Western Australia’s swan song at their first premier football stadium produced arguably the worst Western Derby of all-time. A scrappy affair, riddled with errors, West Coast dominated the first quarter and held off somewhat of a Fremantle resurgence for the next 3 quarters, to win 11.8 – 74 to 5.14 – 44.
The win reinstates West Coast to the Top 8, and all but confirms that Fremantle is out of the finals race after a much-improved season in 2017.
Here are 5 things we learned from the last Derby at Perth’s Domain Stadium.
1 Josh Kennedy is Still Underrated Outside WA
Very rarely has a forward demanded as much attention as Josh Kennedy. He was the talk of the town in Perth this week once it was confirmed that he would return from a 7-week injury layoff, and he produced some more of the form that won him 2 Coleman Medals.
In last year’s finals series, playing for the Western Bulldogs, Joel Hamling did a stunning job on Kennedy, a crucial piece in the puzzle of their triumph. Today, Hamling was backing up after a hip injury, but was too slow, caught behind, and caught out. He might have done the job less than 12 months ago, but in a defensive structure that offers less-experienced assistance, both Hamling and the collective defensive unit struggled to make an impact.
Kennedy’s ability to time a lead so impeccably means that for West Coast, inside 50 entries are a mere formality. When it needs to be done, he can crumb just as well as his smaller counterparts. The injury will be his biggest opposition in winning a third straight Coleman Medal, but he remains as the best key forward in the game.
2 Fatigue can kill
3 desperately close games in a row have taken their toll on the young Dockers outfit. A repeat of the 7 goals to 1 start that the Eagles inflicted on Freo the last time around needed not to be repeated. It was. A goalless first quarter from the Dockers put them behind the 8 ball.
They lacked the run from the outside that is so crucial to their style of play, and disposal efficiency was at a stunning low. Efficiency in front of goal was even worse, as forwards and midfielders alike missed simple opportunities.
Skill-wise, the Eagles weren’t a whole lot better, but their positioning front and centre at marking contests allowed them to make the best of bad situations.
Precedent suggests that with Ross Lyon in charge, the main antagonists will come under internal scrutiny this week, and heads will roll on the selection table. Last year, Connor Blakely was dropped because of his poor ball use coming out of the back half, and Brady Grey was omitted this week with similar justification.
3 Fremantle get too excited on the counter attack
Fremantle were plus 11 on inside 50 numbers for the game, most of these coming on the counter attack. Issues arise when a side is playing purely on the counter attack like the Dockers were, because the forwards push up the ground too high to make a contest on the goal-line as was necessary, but this creates a vacuum in midfield as the players recover from their defensive effort. Every time the Dockers turned the ball over in their forward half, they gifted the Eagles an easy exit, giving them time and space to get the ball in the hands of their best users across half-back and use it intelligently.
4 Jeremy McGovern is the premier marking defender in the country
Most of what he did yesterday was given to him on a silver platter, but he still did it exceptionally well. Only Alex Rance has received that level of attention from a defensive forward in the last decade, but that has minimal effect on the man they call ‘Gov’.
Fremantle’s small forward line in the absence of Cam McCarthy allowed McGovern to play in his natural role as the loose man in defence, and he did as well as ever, making long entries inside 50 virtually impossible for the opposition. On many occasions, Fremantle had to drag the defenders out and then kick to open pastures over the back, to have any chance of breaching the lines, it was mostly ineffective.
Just after half-time, McGovern pushed up the ground and intercepted a long Fremantle kick out, went back and kicked a crucial goal. He’s now becoming the ultimate swingman, backing up from his goal-kicking performance against Melbourne in the absence of Kennedy – something that Alex Rance and Stephen Silvagni could only dream of.
5 The Perth Stadium will breathe new life into the Derby
This past week the build-up for the game was just as good as the match itself. The week was spent reminiscing on derby memories, brawls and goals. Interviews with past heroes were ever where you looked and the city was infatuated with the romance of the event. Prior to this, the rivalry had been slowly dwindling. The malice that resulted from the formation of the Fremantle Football Club and that continued after the Demolition Derby has nearly worn off, but the fight to make the new stadium a fortress will reignite one of the country’s most fierce rivalries.
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