Janet Linn reporting from Subiaco Oval, Perth, Western Australia
A bumper crowd of 41,654 watched Matthew Pavlich become one of only three Fremantle Docker players to reach the 200 game milestone, joining former team mates Shane Parker and Shaun McManus in the illustrious 200 club. In a Western Derby played in two starkly contrasting halves, Pavlich started slowly and had minimal influence until after half time. Moving into the center of the ground in the third quarter, the Captain imposed his strength and willingness to go in hard after the football and turned the tide of the game.
Since 2006 the Dockers have had the wood on the West Coast Eagles, winning five out of the previous six Derbies. West Coast went into the first 2009 Derby a firm favourite with a slightly more consistent start to the season and everything to play for. Chris Masten celebrated his 20th birthday with the opening goal for West Coast and Marc LeCras, Adam Hunter, Brent Staker and Ben McKinley were lively in the forward line. The Eagles' tackling pressure was intense and the Dockers were under the pump every time they went near the ball. Their ball handling was below par and their confidence looked down but goals from Scott Thornton, Stephen Hill and Ryan Crowley kept them within 10 points at the change.
Fremantle opened the scoring in the second quarter with a great intercept and long kick from Pavlich giving Michael Johnson the chance to goal. Unfortunately, this was to be the only goal scored by Fremantle in the quarter. Minutes later, LeCras scooped on a Fremantle defensive clanger to capitalize on goal. In a Groundhog Day moment, LeCras found himself on the end of another Docker turnover and he made the most of it, punishing the opposition with a fantastic long goal from deep in the forward pocket. West Coast's tackling and defensive pressure were ferocious with Matt Priddis and Daniel Kerr featuring prominently. West Coast looked dangerous at every forward entry while Fremantle had key players down on form and struggled to get past the center line. Although the half time statistics showed Fremantle with the ball almost as often as the Eagles, the Dockers consistently played themselves into trouble with a "play on at all costs" philosophy. With West Coast dictating the play with a brilliant defensive game, Fremantle were forced into a short, indirect style which their skills could not sustain without costly turnovers. The only good news for the Dockers was West Coast's wastage in front of goal leaving the door open for the Dockers to make inroads in the third quarter. The Eagles went into the major break with a 23 point lead.
After half time Fremantle returned to the oval with more zip and endeavor. West Coast were given less time to dispose of the ball and as a consequence they made more ball handling mistakes. With Pavlich, Hill, Garrick Ibbotson, Brett Peake and Paul Hasleby on top of their opponents, Fremantle got to within 10 points before senior Eagle Andrew Embley steadied the West Coast ship with two goals. Fremantle's young guns paid no heed and lifted their intensity even further. Newcomer Matthew De Boer snapped an excellent goal - his first in AFL football - and Aaron Sandilands put a late one through to show West Coast the Dockers meant business. At the end of an entertaining quarter of fierce, combative football it was one clear goal the difference at the final break. The scene was set for a classic Derby finale with Fremantle full of running and West Coast defending grimly.
Early in the final quarter, Shannon Hurn took advantage of a Docker turnover coming out of defense and loaded up an enormous 60 meter kick which sailed through the goalposts for an inspirational six pointer. Fremantle counter-attacked strongly. Scott Thornton marked and goaled and skipper Pavlich followed with an absolute ripper from outside 50 to make it one point the difference and game on. An undisciplined West Coast action resulted in a 50 meter penalty and Hill made no mistake to give the Dockers the lead for the first time in the match. The Eagles pushed forward several times but Hurn, Hansen, Cockie, Cox and Nicoski all wasted viable scoring opportunities. Peake and Sandilands made more of their attempts, kicking truly to give the Dockers a 14 point lead with two minutes remaining on the clock. The Eagles could only muster a rushed behind before the siren rang and the record books recorded another Western Derby win for the Fremantle Dockers. In the end, Fremantle made the most of their opportunities and West Coast were left to rue their inefficiency in front of goal.
The Ross Glendinning Medal for the best player afield was awarded to Paul Hasleby of the Fremantle Dockers. It is the fourth time Hasleby has won the prestigious medal.
Scoreboard West Coast 4.6 6.13 8.13 9.20 (74) Fremantle 3.2 4.2 8.7 13.9 (87) Best West Coast M Priddis, D Cox, S Hurn, D Kerr, M Rosa, D Glass Fremantle S Hill, P Hasleby, P Duffield, M Pavlich, G Ibbotson, A Sandilands, R Hayden
Article last changed on Sunday, May 03, 2009 - 8:34 PM EDT