But it was Fritsch who changed the tune, launching into the middle of Easton Wood’s back. After dropping the first attempt, the moment appeared to have passed.
There would’ve been few Melbourne supporters who would’ve begrudged Fritsch falling to the ground and watching his opponents clean up on the last line of defence. But alas, it was Fritsch who fought against gravity and landed on his feet, gathering in an instant and snapping it through to bring the margin back to seven points.
This was the fifth occasion Fritsch had kicked four goals or more in a game. It was his 10th for the finals series and his 57th of the season.
For all of the complaining in modern day football for the lack of consistent goal kickers, that’s a mighty effort for a man that is shorter than Chris Judd.
And yet on All-Australian night, Fritsch sat and watched in his dressing gown on a Zoom call as five of his teammates donned their team blazers. He may have even turned the camera off. The only reason you didn’t hear him swearing at the selectors was because he was on mute. Oh, how 2021.
Petracca and the electrifying Marcus Bontempelli occupied the half forward positions in this year’s team. Neither of them ever play in that position but given their forward half prowess it’s a difficult argument to win with selectors.
And Fritsch doesn’t really fit the profile of a small forward; positions given to Toby Greene and Tom Papley.
But for so many minutes in so many games, he found himself as the deepest forward for the competition’s most supreme team.
The white number 31 imprinted on the back of a red and blue jumper will always be intrinsically linked to the great Ron Barassi, who captained Melbourne to their last flag in 1964.
But 57 years later, it will be remembered for the hell that Bayley Fritsch gave the Western Bulldogs.
Norm Smith kicked seven goals in a grand final for Melbourne in 1940. Fritsch managed six and he didn’t even win his medal.