Forward march, for the Dockers

Geelong were easily second best as a Matthew Pavlich inspired Fremantle in an elimination final upset at the MCG yesterday.

The Dockers kicked the game’s first seven goals then answered every Cats comeback attempt to win 14.12 (96) to 11.14 (80).

Pavlich kicked six goals, three of the first five then three crucial last-half majors to kill off Geelong’s resistance.

Midfielders Nathan Fyfe and David Mundy were outstanding, while feisty forward Hayden Ballantyne kicked three telling majors.

Defender Zac Dawson helped turn Cats star forward Tom Hawkins into a non-factor despite the absence of injured Fremantle backman Luke McPharlin.

It was just the third finals win in Fremantle’s AFL history and puts them into a semi-final at AAMI Stadium on Friday night against an Adelaide side coming off a heavy loss to Sydney.

The Dockers’ emergence as a significant finals player helps vindicate the club’s daring move in poaching coach Ross Lyon from St Kilda at the end of last season.

The result consigned the Cats, who won three flags in the previous five years in their greatest-ever era, to their worst season since 2006, when then-coach Mark Thompson almost lost his job before overseeing the start of their golden period.

It also means star defender Matthew Scarlett, believed to be retiring, finished on an uncharacteristically flat note as part of a well beaten Cats defence.

Scarlett led his defeated team off the MCG.

With all their finals experience, the Cats had been heavily favoured and expected to show greater composure than the Dockers.

Instead, Fremantle cut them apart early, kicking five goals to none in the game’s opening 20 minutes, all from marks.

That included three to Pavlich, who outclassed opponent Tom Lonergan, as the Cats’ defence was repeatedly pierced.

The Dockers led 5.7 to 0.1 at the first change and kicked the first two goals of the second term to push 48 points clear.

Andrew Mackie finally kicked the Cats’ first goal at the 18-minute mark, sparking a rush of three in four minutes.

The Cats added another two early in the second half to close to within 20 points, before Pavlich answered with a nerveless set shot from outside 50m.

Geelong kicked another, before Pavlich again responded after a superb half-volley pick-up and turn.

When the Cats closed to within 17 points late in the last term, it was again Pavlich who had the answer, with a sidestep and sealing goal.

Pavlich said it was as good a win as he had experienced.

“It probably is up there with the first final win that we had a number of years ago now,” Pavlich said.

“Particularly against a side that we respect so highly.”

Dockers coach Ross Lyon said beating such quality opponents at the grand final venue would fuel belief.

“I’m rapt for the players who have been preparing extraordinarily well since I walked through the door, so they’re getting some reward for effort,” Lyon said.

Cats coach Chris Scott said it was a galling missed opportunity and the Cats were always going to struggle to come back from their poor first term, but at least they fought out the match.

“The glass half full side of things is that when the chips are down our boys really do stand up,” he said.

by Terence Johns

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