You don’t need a commentator, or a gaggle of them to tell you about the rivalry between the west Coast Eagles and the Fremantle Dockers. You can feel it. You can see it. You can almost taste it when you watch them square off.
Their games are more than just home and away clashes. They mean something. Every single time they meet, the game means more than four points. It harks back to the days of cross-town rivalries, and neighbourhood warfare. It’s suburban footy, only on a national scale, and irrespective of the time slot they shove it into, it is the highlight of the round.
Whether you’re West Australian, South Australian, Victorian or from anywhere else in Australia, if the Eagles and Dockers in a packed Optus Stadium can’t hold your attention, you’re not a football fan.
Here’s the Mongrel’s good, bad and ugly of another epic Derby.
Nate Fyfe v Elliot Yeo
The papers talked it up, as did TV and radio. Yeo wanted the challenge and Fyfe was ready to give it to him.
You have to give this clash to Fyfe, but there was one moment where Yeo wrested a bit of the ascendancy back. Yeo kicked the big goal in the last quarter. Fyfe fluffed his opportunity.
Yeo’s goal was a ripper. Fyfe took himself out of the contest initially, flying for a mark out on the wing. West Coast gathered the ball and Yeo got on his bike. The Eagles drove it forward and Yeo was on the end of it. He balanced and slotted a ripping goal from 35 metres out on a pretty acute angle.
Suddenly, Fyfe’s individual win wasn’t so clear.
Minutes later, Fyfe had a chance to square the ledger, as he was awarded a free kick for high contact. 35 metres out, straight in front. He missed.
Fyfe did some amazing things. He is a force of nature when he gets a run at the ball, and his deft taps and knock ons to teammates are excellent. It was him farming the ball out to Haydn Ballantyne for the little man’s only goal of the game in the last quarter, however when it came to kicking the goal himself, Fyfe failed. Yeo delivered.
Lachie Neale and Shannon Hurn - worthy medallists
Neale went another step to forcing his way into All-Australian contention this season with his joint win of the Ross Glendinning medal alongside Eagles’ Captain, Shannon Hurn.
Both players turned in stellar efforts, Neale with 35 touches, 8 marks and 8 tackles, and Hurn compiling 31 touches and 11 marks as the general of the Eagles backline, though Major McGovern may have issued a few orders of his own back there.
It was a fitting tribute to such a brilliant game of football, that the medal was split between the two teams, particularly in light of the controversy surrounding the award itself this week.
McGovern clunking intercept marks
Did my ears deceive me? Did Jeremy McGovern take five intercept marks in the first quarter? He certainly looked to be ruling the skies, and the mark he took with Ballantyne at his back (taking his legs a little) was an absolute ripper.
McGovern crashed to the hard Optus Stadium deck, and right onto his backside. I swear, if I landed like that on my couch, I’d probably have to take a week off work. As a matter of fact, I’m feeling a bit sore having watched it.
McGovern is the premier marking defender in the competition right now, and he showed why today. You allow him free reign in your forward line at your own peril.
The pressure, pressure, pressure!
Now, earlier in the day I watched the Bombers and Demons. Apparently it was a game with a lot on the line. You wouldn’t have known it by the way they went about it in the first quarter.
Players from both those teams should take a seat and watch the first quarter of the eagles and Dockers, then watch the second, third and fourth and see what it takes, as a team unit, to apply consistent pressure.
I love the Derby clashes. You know what you’re going to get with these games, and today did not disappoint. Hard tackles, physical pressure, forced errors, implied pressure – this game had it all. Other than the Geelong-Hawthorn rivalry of recent years, nothing comes close to the Eagles and Dockers, and the Crows and Power squaring off. As a Victorian, I can’t get enough of their games.
With all the talk about Naitanui against Sandilands, it was Lycett who snuck in as Nic Nat’s understudy and stole the show.
Nic Nat and Sandi had 32 hit outs each, but Lycett was more mobile, more damaging, and more of an influence around the ground than either of them.
His tackle on Ballantyne in the last quarter, and the way he hunted Fyfe after losing a tap to Sandilands in the third quarter were testament to the effort he was making to remain involved when his ruck duties were done.
It’s been a while since I’ve been dropping the name of Jack darling and associating with superlatives, but he is having a fantastic year. He carried the Eagles’ forward line while Kennedy was on the sidelines, and he was the focal point again today.
He was travelling so well that Alex Pearce had to switch over from Kennedy to attempt to reduce his impact.
Darling kicked three goals, but also collected 18 touches and 7 marks in another excellent 2018 performance. Maybe this is the year that he takes that big step forward?
The kids are overawed… but not for long
There’s a funny thing about high-pressure games – it seems as though the ground shrinks a bit. Every time you look up, there’s someone coming at you. The time and space you’re usually afforded is no longer there.
