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.
For the first time in history the Western Derby was played with the two Western Australian teams in first and second positions on the Ladder.
Unfortunately for their fans, who packed Domain Stadium at their home game, they couldn’t land any telling blows and struggled to get scores on the board all the way through the first half of the game. In fact only David Mundy and Michael Walters scored goals early in what was a poor performance from the top team. In contrast the Eagles had eight separate goal kickers at the same point,
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.
South Australia has the Showdown, Queensland the Clash but the Western Derby is considered one of the most exciting games of the entire season. Unlike other games, it doesn’t matter where the West Coast Eagles or the Fremantle Dockers are on the Ladder. The Derby is guaranteed to be a cracking, hard fought match. For the record, this time the teams were fifth and sixth on the Ladder and 41,000 fans were treated to a classic encounter.