Round 20 – Fremantle v West Coast: Tora, Tora, Tora

Poker players call it a “tell”. The subtle signal of what your opponent is hoping for, or just as often, fearing.

Adam Simpson named 179cm running defender Jamie Bennell to replace 195cm Jeremy McGovern, instead of the ‘like for like’ 194cm Tom Barrass. I scratched my head and thought “we are seriously undersized down back”. But Adam Simpson’s tell was “I’ll double back up on speed and run the static, gun shy Dockers off their legs”.

Tora, tora, tora. Attack, attack, attack.

Any wonder that the best 3 teams/coaches in the comp are all Clarkson/Hawthorn spin offs? A week ago I rated the Dockers the least of all the opponents we had to play in the month ahead. Because they are coached by Ross Lyon. A man trying to win a 2015 flag with the same 2005 game plan he pioneered at the Swans as the brains behind Paul Roos.

An apparently impregnable zone behind the ball and the slow, methodical grind of the ball forward. A general still fighting the last war.

The absence of Naitanui, LeCras and McGovern had to hurt us today. Fyfe and Johnson were back for the Dockers, though they were without McPharlin who needs to borrow Dips’ more youthful and supple calves. On paper the Dockers looked good, and their recent run of Derby wins was intimidating.

The Avenging Eagle and I were shoehorned into ground level general seating six rows from the fence behind the western goals.   Our knees were by our nose, and the Fremantle cheer squad was to our right.

“Freo, Freeoo, Freeeooo……” They had forgotten the second line.

The Fremantle beer squad was to our left. An amiable group of ferals who all marched out to the bar for a “quick one” at each break, and then each trooped back in with a 4-beer tray five minutes into the quarter. Watching Ross Lyon coached teams will do that to you.

“Sorry, sorry, sorry,” was their consistent apology as we all stood to let them shuffle back down the row armed with their preferred pain relief. Seemed like a good description of their team’s performance.

The first term was Derby One in reverse. Three goals in the first 8 minutes and my Eagles run and attack was relentless. The Dockers looked stumbledrunk.   Like fearful students facing an exam paper they had neglected to study for.

Yeo lands a long set shot from on the 50 just before quarter time, and we lead by 35 points (7.2 to 1.3) at the first change. The Dockers don’t send out their coaching panel to the huddle. They send out smelling salts to revive a squad reeling on the ropes.

The second quarter is an arm wrestle. Walters is their only dangerous forward and he lands a set shot from wide out in the right pocket. Pavlich has been a wonderful footballer, but is now a LOOD (light of other days). Mayne is a LOG.

Fremantle defenders are raging thugs of the Jake LaMotta variety. Mr Clumsy Zac Dawson is out for another enforced holiday, and his substitute Mr Elbows Silvagni breaks Jamie Cripps jaw 70 metres off the ball at a kick in.   Six weeks please.   Though five will be enough to see out the Dockers season.   Shameful stuff.

Both sides miss some easy chances, with the worst of them Josh Hill who plays on from a mark at the top of the square and dribbles the ball off the side of the boot for a point. The East Perth Eagles beckon.

At one stage a Dockers kick in takes six sideways kicks and four backward handballs to make it out of bounds in their left back pocket. Ring a ring a rosie. Constipated football.

Again the Eagles land a late goal with a Matt Rosa conversion from wide out with a minute to go. Second quarter a 1-1 draw, but we have extended our lead to 37 points (8.7 to 2.6). Should be enough, I cautiously tell myself.

At half time the Dockers PR department send out a photographer to take pictures of a suddenly ‘animated for the camera’ cheer squad alongside us. “With 2 goals for a half, you need the practice,” I generously advise.

Ross Lyon is desperate to inject some run and subs out journeyman midfielder and twice winner of the Ross Glendinning Medal, Michael Barlow. 4 disposals to half time, and moving like an aged gelding in a Monday claimer. The end comes quickly.

Sandilands is now dominating the taps, and Nat Fyfe is everywhere. The Dockers motor is firing, but the wheel alignment is out of whack. Three easy chances are squandered, and I am holding my breath for the first time in the game. Walters and Mayne goal eventually, but Josh Hill marks for us in the right forward pocket at the City End.

His second quarter brain fade; his career and his finals spot all flash before his eyes. He slots it from a tough angle. The dead have risen. I believe; I believe.

Again we goal on the stroke of the siren, with a strong mark and long kick from ruckman Callum Sinclair. The TV replay shows a frothing, handsome, grey haired man standing and waving an Eagles scarf above his head behind the Subiaco goals. Modesty prevents……………

We have extended our lead by a point to 38 (11.12 to 5.10). But our remaining tall defender Will Schofield is subbed off with (another) hamstring strain.

Our defensive lineup for the last quarter is Sneezy, Sleepy, Dopey, Bashful, Happy, Grumpy and Doc. The Dockers decide to go tall with Pavlich, Griffin, Mayne – and Sandilands often pushing forward. Andre the Giant would have been as effective.

