The class of Fremantle skipper Matthew Pavlich again dragged his team over the line, but coach Ross Lyon says it’s time for the club’s emerging AFL young guns to ease the burden on the Dockers stalwart.
Fremantle led the Western Bulldogs by just three points after a scrappy first half at Patersons Stadium, but a six-goal haul to Pavlich and four goals to Chris Mayne were enough to lift the Dockers to the 14.11 (95) to 8.9 (57) triumph.
Pavlich booted three goals in the match-defining third quarter to rip the game wide open, continuing his hot streak of form that has seem him kick 20 goals in the past four weeks.
Lyon was full of praise for Pavlich’s performance, but said the team needed to get to a point where they didn’t rely so heavily on the 270-game veteran.
“His record’s evident, but Matthew, myself and the club want to get beyond Matthew,” Lyon said.
“We want to become (Stephen) Hill, (Nat) Fyfe, (Nick) Lower, (Garrick) Ibbotson, (David) Mundy.
“We want more bona fide players at the level to deliver. You sit on the couch and watch West Coast and it’s more than one. That’s what we’re after.”
Fremantle’s seventh win of the season kept them just percentage adrift of eighth spot, with winnable games against Melbourne (away), GWS (home) and Port Adelaide (away) to come.
The Bulldogs (5-9) sit in 14th spot and face in-form Hawthorn at Etihad Stadium on Sunday.
Lyon said he was frustrated with his team’s handball-happy first half, but pleased with their direct play in the third quarter.
Pavlich, who had been used heavily through the midfield in recent seasons, said he was now feeling more comfortable as a permanent key forward.
“I think it’s taken a bit of time to play permanently forward again. Probably the first seven or eight games I was playing both on-ball and forward,” Pavlich said.
“So to go back there a bit more has been good.
“Chris Mayne has been the other really standout forward.
“I’ve been pleased with his development and I think he can continue in that vein.”
Bulldogs midfielder Shaun Higgins limped off in the dying minutes but coach Brendan McCartney was confident there were no issues.
Veteran midfielder Matthew Boyd led the way for the Bulldogs with 35 possessions, while defender Brian Lake was a rock in defence.
But Fremantle’s 54-36 inside-50 dominance proved decisive.
McCartney conceded it wasn’t a game for the highlights reel, but said the continued development of Mitch Wallis (27 possessions), Tom Liberatore (25) and Clay Smith (17) bode well for the future.
“We’re providing some terrific opportunities to some future Western Bulldogs champions and we believe the quicker we can get some games into them and develop them, the quicker we’ll be the club we want to be,” McCartney said.