WITH a single, steady set-shot kick, David Mundy reminded us why Fremantle can still win the premiership this year.
We say still because some would have you believe the appointment with the engravers has already been booked to put Hawthorn's name on the 2015 cup.
But the Dockers' win on Saturday over Richmond restored some faith in the club's flag hopes, for a number of reasons.
Firstly, the victory sets up Ross Lyon's team for a top-two finish. From here they should win three more games (against GWS, St Kilda and Melbourne) and would be expected to claim at least one victory out of games against West Coast, North Melbourne and Port Adelaide.
That should be enough to secure a home qualifying final, which is the first key to navigating a challenging run of September matches, particularly if they avoid cross-town rivals West Coast.
On Saturday it was the Tigers' game to win: they had six more scoring shots, hit the post six times, and if not for a brain-fade from Bachar Houli in the final moments, they would have held on.
But this is another key trait of the Dockers under Lyon that holds up in finals. They just don't stop, they played to the last minute, and Mundy's long kick sailed through.
The Dockers are a mature, experienced group who knew if they kept coming, Richmond could wilt. While the Tigers could have sealed the victory, there was a sense they didn't quite know how to put the icing on the cake and get it done.
The same can't be said for Freo, who is making a good habit of grinding out victories and did that against the Tigers in a finals-type atmosphere.
A core batch of matchwinners in the middle, including Mundy, Nat Fyfe and Michael Barlow, will stand up under the September heat, while younger players Tommy Sheridan and Hayden Crozier have come into the side and added spark.
Mundy was huge against the Tigers, with Fyfe's influence a little down as he played with a corked thigh. He gathered 28 disposals (two-thirds of those in the back half), six clearances and six tackles to go with his late goal.
Hawthorn's form in the past three weeks has been frighteningly good. The Hawks have beaten Fremantle, the Sydney Swans and Carlton by an average of nearly 100 points and shown the competition their immense firepower.
Freo won't be able to match that in the finals and its forward line is a concern.
But this can buoy the Dockers: a number of teams in recent seasons at this stage of the year have been raging favourites for the flag like Hawthorn and not gone on with it. Geelong (2008), St Kilda (2009) and Collingwood (2011) were equally as 'clear-cut', while the Swans entered last year's Grand Final with all the momentum.
The Dockers have done all the hard work to this point. Like they did on Saturday, they might just time their run. Don't count them out.
Other observations from round 16
Greater Western Sydney's first win as a club came in Canberra, when it stormed past Gold Coast seven weeks into 2012.
The Giants had the chance to clinch perhaps the most important win of their existence at the same ground on Saturday against Geelong, but left Manuka Oval as the round's biggest disappointment.
The warning signs were there early for Leon Cameron and his coaching team, with Geelong registering nine scoring shots in the opening quarter to the Giants' two.
Steven Motlop was allowed to roam free on the wing and set up the play, and he had gathered 12 disposals and kicked a goal by the first change. Tom Hawkins looked dangerous on his way to five goals and a monstering of GWS' defence, and the Giants were sloppy.
It was an ominous result for the Giants, who are searching for their first finals appearance in their fourth AFL season. A win would have seen them draw level on points with fifth-placed Richmond.
But the defeat (against a fellow top-eight aspirant) leaves them among a cluster of clubs fighting for a finals berth. They may well look back on their sluggish effort against the Cats and regret it.
The Cats left the first ever sold-out Giants home game far happier, and remain in the mix for a ninth-straight finals appearance. Their veterans contributed and Hawkins was unstoppable, but if nothing else the game was a reminder of Motlop's importance to their set-up.
Leg speed is critical through the middle of the ground, and Motlop is a game changer. With Richmond, Adelaide and other clubs linked to the out-of-contract 24-year-old, the Cats need Motlop and his blistering run as a part of their next contending team.
Two more things...
1. Footy is better for having Luke Beveridge as a senior coach
Western Bulldogs fans have got their money's worth this season, with Beveridge encouraging a brilliant style of football in his team. He has been crafty with his senior players, moving Matthew Boyd to half-back and getting more run out of Liam Picken. But he has also given his younger players a licence to go for it, and been happy to blood some of last year's draftees. The Bulldogs were too good for a competitive Collingwood on Sunday, and should make the eight in Beveridge's first season at the helm. He would have to be a contender for coach of the year given he took over a club in disarray, having lost its best player to another club and then its best and fairest to a knee injury before the season started.
2. West Coast's ruck duo gives it an edge
Speaking of candidates for the coach of the year, Adam Simpson has paired up Nic Naitanui with Callum Sinclair and found the most damaging ruck combination in the competition. Naitanui is fit and at his agile and imposing best. And he is teaming up perfectly with Sinclair, who played his best game on Sunday for the Eagles in their dominant win over the Sydney Swans. Sinclair had 21 disposals, nine marks, 29 hit-outs and kicked a goal, showing his skills and smarts around the ground. While the Swans were undermanned in attack, it was another commanding display from the second-placed Eagles. As they head into September, the Eagles' dangerous and versatile two-man ruck set-up might give them an advantage over fellow premiership hopefuls.
@AFL_CalTwomey is a loss a win long term for essendon seeings it's locking up a top 5 pick to go along with all the young guns we've seen— Shaun (@Rang_07) July 26, 2015
Cal Twomey: The Bombers are entrenched in the bottom six, but the difference between pick No.4 and No.6 might be significant if there is a prospect they are really chasing. So finishing with as early a pick as possible is not a bad thing for the Bombers, particularly given the talent they have been unable to bring into the club in the past two years due to draft sanctions. There were many exciting elements to Essendon's performance against Port Adelaide, not least the fact it was built on youth. Last year's top-20 draft picks Kyle Langford and Jayden Laverde showed poise and class, Alex Browne played the best game of his career and Nick O'Brien's hard work in the VFL is starting to pay off. Zach Merrett and Joe Daniher also continue to show they will be long-term stars. But there's some big decisions to be made on Essendon's list. Several players look set to retire, a large number are out-of-contract and some are considering their options. The recruitment of Jonathan Giles and Adam Cooney has failed, so expect the Bombers to go hard at the draft in 2015 with all their picks intact.
CT: Even Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson conceded Friday night's game wasn't great for the code with such a significant blowout, so you couldn't blame supporters who stayed at home, switched the channel or went to watch Real Madrid and Manchester City at the MCG. A crowd of nearly 100,000 at the soccer against the 27,000 at Etihad Stadium sparked some discussion about the world game being a threat to the AFL, which might be true in some communities. But what Friday night's game between Carlton and Hawthorn did highlight was the issue of talent dilution in the AFL. The expansion era has been – and still is – a huge investment for the League, but many will tell you that there simply isn't enough top-end talent and good players available to sustain 18 clubs. When debate rages about the state of the game and how it is being played, it might be worth considering this as a starting point. As for the Blues fans that did head along, there must have been a sense of melancholy as the club celebrated the 20-year anniversary of the 1995 flag. The next one has never looked so far away.
David Mundy's match-winning day against Richmond. Source: AFL Live Official App
Sign up for a free two-week trial of AFL Live Pass and fire up the AFL Live App to watch every match live and gain access to Coach features, including club and player heat maps.