Ross Lyon sees signs of life, despite Fremantle needing to defy a generation of AFL history if they are to make the finals.
North Melbourne started and ended brilliantly to beat the Dockers by 31 points on Sunday in a pulsating duel at Etihad Stadium.
The 20.12 (132) to 14.17 (101) result means North sit atop the ladder for the first time since 1998, in between their two most recent premierships, which they claimed in 1996 and 1999.
By contrast, Fremantle now share bottom with Carlton on 0-4.
No team has come back from 0-4 to make the finals since the system was changed to the top eight in 1994.
It is far removed from last season, when the Dockers started with 13-0 and finished top before bowing out in a preliminary final.
But Fremantle were much-improved on Sunday and Lyon is backing them to dig themselves out of their hole.
“We’re all hurting – it’s our passion, it’s what we do,” he said.
“I clearly like winning, we’re driven and we’re not going to melt under the lights of a press conference at 0-4.
“We’ve got greater character than that.
“We want to improve our football – that’s the only solution that I can see – and if we improve our football we’ll win games.
“We want to fight on.”
Lyon bemoaned their poor start, when North kicked the first four goals in only 10 minutes.
“I thought, this smells a bit, this smells early,” he admitted.
But with Brownlow Medallist Nat Fyfe and captain Matthew Pavlich leading superbly, the Dockers rallied and turned the match into an absorbing contest.
They hit the front for the first time early in the third quarter, which featured four lead changes, and at times North were under significant pressure.
But turnovers and other skill errors cruelled Fremantle’s chances of an upset win.
Lyon was left lamenting “red time” goals to North late in the second and third quarters.
He also noted they were killed at the centre clearances when North started well and also when the ‘Roos took control early in the last quarter.
“You cant give teams a 26-point start, come from behind – that zaps a lot out of you,” Lyon said.
“So when it is big time at three quarter time they dug in, we probably spent a little bit to catch up and that was the end of it.”
In the last few weeks, Fremantle have changed how they play and Lyon said that process would continue.
By contrast, North are flying.
Kangaroos midfielder Jack Ziebell shaded Fyfe as best afield with 26 disposals, eight clearances and three goals.