West Coast responded to a week of criticism with a solid 41 point win over their cross-town rivals in the 45th Western Derby.
Whilst the doubters won’t be silenced until West Coast can perform consistently on the road, the Eagles showed the intensity and appetite around the contest that was sorely lacking against Hawthorn.
After their disappointing loss to the Hawks, there was an expectation that West Coast would come out with a point to prove, and they did so in an impressive opening quarter. The Eagles booted seven goals to one to virtually set up their win, with the main forwards all hitting the scoreboard.
Jack Darling, Josh Kennedy and Josh Hill all had a brace with Liam Duggan the other goal scorer. Mark LeCras could also have joined the goal kicking list but missed a sitter as West Coast reaped great reward from their forward efficiency.
The Dockers were matching the Eagles in general play, but couldn’t force their way through the West Coast defence. Jeremy McGovern was the roadblock for Fremantle, as he took several intercept marks. The Dockers though weren’t doing themselves any favours as they just bombed the ball forward without any real purpose.
The Eagles were absorbing the Docker press and counter-attacking from half-back, with the West Coast forwards afforded generous amounts of space. Josh Kennedy twice had Joel Hamling done on the lead to kick truly, before Jack Darling twice benefitted from free kicks given away by panicked Docker defenders.
Josh Hill added the class with two clever goals, including a sharp snap from deep in the pocket following a stoppage. The Eagles had capitalised on their opportunities and took a 36 point lead into the first change.
West Coast continued on after the break as they started to gain control around the ground. The Eagles had 84 uncontested possessions and 30 uncontested marks for the quarter, with the ability to get first ball at the stoppages allowing the Eagles to set up around the ground.
Aaron Sandilands was dominating the hit-outs against Jon Giles and Nathan Vardy, but at his feet Matthew Priddis, Sam Mitchell and Dom Sheed were getting the better of their Fremantle counterparts.
The Eagles managed 18 inside-50s for the term as a result, and further goals to Josh Kennedy, Josh Hill and Mark Le Cras stretched the Eagle margin towards 50 points. While West Coast were getting value from their key forwards, at the other end Cam McCarthy was providing the only option for Fremantle.
McCarthy booted all three of the Dockers first-half goals with the Dockers continuing to break down at half-forward. McGovern had been impenetrable in the first term and Elliot Yeo took charge in the second as he roamed behind the ball. Neither side could registered a major during time-on of the quarter, and West Coast took a defining 45 point lead into half-time.
The game became an even match through the second half with both teams booting six goals. West Coast’s lead never got beyond 50 points and the Dockers couldn’t get any closer than 36 points as the game petered out.
Ross Lyon dropped the tag on Luke Shuey after Connor Blakely held the dynamic midfielder to just 10 first half possessions while gathering 22 himself. Griffin Logue spent time on Jack Darling and Josh Kennedy as part of his development and young midfielders Harley Balic and Ed Langdon were given extended time through the middle, with Nat Fyfe and David Mundy both well contained.
Fyfe managed just 19 disposals for the game, unable to exert any influence on the game after quarter time. The Eagles midfield defended the Fremantle captain strongly and three times in the final quarter, Eagles players buried Fyfe in strong tackles despite the result being settled.
Luke Shuey revelled in his freedom to finish with 28 possessions for the game, equal with Sam Mitchell who also had 10 clearances. Andrew Gaff, Chris Masten and Elliot Yeo all finished with over 30 touches, as did Matthew Priddis who collected 32 disposals, nine tackles and four clearances in his most complete performance this season.
Josh Kennedy was awarded the Ross Glendinning medal for the second successive derby, for his six goal haul, although any number of Eagles could have picked up the award, with McGovern and Yeo particularly unlucky.
For Adam Simpson, the win did little to explain the lacking effort the previous week against Hawthorn, but he was adamant that it had nothing to do with home comforts.
“It was a good response after a disappointing week… but now it’s about next week. It’s not the travel (that is the issue), it’s the consistency with our intent and how we go about it.”
While West Coast were able to secure the four points to take their record to 4-2, the Eagles face further injury worries. Nathan Vardy hyper-extended his elbow in a collision with Nat Fyfe, and while he was able to support minor support in the ruck for the rest of the game, the majority of the ruck work was left to Jon Giles.
The injury to Vardy could prove untimely, with the Eagles ruck stocks continuing to cop a battering. Already without Naitanui and Lycett for much of the season, the Eagles traded in Nathan Vardy and Drew Petrie as back-up, but Vardy could now be joining Petrie on the sidelines himself. That leaves only Jon Giles as the recognised ruckman on the list, with current rookie Fraser McInnes now a good chance to be elevated to provide relief.
Liam Duggan and debutant Kurt Mutimer were also hobbled during the game, and are likely to be monitored ahead of the clash with Port Adelaide.
Match Details Saturday 29 April 2017
West Coast 7.2 10.5 13.6 16.7 (103)
Fremantle 1.2 3.2 6.4 9.8 (62)
Subiaco Oval Attendance: 40,836
Goals: WC Kennedy 6, LeCras, Hill 3, Darling 2, Duggan, Priddis.
FRE McCarthy 3, Kersten 2, Balic, Grey, Johnson, Neale.
Round 6 Season Leaderboard
5 Jeremy McGovern 20 Luke Shuey
4 Josh Kennedy 15 Elliot Yeo
3 Elliot Yeo 11 Andrew Gaff
2 Sam Mitchell 8 Josh Kennedy
1 Matt Priddis 7 Sam Mitchell
ROUND 7 FORECAST
The Eagles travel to Adelaide to take on the Power who are one of the form teams in the early part of 2017. The Power return home from an 83 point thumping of Brisbane at the GABBA, with a number of players in career best form. Brad Ebert and Ollie Wines are leading the Power midfield, Robbie Gray is Port Adelaide’s leading goal kicker and Paddy Ryder is having a major influence in his comeback from a supplements suspension.
The major issue facing West Coast this week will be the fitness of Nathan Vardy. The Eagles are running out of ruckmen and may be forced to upgrade Fraser McInnes from the rookie list to partner Jon Giles. McInnes, like Vardy and Petrie, is a forward-cum-ruckman who has shown positive signs this year at East Perth.
The Royals defeated Fremantle affiliate Peel Thunder, to record their second straight win of the season, with McInnes collecting 22 disposals and booting 1.3 to go with 15 hit-outs. Previously a member of the senior list, McInnes has shown adequate form in the ruck for the Royals and is likely to be upgraded ahead of the Power clash if Vardy is declared unavailable.
After three even quarters against Peel, the Royals surged away to record a 33 point win, with Tom Lamb kicking four final-quarter goals. After a couple of quiet weeks, Lamb showed more of his early season form, and must be close to earning a second senior game. Another young forward Matthew Allen booted three from limited opportunities, with the Eagles future key forward stocks looking promising.
Will Schofield and Eric Mackenzie were both solid in defence, and Daniel Venables had his best game since returning from injury, but there were no further standouts at WAFL level. Tom Cole missed an opportunity to push for a senior spot while Jackson Nelson sits on the sidelines, collecting only 11 disposals in defence and Lewis Jetta also struggled.
As well as Vardy, Liam Duggan and Kurt Mutimer will be monitored with both players receiving corks during the game against Fremantle. Both players should recover, although Mutimer struggled to adjust to the game in his debut and may be victim to any squad changes for the Power.