The Western Derby
Fremantle have been talked about at length across the past seven days, first for the future of troubled speedster Harley Bennell, then for falling to a last-gasp defeat at home to the Blues despite booting the first five goals of the match and only competing against Charlie Curnow for a quarter, then over this week as rumours swirl over potential trade destinations for winger Bradley Hill at season’s end. Now, positive headlines can finally take over as Ross Lyon welcomes back his first-choice tall contingent with veteran Aaron Sandilands and ruck/forward Rory Lobb both named to return in the Western Derby.
Meanwhile, West Coast escaped with the chocolates against a valiant Hawthorn side and Norm Smith Medalist Luke Shuey’s effort in this outing is not to be understated. As they form part of the chasing pack against the Cats, though, their percentage is in desperate need of a surge. Of the top-eight sides, currently only the seventh-placed Tigers boast a lower figure, but can the Eagles take advantage of off-field speculation and their cross-town rivals’ shock defeat in the wet?
The win-loss ledger sits even for the Dockers in 2019 as the injury curse on their tall stocks began to mount up over the bye rounds. Sandilands and Lobb haven’t squeezed in much football between them at senior level this season but fellow forward target Jesse Hogan going down against his old side brought about a more severe concern. However, Cam McCarthy was able to step up in slippery conditions with an important 4.0 against Carlton, though ultimately the late slip means they approach this weekend on a two-game losing run.
West Coast fell to their fourth defeat of the year and looked miles off top spot after a demoralising loss to the Swans the week before their bye, but have rebounded well off their rest with a strong result against the Bombers followed up by the tight victory in Melbourne last week. As mentioned, their modest percentage of 106.4 belies the reigning premiers’ usually successful brand of football but like their rivals, are bolstered by an important key position return as Jeremy McGovern slots back into defence to combat the electric Michael Walters.
It would be easy to pick on disposal efficiency given the conditions of the game that both sides contended with, so that won’t happen here. Instead, it’s more appropriate to focus on the blistering pressure that the Dockers’ defence fell over in the face of. In the final ten minutes, the Dockers conceded a shocking 4.1 from just six Carlton entries inside-50 as the match see-sawed, ultimately against their favour as they struggled to cleanly break from surging Blues, enjoying far better fortunes when play restarted in the middle.
Luke Shuey was immense in a tussle against the Hawks where it at times appeared their 20-point halftime buffer would be snuffed out against a wayward Hawthorn side. A game-high 39 disposals is one thing, but 20 contested possessions, nine tackles and a whopping 11 inside-50’s capped off with a goal exemplified his passion and ability to win matches out of midfield. Given Jack Silvagni’s successful efforts in nullifying Nat Fyfe after half-time, Ross Lyon will need to field similar tactics to prevent Shuey doing the damage once again.
The Eagles have the talent to put Fremantle to the sword in an undoubtedly fiery Saturday evening Derby in Perth, but the Dockers shouldn’t be pushed over with returning stars to combat their high-flying enemies.
West Coast by 18.