As the ground shrinks, so do some players. Sadly, it’s usually those with little experience who get a little lost in the shuffle.
Here’s how things were looking at half time.
Jack Petruccelle had one touch, Willie Rioli had three touches, Mitch Crowden had 3 touches and Jake Waterman had 4 touches. The game was just a little too quick for them.
In the second half, it was Jake Waterman who adjusted, collecting ten touches and finishing with two goals. They say pressure creates diamonds. The Eagles may just have one in Waterman.
Sorry… Andrew Brayshaw
There is a moment in the third quarter that Andrew Brayshaw would like to have over again. Running with the flight of the ball, he could’ve made the mark. I watched the replay; he could’ve.
Instead, he stuck out one hand toward the ball, timidly as he ran back with the flight. He shirked the contest.
Now I’m not saying he should’ve ran head first into whomever was stampeding in the other way, but in a game like this one, not putting your body on the line is almost against the spirit of the game. He was involved in a couple of nice plays later on, but his failure to act when his time came is what sticks out to me.
This is a chance for the coach, or a teammate to put their arm over his shoulder, talk him through it, and use it as a learning experience… just as they did when a similar thing happened in Round One.
Michael Walters’ injury
Not a lot can be said here. The bloke deserves a good run at it, and the disappointment on his face almost leapt through the screen.
He started brilliantly with a cracking read from a Cam McCarthy contest, but almost as soon as his night began, it was over. Get well soon, Michael.
So many to go through….
I’ve talked up Alex Pearce a bit this year, and when Kennedy marked and kicked the first goal, I thought all my talk might’ve come back to bite me. It didn’t. Pearce is a fantastic defender, and he proved that in the follow up contests with Kennedy. His spoil as he ran back with the flight, with the outstretched arms of Kennedy waiting just beyond him, was a thing of beauty. Spud Frawley would’ve wet himself watching that.
Sandi still has it in the body to body ruck contests at times. His tap to Mundy, who then spun out of trouble and handed off to Neale was brilliant.
Cam McCarthy was very good tonight, and looked to be dangerous all the time. If he can clunk a couple of marks inside 50, we may see a star born. His mark against McGovern only returned a behind, but if the 50 metre penalty for McGovern tackling him to the ground had been paid, it may have been a different result.
Mark LeCras still has something about him that makes him look dangerous every time he gets the ball. He could’ve had three today, but finished with 1.2 and 4 tackles. Still an outside chance of hitting the mythical 50 goals and 100 tackles in a season stat. Never been done before, out of interest.
Jack Darling provided the best piece of big man roving I’ve seen in a while, reading the ball off Pearce’s spoil on Kennedy to run into an open goal. Wonderful play by Darling.
Here’s a confession. In the off-season, I started writing an article entitled ‘The Ghost of Jack Darling” centring on how much expectation there was on him, and how he couldn’t handle it. It likened him to a phantom... he would just vanish. He’s handling it now, and he's standing up when it counts. Jack Darling is very much alive!
Luke Shuey’s long goal in the second quarter was made possible by a great LeCras spoil moments before. I loved how Shuey looked at the leading forwards, saw the space open up over the back and trusted his leg.
How underrated is Brad Sheppard by basically everyone who isn’t an Eagles’ supporter?
No loose man role for McGovern in the second quarter. The result – one mark.
Lachie Neale’s vision to find Cam McCarthy 30 out by himself in the third quarter was either very good, or very lucky. Let’s trust Lachie on this one.
Reat desperation from Fyfe to touch the tumbling ball from Willie Rioli. Good work by the video reviewers for a change, too.
It’s not a new criticism, but both Sandilands and Naitanui need to clunk a few marks tonight. Their team needs them to help them with bail out kicks here and there. Only four marks between them.
Ed Langdon taking on the man on the mark, and slotting it from 40 was a genuine highlight. Gutsy mark right before it too.
He may not have done much, but Jack Petruccelle’s intercept of the Michael Johnson handball, electrifying run, and handball off to Cripps, who found waterman for the goal was the best piece of individual brilliance for the game.
Ballantyne may have got a goal due to a 50 metre penalty against Hurn, but it was a smother from Darcy Tucker that enable it to come back Freo’s way.
In hindsight, David Mundy’s miss on the three quarter time siren was pretty costly.
Yeo got rid of Banfield a little too easy early in the last. He then found Sheed, who worked his way back into the game nicely, for a goal.
Kennedy was well beaten on the day, but his mark and goal from 40 metres out on the angle was excellent. You can tell a quality forward when he is soundly beaten and still has three goals to his name.
Fyfe was trying to will his team over the line late in the last quarter, but it kind of evaporated when he missed his set shot.
And that’s about it for one of my favourite games of the year thus far. If you like what you’re getting from The Mongrel, give us a like on Facebook or a follow on Twitter. I swear we won’t hack you and sell your details to Nigerians… this time.