Round 3 – West Coast v Fremantle: Winning Ugly

Most of my sporting energy is going into golf this weekend. Will the lessons on the indoor simulator in Melbourne pay dividends on green grass in fresh air?  The evidence from my round at Royal Maylands on Saturday was inconclusive.  As Chou En Lai said about the impact of the French Revolution “it’s too soon to say”.

I excused my inconsistency based on the 5am starts to watch the US Masters the last 2 days. Playing golf is exhausting after a tough 18 holes on the couch.  My man Jason Day just seems to be pushing too hard.  He wants it too much.  Still he is only 5 shots back at the half way point. (Ed – now 3 behind with a round to play).

Jason plays with his heart on his sleeve. Buccaneer birdies mixed with brainfade bogies.  Leader Jason Spieth has the ice cold assassin demeanour of a winner; on a course where stiff winds and porcelain putting surfaces require zen-like acceptance.

Pro golfers call it “winning ugly”. The ability to get around the course with minimal damage on a day where both form and the conditions are against you.

My Eagles won ugly tonight over a brave but limited Fremantle Dockers. Predictably Ross Lyon threw out all the “we need to move with the times” innovations toyed with in earlier defeats.  He set up with a loose man in defence, and the suffocating rolling zone that made him such a legendary General on the Somme.

The game was being played in a phone box, and my Eagles struggled when they tried to run and handball through their defensive zone. Turnovers were plentiful, but both sides lacked the disposal skills to make the opposition pay.

Quarter Time: Fremantle Fochers 3.3 (21) Simpson’s Donkeys 2.1 (13)

The turning point of the battle was Aaron Sandilands going off with a punctured lung and broken ribs from a marking collision with Nic Naitanui. The Dockers were already without skipper David Mundy who had withdrawn with a calf injury before the game.

General Foch had gambled in leaving Jonathon Griffin out of the team to shore up their leg speed and attacking options. Focher fans will doubtless claim bad luck, but teams and Generals make their own luck.

Ross Lyon has always played a mentally and physically exhausting game style that creates a lot of casualties. His tactic was to limit Josh Kennedy’s space with Sandilands dropping back “into the hole” to chop off the Eagles attacks.  In the first quarter Big Sandi took several telling marks in defence, where he would normally push forward to offer an attacking target.

In the second quarter he was the brave soldier standing under the inevitable incoming barrage that rolled over the top of him. Bad luck or dumb coaching?

The Dockers played the rest of the quarter like a punchy boxer hanging on bravely in the clinches against a stronger opponent. It was not pretty but it was effective until late in the quarter where the continued effort to run and plug space in the defensive line proved unsustainable.  A Fyfe turnover (more on that subject later) and a Darling mark and goal gave us a narrow half time lead.

The score read more like the EPL than the AFL. James Alexander Gordon’s fruity inflexions would have relished “Western Wanderers 4; Port’s Mouth 3”.

The drought broke at half time, but unfortunately only in the rain gauge and not on the score sheet. The third quarter was played in steady rain.  The ball was almost constantly in the Eagles forward half, but the Eagles players seemed taken with Ernie Els’ comical attempts at missing gimme putts on the first hole at Augusta.  Kennedy, Masten, LeCras and Gaff all took their turn at yipping 3 footers.

The TV showed Adam Simpson in the coach’s box with his head buried and the tears rolling down his face at the comic genius on display. The Avenging Eagle does not understand golf or black comedy.  She was not amused.

At orange time the Eagles led by 19 points. The extended Benny Hill credits continued for the first 10 minutes of the last quarter.   The little bald guy and the schoolgirls were eventually banished when Lycett marked and goaled strongly from near the 50.  The game looked over, but the Dockers were nothing if not brave.

Once their situation was hopeless their exhausted troops decided they had nothing to lose by abandoning their trenches and making a run for the Swiss border. 3 goals in 5 minutes and suddenly the Fochers were within 5 points at the 15 minute mark, and the Donkey’s fans were getting a strong whiff of mustard gas.

Fortunately the cattle prod to the testicles jolted the Wanderers back into action. Jetta showed his experience to mark and calmly goal from outside the 50, after 10 minutes when most of his team mates looked to be playing pass the parcel with a hand grenade with the pin removed.

The brave Fochers were broken and capitulated, with the Donkeys finally resembling AFL footballers with 4 late goals.   The final margin of 33 points (12.20 to 8.11) reflected the Wanderers 63 to 37 Inside 50 domination of field position.

Like Jason Day on the 16th we had trouble hitting the target, and spent most of the game fishing the ball out of the pond where we had deposited it.   Our 12 goals to 20 near misses score conversion rate reflected Ernie Els (or yours truly) from 4 feet.

My feeling is that we have a lot of players down on confidence and skill. LeCras, Cripps and Sheppard are notable examples this season.  There is none of the confident team running from defence that was the hallmark of our last campaign.

