The West Coast Eagles outclassed and out-muscled the Fremantle Dockers to strengthen their grip on second spot on the ladder. However, their win could have serious ramifications for their premiership hopes as their main play maker, Andrew Gaff, looks set to be banned for an extended period. Gaff swung a left arm haymaker into the Dockers’ second draft pick, Andrew Brayshaw, breaking his jaw and re-arranging several teeth. The incident sparked several ugly melees as Fremantle players targeted Gaff with ferocious tackles and bumps. The Eagles absorbed the renewed vigor of the Dockers and finished the game playing conservatively, but still in control and making good use of their forward line air superiority.
Luke Darcy battled manfully in the ruck for the Dockers winning 33 hit outs, but was overshadowed by the combined efforts of Scott Lycett and and Nathan Vardy (21 and 18 hit outs respectively). Lycett’s work at ground level was particularly effective, winning seven clearances and providing good support for Luke Shuey and Jack Redden in the middle of the ground. David Mundy and Lachie Neale won more than their share of the ball for the Dockers with 15 and 22 contested possessions each, but they lacked support from their younger teammates. The Eagles used their height advantage in attack with Jack Darling taking strong marks (catches) to kick four goals and big men Vardy and Lycett also flying and kicking two goals each. They were well supported by the smaller brigade of Jamie Cripps (four goals) Liam Ryan (three goals), and Willie Rioli and Elliot Yeo (two goals each).
The kicking by the Eagle midfielders was a class above that of their opponents and put the Dockers’ defense, who suffered from the late withdrawal of Joel Hamling, under immense pressure. The Dockers continued their theme of recent weeks of butchering their own attacking opportunities and missing what should have been certain goals. Whenever the Dockers misused the ball, the Eagles made them pay. Eagle defender Brad Sheppard played an outstanding game by running off his opponents, particularly after turnovers, to create a loose man to launch attacks. The Eagles scored 95 of their 142 points as a direct result of Dockers’ turnovers. The return of Matt Taberner, after spending most of the season injured, was a positive up forward for the Dockers. After a rusty start he took some good marks and his presence drew some defensive heat to allow Cam McCarthy to find some form. Both big men booted two goals each, but did not see enough of the ball to create major concerns for the Eagles. The Eagles' midfielder, Elliott Yeo, is usually given the job of shadowing Nat Fyfe and made the most of Fyfe’s absence through injury. Yeo ran freely and used his long raking kicks to be best on ground and was awarded the Ross Glendinning-Allan medal. The medal is given the best player in Eagles vs. Dockers matches.
Jeremy McGovern had a relatively quiet day for the Eagles. Instead of providing intercept marking highlights, he played the role of stepladder as Michael Walters launched himself to take one of the marks of the year.
Brad Hill appears to have found form for the Dockers after his long absence from injury. His run and carry out of defense provided some of the attacking highlights for the Dockers. Andrew Brayshaw showed class in the midfield for the Dockers until injured, but his other younger team mates, Mitchell Crowden, Adam Cerra, and Ed Langdon were well covered by Michael Hutchings, Gaff, Luke Shuey, and Lewis Jetta.
The game ended, as expected, with an easy victory for West Coast. It would have been a somewhat dull affair with the undermanned Dockers, struggling without their key players on the park, to match the Eagles. Andrew Gaff’s moment of madness and the Dockers’ response added a whole new element of interest to the game. The question for the Eagles will be, how far can they go without Gaff? Port Adelaide will be waiting for them in Adelaide to first ask the question next week. Port supporters are furious after a goal umpiring error robbed them of a victory against Adelaide. The Eagles also knocked Port out of the race last year, after Luke Shuey drew a high tackle and booted a goal after the siren. The Eagles will need to be at their best to win in the hostile Adelaide Oval environment. The Dockers remain in Perth to meet bottom-feeding Carlton and should account for the struggling Blues. The game may be used as an opportunity to rest a couple of younger players and farewell retiring veterans Michael Johnson and Danyle Pearce.
Scores West Coast Eagles: 4.4 9.7 16.10 21.16 (142) Fremantle Dockers: 1.2 4.4 8.6 13.6 (84) Best West Coast Eagles: Yeo, Redden, Gaff, Sheppard, Shuey Fremantle Dockers: B Hill, Mundy, Neale, Walters, S Hill
Article last changed on Monday, August 06, 2018 - 11:10 AM EDT