Debutant steals show in thriller for Dockers
HE WASN'T supposed to be playing. And he had never played as a forward.
But Ryan Nyhuis did both and became Fremantle's unlikely matchwinner against North Melbourne yesterday at Etihad Stadium.
The rookie booted four goals, including the sealer, in one of the more memorable debuts in recent memory.
Nyhuis became only the 14th player to kick four or more goals on debut, with the most recent of those Western Bulldog Clay Smith in round one 2012.
But the improbable nature of Nyhuis' first AFL match makes his record all the more astounding.
Nyhuisreplaced David Mundy, who was a late out through illness, and was asked to play as a defensive forward - an unfamiliar role.
"It was the first time in my life I had played forward, basically,” Nyhuis said. "Ross (Lyon) threw me a curve ball. It was great to be able to do the job.”
Lyon entrusted the 20-year-old with the responsibility of tagging North best and fairest Robbie Tarrant.
While you would have forgiven the first-gamer for showing some nerves, he was composed and delivered when he could have shrunk in the spotlight.
"The boys told me to do what I'd been doing all year: defend first. He's a good player so I just tried to shut him down,” Nyhuis said.
Nyhuis kicked two goals in the opening term, as Tarrant and fellow North defender Scott Thompson struggled with their communication.
"It's really confusing what Nyhuis is doing to the North backline,” Cameron Mooney said.
"Thompson starts on him but what we know is that he's tagging Tarrant so he goes up to Tarrant and leaves Thompson behind.
"Thompson and Tarrant don't communicate, don't know what's going on and we see him with his first kick and first goal in AFL.”
But it was Nyhuis's last goal, to put Fremantle in front with only two minutes remaining, that was the most memorable.
He won a one-on-one marking dual against North Melbourne debutant Daniel Nielsen before squeezing a floater home over the head of debutant umpire David Rodan.
"I've been trying to practice my routine so I just tried to stick to that as much as possible and it floated through which was nice,” Nyhuis said.
With 30 seconds of play remaining, North ruckman Todd Goldstein was awarded a controversial ruck free and had the chance to become the match-winning hero.
But he blew a conventional set shot from a minute angle to all but guarantee Fremantle another close win.
It was the fifth time this season the Kangaroos had lost a game decided by 10 points or less, whereas it was the fourth time Fremantle had won a match by the same margin.
North Melbourne has only won one match by under a goal since 2015 - a reality that continues to haunt the club.