DAVID Mundy's performance against Adelaide in round five represented a key juncture in the Fremantle veteran's brilliant start to the season.
The "wise, calm head" who had been steering a young midfield through the opening rounds turned outright matchwinner in the final term and put the Dockers on his shoulders.
It was a significant individual performance that sparked conversation about whether Mundy could continue his brilliant career into a 19th AFL season in 2022.
Indeed, it could no longer be assumed 2021 would be the 35-year-old's swan song and the prospect of the Freo champion playing on is now a possibility the Dockers need to prepare for.
Mundy is yet to raise the prospect of playing on with his long-time manager, Anthony McConville of Mac's Sports Promotions, and it is understood he is yet to have that conversation with the club either.
Both parties appear content to let the season roll on at this early stage. But where Mundy's form and 2022 prospects do have a short-term impact is the Dockers' list management planning.
The Dockers hadn't projected an 18th season for Mundy 12 months ago, but he was finally re-signed at the end of a season full of curveballs for list managers, expressing his relief at the time.
NOT HAPPENING Longmuir dismisses Hill retirement rumours
There was still a "driving force" within the former captain and a "healthy dose of competitiveness" that would see him strive to improve again in 2021.
On the evidence of the first five rounds, that is what Mundy has achieved, and his ability is being recognised more widely, with coach Justin Longmuir observing last week that "the rest of the competition is catching up now".
"He's a leader in the truest sense," Longmuir said after Mundy's match-winning performance against the Crows.
Statistics capture part of what has made Mundy's start to the season so impressive.
He ranks No.1 at Fremantle for inside 50s (5.2 a game), tackles (5.8), centre clearances (2.0, equal with Caleb Serong) and total contested possessions (54 at 10.8 a game).
His disposal average of 24.6 ranks No.2, behind Andrew Brayshaw, and has only been topped by Mundy across a season in 2015 when he averaged 26.9 touches and was recognised with All-Australian selection.
The statistic that best sums up his impact this season, however, is score involvements, an area he leads Fremantle with 8.4 a game, ranking No.6 across the AFL.
FANTASY LATEST Tips, strategy, draft, podcasts, more
He averaged 3.1 a game last season, highlighting his ability to continue improving late in his career.
McConville said Mundy's preparation for 2021 had been a key to his start, and the pursuit of success was continuing to drive the "ultimate professional".
"He would desperately want premiership success … and I think this year as all previous years he is committed to not only playing his best to achieve that success but also committed to helping the youth of the club for their future success whether he would be playing or not. That's David, selfless," McConville told AFL.com.au.
One-year contracts are also getting the best out of Mundy, McConville said, with the popular Docker last signing a multi-year contract in 2014.
That three-year deal included a one-year trigger for 2018, which he met, and he has since signed a series of one-season deals for 2019, 2020 and 2021.
The tributes are still to come for Mundy later this year, when he is expected to reach the 350-game milestone and pass champion forward Matthew Pavlich's Fremantle games record of 353. By then his future should also have become clearer.
But after watching his heroic final quarter against the Crows, which included nine disposals and a match-sealing goal, the Dockers can start preparing at least for the possibility of another campaign from the underrated gun.