Fremantle’s AFL finals hopes have suffered a triple hit, with an upset 14-point loss to Melbourne and injuries to Jesse Hogan and Stephen Hill.
The Demons ran over the top of the Dockers on Saturday afternoon at the MCG, kicking four goals to one in the last quarter and winning 13.7 (85) to 11.5 (71).
In his first game against his old club, Hogan appeared to suffer a recurrence of a navicular bone injury from late last season.
Apart from Hogan and Hill’s hamstring injury, Docker Michael Walters also faces a headbutting charge.
Down two men, the Dockers ran out of steam in the last quarter.
Fremantle started round 14 at sixth on the ladder, but were unable to consolidate their top-eight berth and slipped to 7-6 for the season.
Melbourne coach Simon Goodwin said the win gave the Demons a chance to reset their season.
“People say, ‘why don’t you just re-set for next year?,” Goodwin said.
“Well, there’s still lots to play for this year … you just can’t waste time to continue to get better.”
Forward Tom McDonald, who kicked three goals, and defender Sam Frost had big returns to form for Melbourne after disappointing campaigns so far, while ruckman Max Gawn starred again.
The much-hyped duel between Hogan and Melbourne key defender Stephen May did not last for even the first quarter.
Hogan left the field because of his right foot injury and, after some run-throughs on the boundary line, he was ruled out of the game early in the second term.
The Dockers were down to two fit men early in the third quarter when Stephen Hill suffered a hamstring injury.
While Fremantle looked more threatening in the first half, Melbourne kept the game tight and kept the margin to 17 points.
The Demons kicked the last two goals of the half and only trailed by a goal at the main break.
Nearing the end of a goal-for-goal third term, Walters was reported for headbutting Jay Lockhart.
Demons co-captain Nathan Jones retaliated seconds later, pushing over Walters, and that cost Melbourne a 50m penalty.
As players scuffled in the middle of the ground, Fremantle raced the ball forward and Brandon Matera kicked his third goal to give the Dockers a five-point lead at the last change.
Melbourne supporters’ hearts were in their mouths at the start of the last quarter when Gawn had a set shot at goal after a free kick.
But this time, he did not miss and his goal gave the Demons the lead.
McDonald kicked the last two goals of the game to cap easily his best game this season.
Captain Nat Fyfe, Walters, Bradley Hill and Luke Ryan were best for the Dockers.
Meanwhile, Brisbane Lions have smashed a disappointing St Kilda by 56 points at Marvel Stadium.
On a day when club president Andrew Bassat posted on the Saints website that he could see more consistent performances, the Saints were simply outclassed, losing 8.11 (59) to the Lions 17.13 (115).
Bassat had said St Kilda are pleased with the extensive football department changes that were made after last year’s disastrous season, but they want to see more, as coach Alan Richardson continues to be under pressure.
“Alan and his coaching group are to be commended for the way they have embraced change and adversity, and led our playing group through this,” Bassat said.
“Overall, our performances have been far more consistent, with a very visible and deliberate game-plan that allows us to match it with the best team conversations.”