Fremantle skipper Matthew Pavlich suffered a series of injury scares and ruckman Aaron Sandilands made a surprise AFL return as the Dockers surged past Richmond by 22 points in Perth on Saturday.
Pavlich never looked completely comfortable after grabbing at his right hamstring following a heavy collision with teammate Kepler Bradley just 12 minutes into the match.
The 276-game veteran went off several times to get treatment and by the third quarter was also receiving attention on his right groin after chasing down an opponent.
Pavlich finished on the bench as his teammates secured the 13.16 (94) to 11.6 (72) triumph, with Sandilands (33 hit-outs) and goalsneak Hayden Ballantyne (three goals) playing key roles.
Dockers midfielder Tendai Mzungu injured his shoulder late in the match, while Richmond defender Ben Griffiths was taken to hospital after being knocked unconscious in a head-first tumble to the turf in the second quarter.
Conspiracy theorists would have been going into overdrive before the bounce when emergency Sandilands was rushed into the side after ruckman Jonathon Griffin injured his groin during the warm-up.
Sandilands, who hadn’t played since round 11 due to a toe injury, wasn’t on the Fremantle team list released an hour before bounce down, but was always rumoured to be in the mix for a late call-up.
Coach Ross Lyon was adamant the late change wasn’t planned.
“I’m in as much shock as anyone. It’s certainly not a ruse. He’s tweaked his groin,” Lyon said of Griffin.
“He said, ‘look, I’m really worried about playing’.
“I’m telling you he’s sore, It’s a bona fide injury. There’s no ruse. It’s funny how the footy gods work.”
Fremantle (12-8) surged into eighth spot on the table following their sixth win from their past seven games.
But their finals credentials will be put to the test in next weekend’s crunch clash with North Melbourne at Etihad Stadium.
Richmond’s 11th loss of the year officially ended their hopes, with the Tigers squad failing to give coach Damien Hardwick a 40th birthday present.
Their season was best summed up by Luke McGuane’s comical stuff-up while running into an open goal in the final quarter, the 25-year-old spilling the ball and soccering it into the post.
Tigers hard nut Jake King endured a painful afternoon with a couple of hard knocks but was one of his team’s best with three goals.
Trent Cotchin’s blistering form continued with 32 possessions and Shane Tuck battled hard, but Fremantle’s fierce tackling proved too much for the inexperienced Tigers to handle.