Duggan and Nelson are young soldiers struggling to cope with the physical pressure and they will probably make way for Wellingham, Sheed or Hutchings in coming weeks.   Teams like Sydney, North, Adelaide and the Bulldogs look to have gone past us at this early stage of the season.  They have all adopted the run and gun offence (we are all Clarksonites now) and are executing it better.  My best hope is that we continue to beat the usual suspects and get to the bye at something like 8/4, with our skills and game plan better sorted for the last half of the campaign. 

Jack Darling played his best game for some time. Lewis Jetta’s skill and poise calmed the Avenging Eagle who had been asking for the glass beads and Callum Sinclair back.  Matt Priddis was under every pack and deservedly won the Glendinning Medal for best afield.  Luke Shuey worked hard for 31 disposals, but Andrew Gaff’s 32 disposals were blighted by a 62% disposal efficiency that was little better than tossing a coin.  Mark LeCras’ 31% and 0.3 was Elsonian.

Second ruckman Scott Lycett is worth persevering with. He similarly turns the ball over a lot, but he does get the ball a lot for a young big bloke.  He kicked 2 good goals from marks, and his confidence and skills can only improve with experience.   His presence in the team gives Naitanui a decent chop out and the best prospect of having his bash and crash body survive the brutal campaign of a long AFL season (* General Foch to note).

Freo reverted to the only game plan they know and the only one their slow legs can sustain. They fought like proud men but AFL is no country for old men (and even older game plans).  I have the highest regard for Matthew Pavlich as a footballer and a man (old West Torrens boy); though I remain critical of him going on too long chasing impossible dreams.  He was strong and clever in when outnumbered in lots of contests tonight, and pivotal with 2 goals in the last quarter comeback.

Spurr, Johnson and Zac Dawson (never thought I’d say it, but he and the Dockers swarming zone nullified Kennedy) were strong in defence. Lachie Neale matched Matt Priddis in the clinches (high praise).  Which brings me to some question marks.

I have admired Nat Fyfe since he was skinny kid dead-eyeing a Derby left foot goal over his shoulder while running toward the boundary. He was the Dockers best in the first half, but only serviceable after that.  He seems reluctant to kick even when clear (9 kicks/17 handballs tells the story) and some notable turnovers and a disposal efficiency of 69% (Neale was 80%) suggest that all is not well with the Brownlow Medallist.

I have long bored every front bar parrot with my theory that the skinny genius transformed into the Incredible Hulk by General Foch was destined to be another Owen (Wilfred not Michael) broken on the RossBall wheel.   Why use your rapier as a battering ram?  To some hammers every player is a nail.

The creative Michael Walters similarly looked disheartened at constantly being one out in the raiding party when all the other troops have been assigned to rear trenches. (See my previous history “St Seaford on the Somme 2011”).

The Dockers are going at 60% of their last 3 seasons, and I can’t see General Foch using his 5 year contract to run the Military Academy at the Ecole Militaire. A generous severance looms.  Caveat emptor.

My Wanderers are going at 80% of last year. Are we Port Adelaide redux or readjusting to being hunted instead of hunter?

TLSPRF under lights on Friday will not be a pushover in our current form. The panthera tigris has previously thrived in the western habitat, and will not be easy carrion prey.  A hungry tiger is always dangerous.  Then the HMAS Sydney game in the Emerald City on the Anzac weekend.  Can an undergunned raider sneak within range of the Buddy Battleship in its home seas?

I’ll settle for just winning ugly.   Starting with Jason Day or my over-50’s poster boy Bernhard Langer on Monday morning.


WEST COAST     2.1          4.7          7.11        12.20 (92)

FREMANTLE       3.3         3.7          4.10        8.11 (59)


West Coast: J Darling 3, L Jetta 2, S Lycett 2, E MacKenzie, J Cripps, J Hill, J Kennedy, L Shuey. Fremantle: M Pavlich 3, M Walters 2, E Langdon, H Ballantyne, N Fyfe.


West Coast: Priddis, Darling, Shuey, Jetta, Yeo, Naitanui, McGovern.

Fremantle: Neale, Pavlich, Spurr, Fyfe, Johnson, Dawson.

Umpires: Rosebury, Farmer, Foot.

Attendance: 40,555 at Villers-Bretonneux.

Malarkey Military Medal: M Priddis (WCE) 3; J Darling (WCE) 2; L Neale (Fr) 1



  1. Matt Priddis was actually on TOP of the pack when he was threatening my Fyfe, and punching one of our boys (Mzungu I think). I saw the photo…
    And why does Sandi get rubbed out for a week for an innocuous innocent hit that didn’t cause much if any damage, and nothing happens when a probable innocent but not so innocuous knee to the back sends him to hospital for a few days? A knee’s width to the side could’ve broken his spine and not his ribs…
    Not happy Jan, but happy with our boys’ effort…

  2. Luke Reynolds says

    Should the title of this have been “Fremantle fochers foched by West Coast?”

  3. Malcolm Ashwood says

    PB the James Alexander Gordon plug is the highlight for me he was absolutely brilliant at reading the soccer scores out.Wnder how much the new rules have hurt the so defensively minded dockers, the 1st
    Couple of games it was like we have to be more attacking then when that didn’t work quick recall the trusty and proven method has father time caught up ?

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