Rick Browner reporting for AFANA from Patersons Stadium, Subiaco
Fremantle coach Ross Lyons’ plan to take his team to a Premiership this year started off on the right foot with a gutsy win in Round One over cross-town rivals the West Coast Eagles. Pundits had the Eagles as flag favorites before the ball was bounced but will be re-evaluating their tip after the Eagles failed to deliver in front of nearly 40,000 people at Patersons Stadium. Although West Coast got off to a cracking start in the first quarter, scoring the first three goals, they could not hold off their determined opponents as the game wore on.
The split first round means that both these teams have a fifteen day break until their next match. As a consequence this became a tough and grinding encounter in an almost internecine struggle for dominance. Jamie Cripps has made the most of his chances after transferring in from St Kilda and his goal - after a strong mark - had the Eagles on the board first. Ashton Hams, one of the smallest men on the ground, kicked the next two and the Eagles looked as good as predicted by the tipsters. Hams could have had a third in a row when he lined up from 12 meters out on a slight angle. Instead of kicking straight through the ball, he inexplicably chose a “banana” kick that missed the goals by a country mile. The game was tight with many congested passages of play in the early stages. The Eagles were starving their opponents for possession and the Dockers could only register early goals from free kicks. They scored two late in the quarter to bring themselves back into the contest.
Coach Lyon let rip with both barrels at the quarter time huddle and in the second quarter the Dockers applied more pressure and looked more direct in their forward delivery. The Eagles continued their intensity at the ball and seemed to have more confidence in their passing and tackling. The game opened up when Fremantle started to gain momentum from their center clearances. Goals to Michael Walters and Ryan Crowley put them right back in the hunt. Spite crept into the match with wrestling and “jumper punches” thrown and this sparked West Coast to power away with the next three goals. Josh Kennedy was marking everything that came his way and was clearly the best player for the Eagles at this stage of the game. His two goals took West Coast out to a handy lead, but this was eroded late in the half when Danyle Pearce dribbled a ground ball through just before the siren. Pearce may be the spark that the Dockers need this year after moving across from Port Adelaide during the off-season. He certainly looks more involved in his football and is fast becoming a Freo fan favorite. His celebration after his first goal in Fremantle colors had the crowd cheering him on as he did a dance around the outer. Still the Dockers were trailing by nine points as the half ended and a bit more spark was clearly needed if they were going to pull a win out of the game.
When the second half started it was as if someone had flicked the “wake-up” switch on Fremantle because they started to play like they meant it instead of running around the paddock to make up the numbers. They pressed when the ball was in their forward zone and started to panic the Eagles into hurried kicks and unforced errors. One blemish on the Docker copybook was when skipper Matthew Pavlich was reported for charging in a marking contest. This didn’t faze his teammates as they went on to hit the front for the first time in the game with goals from Keppler Bradley and Matt De Boer. West Coast answered with a miraculous goal to Mark LeCras who snapped from the 50 meter arc deep in the pocket. Unfortunately he was taken from the ground soon after with a suspected broken arm and the Eagles’ momentum fizzled as a result. Although veteran Andrew Embley came on as a substitute, the latter part of the quarter belonged to the Dockers as their midfield - led masterfully by Michael Barlow and David Mundy - wore down their opponents. Fremantle had the game won, kicking four unanswered goals to take a commanding twenty-three point into the final change. Pearce again bobbed up with one of the goals and man of the match Barlow another.
West Coast’s Cripps scored first in the final term to keep a slender chance alive. His outside of the foot kick running away from goals was a superb example of his deft foot skills. However it was one-way traffic from there on with Fremantle putting the Eagles to the sword. Mayne scored the next goal after an unselfish pass from Barlow. Hayden Ballantyne, who had rarely touched the ball all match, put the sealer on the game minutes later and the home team’s cheer squad began to crank up the club theme song. Ballantyne was subbed late in the quarter for Cameron Sutcliffe and was last seen with a large icepack on his lower leg. Josh Hill sparked a late West Coast resurgence with two goals in the dying minutes of the game, but it was too late to impact on the final result. The Eagles had their chances and some costly misses from easy shots on goal when the game was in the balance may have cost them dearly. Fremantle finished strongly with Nick Suban kicking their final goal to give them a healthy 28 point win. With the Western Derby Kings title firmly in their pockets, the Dockers celebrated their second convincing win in the last two games against the Eagles.
Fremantle’s form should have other teams quaking in their boots while the Eagles will need to lift their rating if they are going to be the threat they promised. West Coast takes on Hawthorn in a home game at Patersons in two weeks and, although it is early in the season, they must win to be considered a serious Premiership contender. Fremantle plays the Western Bulldogs in Melbourne and should be flying near the top of the table with their second win. With their tails up and a belief in themselves, they will be a hard team to stop as the season rolls along.
In a first for the Western Derby, Michael Barlow and David Mundy were announced joint Ross Glendinning medalists.
Scoreboard West Coast: 3.5 6.7 7.10 11.14 (80) Fremantle: 2.0 5.4 11.10 16.12 (108) Best players West Coast: J Kennedy, M Priddis, S Hurn, B Waters, A Hams, J Cripps Fremantle: M Barlow, C Mayne, J Griffen, S Hill, R Crowley, M Walters
Article last changed on Thursday, March 28, 2013 - 11:33 AM EDT