren to put his team in front at the first break. He was quiet thereafter, finishing with two goals and six disposals from limited game time, but both he and the club will be better for the run. 


2. The Dockers bid farewell to Subiaco in forgettable fashion
Fremantle's 264th and final match at Domain Stadium won't live long in the home team’s memory as the Dockers were comprehensively thumped by the top-four-bound Tigers. Ross Lyon’s men were plucky early and even had Richmond rattled at stages throughout the opening quarter, entering the first break with a four-point lead. But the fun ended there, as Richmond slammed on eight second-quarter goals and 22 of the final 26 majors. Even defender Alex Rance managed to hit the scoreboard with his first goal of the year to consign Fremantle to their second-worst loss at home. Overall, the Dockers' record at the venue is a positive one, having tallied 152 wins at 57 per cent including four finals victories. But they’ll be looking forward to moving paving new ground at Burswood, given the fears Subiaco once held for travelling sides have all but dissipated.

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3. The Tigers are firming as a serious September threat
They might've been playing a young team limping to the finish line but make no mistake, the Tigers look legitimate. After quelling the Dockers' early challenges, Hardwick's men were nothing short of ruthless, scything through Fremantle’s midfield structures to outscore their opponents by 100 points after quarter-time. There doesn’t seem to be any obvious missing links. Jack Riewoldt and his host of pressure forwards work for each other; Dustin Martin, Shaun Grigg, Trent Cotchin and Kane Lambert – just to mention a few – are in career-best form; and Alex Rance and Dylan Grimes look as assured as ever in defence. That being said, Richmond isn’t over the line yet. Next Sunday holds the challenge of quelling a St Kilda side with finals ambitions of its own, while the Swans and Power are just a win behind with superior percentage. Given their respective match-ups – Sydney hosts Carlton while Port Adelaide are at home to Gold Coast – Hardwick's men will want to be on their game. 


4. Lyon's recurring nightmare
Following last week’s debacle against the Swans in Sydney, Lyon openly declared he didn’t want a repeat of his team’s performance. What he got was exactly that – a listless 104-point loss against a premiership contender. Before round 10 this year – when the red-hot Crows crushed the Dockers by 100 points – a Lyon-coached team had never been defeated by a century or more. That match was seen as an anomaly, given the team’s promising run of form prior to the game. Since then, Fremantle has been flogged by Brisbane (57 points), Hawthorn (52 points), Sydney and now Richmond. The Dockers pride themselves on being difficult to play against, but on Sunday’s showing, drastic changes will need to be made before they challenge the League’s best again. 

5. Another former Giant shows his wares
Picked for his first game of the year and just his fifth as a Tiger, Jacob Townsend could hardly have chosen a better time to put in a career-best performance. The ex-Giant was recruited to Richmond at the end of 2015 with the brief of adding grunt to a midfield then lacking a hard edge. As such, it was surprising to see him thrown forward with such good effect. Having booted just four goals in 32 games prior to Sunday, Townsend had three majors to half-time and was consistently found himself in dangerous positions. But beyond his scoreboard impact, the 24-year-old was clever with his leading patterns, clean below his knees, showed strong hands and tackled with intent. He finished as the game’s leading goalkicker with six majors and has made it hard for the selectors to drop him before September.

WATCH: Townsend terrorises Dockers with six