NOTHING sucks the air out of a team's tyres like a missed opportunity after the hard work is done, and Fremantle has butchered more shots on goal than any team in 2021.
It is an area of the Dockers' game in need of urgent repair if they are going to be rewarded for the progress being made in other parts of the ground and avoid having the air sucked out of their season.
Fremantle's progress under Justin Longmuir was clear to see only a month ago when the team won three straight matches, but Sunday's loss to Essendon has left their top eight chances on shaky ground.
The Dockers had more forward entries (49-47), more marks inside 50 (12-11), and more shots on goal (21-18) against the Bombers, with Longmuir convinced they were better team for the majority of the match.
The hard work had been done, also winning the hit-out, clearance and tackle counts and registering 53 one-percenters to Essendon's 38. But the chance wasn't taken, kicking 1.4 in the final quarter when the game was up for grabs.
Fremantle ranks No.6 in the AFL for shots on goal this season (238), ahead of top eight teams Richmond, Port Adelaide, West Coast and this week's opponents, the Sydney Swans.
But they are dead last for goal accuracy, converting their shots at a rate of 40.3 per cent, with champion midfielder Nat Fyfe (2.16) the obvious front man for their issues.
The other concern for the Dockers is what happens when the ball hits the deck, ranking last in the AFL for tackles inside 50 (6.6 a game).
They need more from Lachie Schultz (five in eight games), Liam Henry (two in four games), Sam Switkowski (two in four games) and Mitch Crowden (one in five games).
If Sunday was a missed opportunity against a team below them on the ladder, Saturday night's clash against the Swans at Optus Stadium is a chance to make amends against a top-eight opponent.
AFL FIXTURE Check it out here
The 6-3 Swans have generated plenty of hype by performing significantly above expectations, while the 4-5 Dockers find themselves on the nose this week because they haven't met expectations that were ramped up after a 4-2 start to the season.
With an early win against Greater Western Sydney and a three-game winning run between rounds four and six, Longmuir's stocks rose as a clear brand emerged and young players bought in.
But with that impressive form came a new benchmark that has not been met through a run of injuries that the team has not been able to cover.
Club champion Luke Ryan should return from a calf injury against the Swans, and young midfielder Adam Cerra returned from an ankle injury against the Bombers and did not miss a beat.
There are options at WAFL level too, with young forward Josh Treacy proving he is a player capable of competing in the air and chasing when the ball hits the deck, even if the goals didn't come during his three early season matches.
Much of the hard work has been done at Fremantle, but it's time for the team to start taking its chances, starting against the Swans on Saturday night, and making sure that work doesn't go unrewarded.