AFL Round 17: A Melbourne Derby

The Rose Hotel in Fitzroy is a long way from Subiaco, but it was full of WA expatriates, mostly rowdy young Freo supporters. Geelong were playing Hawthorn in a thriller in the other bar but nobody in my room cared much about that game. Keen as those supporters were though, it is easy to be out of touch with this Freo side. Only the most avid couple of fans could tell me the names of the busy, eager, 2009 purple graduates playing in numbers like 8, 17, 35, 40, 46, 47, or 48, while ‘famous’ youngsters like Stephen Hill in 32 and Garrick Ibbotson in 5 seem to be household names now, even outside WA. The Eagles, on the other hand, look to only have one rising star, the luminous number 9, Nick Natanui. His reflex’s and instincts seem brilliant, but unlike Hill who is ready made, Natanui still has a way to go to be a certain pick.

The game began as a fierce contest, close checking, smothers, and tackles were keeping the turnover count high. The Eagles really controlled the early part of the game, through will and if they had kicked straight early they might have made the game very long for the Freo home crowd. By about the mid point of the first quarter though Fremantle were asserting themselves on the game, they had the air of a side that was expecting to win, even though they kept missing those unknown numbers going in, and Wirrupunda was sweeping up across the backline. Then some Freo old timers stepped up, Tony Grover and Aaron Sandilands both delivered emphatic goals to back the Freo swagger at the close of the first quarter. WC were having none of it, Worsfold fired up the troops at quarter time and Le Cras, and Kennedy banged on a couple at the opening of the second to level the scores. At that point some of the unknown Freo numbers stepped up. 17 (Ballentine) got a beauty, and then number 48 dodged, weaved, and passed to number 47 (Van Berlo) who duly slotted it. A great goal to Adam Selwood against the play was immediately followed by more stupidity from Dean Solomon, conceding a shot on goal to Matt Rosa which squared the game up again. From that point the game locked down into a tackle fest, only broken by a clanger kick in from General Wirripunda which gifted purple 48 (Broughton) a goal.

The third quarter was just a slog, it was relentless pressure, more turnovers, missed goals, and not much action, the interesting thing really being the fact that Freo were not going to open themselves up to a counterpunching West Coast. This was astute coaching from Harvey, knowing he did not have the firepower to claw back much of a deficit. The quarter turned with a one point margin to Freo.

The Eagles got back on top early in the last but then the pressure and skill level of Fremantle began to shine, and they kicked away to a two goal lead with only minutes to spare – another beauty from Van Berlo and the last being a sensational goal from the pocket by Tim Ruffles, cooly bending a banana through from the boundary. Unfortunately for Rufffles a knee injury a minute later might see him out of footy for a year. WC clawed one back, and got to within 5 points but they didn’t look like getting closer with Freo in attack at the final siren.

Apart from the stellar best on ground from Sandilands, the most interesting thing about the game was that it was the first time Pavlich has really looked convincing as a midfielder. He was in everything, at the fall of the ball, firing out handpasses, getting them back and hitting targets by foot. If a team on the bottom of the table can show ominous signs then that was an ominous sign. While he has played in there a lot, and done really well now and then, he has never really looked comfortable in the role. I’m not sure Fremantle has anyone amongst those new numbers to replace him as a key forward though.

For the Eagles it was more of the same old grind, they did have a couple of big names out, but even with Cox and Kerr in the side it is hard to see where much improvement is going to come from. The Worsfold coaching style is to lock down and then trade on opposition mistakes. If a) Eagles forwards had kicked straight; or b) Fremantle did not know exactly how they would play months before the game; this plan might have have been enough for Fremantle in 2009, but if they are planning on moving up in 2010 they will definitely need a new act.

Fremantle 3.4  6.8   7.9    10.11  (71)

West Coast 1.4  5.9   6.14  8.18  (66)


Fremantle – Van Berlo 2, Ruffles 2, Grover, Sandilands, Pearce, Mundy, Ballantyne, Suban.

West Coast – LeCras 2, Hansen, A Selwood, Ebert, Kennedy, Priddis, Rosa.

Best – Aaron Sandilands 3, Matthew Pavlich 2, Adam Selwood 1,

Crowd – 39,536 at Subiaco.


  1. That Wirrapanda gifted goal was kicked by 8 (Suban). There was something about Pavlich’s performance and I think you nailed it.

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