Rick Browner reporting for AFANA from Patersons Stadium, Perth
No matter where each team is on the Ladder, the Western Derby is an exciting game, up for grabs every time it is played. Fremantle has had a lock on the contest over the past few seasons and, with both teams needing a win to consolidate Finals football, there was everything to play for in the 38th Derby at Patersons Stadium during Multicultural Round 16.
Fremantle got off to a flying start when Tendai Mzungu flew above the pack to haul in a great mark and kick the first goal. West Coast evened it up soon after when a poor kick in from a point gave Jack Darling a free kick on the 50 meter arc in the pocket. He booted a towering goal to register the Eagles’ first. From then on Fremantle dominated the quarter with some hard tackling and swarming around the contests. Chris Mayne kicked two goals and was ably supported by Michael Walters who kicked one of his own. It was starting to look ominous very early for West Coast until Josh Kennedy got a late one to keep them in the game. It was a scrambling, untidy quarter of football that had the Dockers up by 11 points when it ended.
Darling came out of the break like a man possessed. His bursts of speed when attacking the ball or his opponent had him applying real pressure and keeping the ball locked in to the forward zone. Early in the second quarter he swooped on the ball as it bounced free of the pack and ran through three Dockers players to score the Eagles’ next goal. Up the other end Walters bobbed up for his second goal after he was awarded a dubious free kick when he ducked his head and took on the pack. The Eagles were lifting as the game progressed and were hitting the scoreboard with enough accuracy to take them out to a lead of a solitary point as the half concluded. They were more switched on than their Fremantle opposition and looked hungry for a win. Darling had kicked three goals to this point and was making life difficult for the Dockers.
Ryan Crowley missed a fairly easy shot on goal early in the third quarter that would have evened the game up. The resulting kick in saw veteran Andrew Embley make a rookie error and turn the ball over when he tried to center it deep in defense. Michael Barlow took the easiest of marks and raced in to kick the goal. Embley may well be past his best now and seems more a liability than an asset at times. The game opened up into a free flowing goal fest with both sides kicking five goals each for the quarter. Much of the Dockers’ success came as a result of some indecisive, sloppy football from the Eagles when they kept making poor choices and turning the ball over. Clancee Pearce was substituted for Cameron Sutcliffe after the Docker suffered a concussion while Matthew Pavlich was reported for a hip and shoulder charge into Mitch Brown’s head. He is facing suspension* as a result, which may hurt Fremantle’s chances in the run home. West Coast also made their substitution in this quarter taking Matt Rosa from the ground in place of substitute Cale Morton. When the dust had settled, the Eagles held onto a slim two point lead.
Sutcliffe’s fresh legs meant he had plenty of run and energy left for the final quarter. He was rewarded with a goal when he sprinted the full length of the field to take a mark and kick truly minutes into the final term. Fremantle took heart from this and proceeded to take the Eagles apart. Their kicking was first class, but above all it was their determination to rub the ‘older brother’s’ nose in the dirt that fired them up. Pavlich played a Captain’s hand in stepping up when he was most needed, creating opportunities for his teammates and scoring critical goals himself. West Coast had no answers to their opponents' momentum and they were left floundering in the wake as Fremantle ran away with the game. It was a show of strength, not only to the West Coast players, but also to the rest of the competition. The Dockers often have trouble scoring when they concentrate on defending their own goals, but with this effort they proved that they are capable of doing both. They demolished West Coast in the end, kicking eight last quarter goals to three to announce to the whole of Australia that they are real contenders for the Flag in 2013.
The Eagles are on the ropes and will be lucky to make the Top Eight. If they do, by some miracle, it will be hard to see them going anywhere in the Finals. Fremantle however are serious challengers for a Top Four position and the double chance and are Western Australia’s best chance of a Premiership this season. Michael Barlow from Fremantle won the Ross Glendinning Medal for the best payer on the ground.
*Matthew Pavlich was found guilty by the Match Review Panel and suspended for three matches. This will see him miss games against Richmond, Adelaide and Carlton.
Scoreboard West Coast: 2.3 6.5 11.6 14.9 (93) Fremantle: 4.2 6.4 11.4 19.7 (121) Best players West Coast: Darling, Kennedy, Schofield, McKenzie, Priddis Fremantle: Barlow, Mayne, Mundy, Walter, Hill
Article last changed on Tuesday, July 16, 2013 - 7:52 PM EDT