The Dockers are winning all the clearances, and our run out of defence has stalled. They kick 3 early goals to get within 18 points before the ever reliable (cough) Josh Hill kicks goals at the 15 and 18 minute marks. Back out to 30 points and I draw breath for the first time this quarter.

The Dockers are still coming and more running goals to Walters (their only class forward) and the relentless Stephen Hill get it back to a 3 goal game again at the 25 minute mark. I am doing the Leigh Matthews (minutes minus goals) calculation in my head, like Doubting Thomas asking for a sign from above.

Jack Darling answers my prayers with a set shot from the angle after a strong series of passes and tackles down the outer wing. Our ability to lock the ball in our forward line and not let opposing teams run it out, has been a feature all year.

The siren sounds and we win by 4 goals (15.14 to 11.14). Bliss.

The Dockers have been dead men walking for the last 2 months. Age. An antiquated, static Ross Lyon game plan. And most obviously today – their best players like Sandilands, Fyfe, Hill and Walters are as good as any in the league.   But big games and finals are decided by your worst six players, not your best six. The Dockers have a very long tail of strugglers and plodders.

Our game next week against the rampaging Bulldogs will be a beauty. We will have Naitanui and LeCras back, but we may have to scour the jockeys room at Ascot for tall defenders. The result should go a long way to telling us the top 4 lineup for the first week of the finals.

If we win we should be able to finish second, and have a home final in the first week against the Hawks. But the preferred draw is probably to finish fourth and have a home final with a double chance against the stuttering Dockers.

With games against the Bulldogs and Crows in the next 2 weeks nothing is certain. But our destiny is now largely in our own hands. A third place finish with a qualifying final against Hawthorn at the MCG would be poison.

Depending on how the results go in the next 2 rounds, we could be naming the East Perth Eagles reserves to line up against St Kilda in the final round. The Avenging Eagle and I will be in France by then. I have told Adam Simpson that I won’t be able to “do a Dips” for him with a final round comeback if a loss is required.

Today’s win was not quite as good as a final. But looking at the retreating faces of 40,000 Dockers supporters who woke up Christmas morning to find nothing under the tree (again) was almost as good.


FREMANTLE          1.3   2.6    5.10    11.14   (80)

WEST COAST        7.2   8.7    11.12   15.14   (104)


Fremantle: Walters 4, Pavlich 2, Mundy, Mayne, Sheridan, Griffin, S Hill

West Coast: J Hill 4, Kennedy 2, Darling 2, Hutchings, Shuey, Lycett, Yeo, Rosa, Sinclair, McGinnity


Fremantle:  Sandilands, S Hill, Fyfe, Walters, Mundy

West Coast: Kennedy, J Hill, Gaff, Sheppard, Darling, Priddis, Yeo, Shuey

Umpires: Dalgleish, Ryan, Jeffery

Official crowd: 41,959

VOTES: Kennedy (WC)3; J Hill (WC)2; Sandilands (F)1





  1. Bit of an improved performance after that first game against the Lions! I wouldn’t write off Freo yet though.

  2. Neil Anderson says

    You seem to be on just a bigger high as me and the Scrays Peter. Next week will be a real test for the Dogs especially with a couple of your champs coming back.
    It wasn’t just a case of beating lowly Melbourne yesterday, it was beating a team that has bobbed up to win before when the Bulldogs were traveling well. Like earlier this year.
    So I’m looking forward to the match on Sunday to see if we can break another hoodoo in Perth.
    Hope you do better than Yoshi when you go overseas and you can find a friendly bar with Australian TV to watch the Grand Final.

  3. Malcolm Ashwood says

    A very enjoyable read,PB loved the modesty line surely you have got rid of those overseas tickets by now ?

  4. Dave Brown says

    Way to go, PB. Feel free to drop your Round 22 game if that helps you finish fourth

  5. steve johnston says

    Dockers got the result they wanted, makes it harder for the Hawks, no injuries and some game time into Johno who looked a bit lost for the entirety of the match, not the form he had 9 weeks ago when on track to be AA again.

    West Coast had good run from the back and Darling and Kennedy outmarked Johno and Silvagni (combined 1 game for past 2 months between them).

    But Peter if you’re going to list naughty players like Silvagni, you might need to mention Chris “Suarez” Masten. Seems he might be in a spot of bother for biting Nick “Snack Sized” Suban.

    Another player out for West Coast?

  6. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Thanks to Telstra’s epic iPad AFL app fail, I didn’t see any of this PB, so will have to find time to watch the replay so that I can pick out your eminent bonce.

  7. Love the article Peter. An Eagles fan myself.

    CARN EAGLES!!!?????

  8. Thanks all.
    Peter – The Eagles resurgence this year is a reason not to bet. I had us at 6th until my favourite player MacKenzie went down. “No chance for finals now.”
    Neil -Doggies game will be a ripper. Simmo v Bevo. Your leg speed is a plus. I am tipping Nic Nait to just give us the edge.
    Rulebook – still have the Europe tickets. Avenging Eagle is reviewing travel insurance for Act of God if we make the GF.
    Dave – might be a week early. Will get back to you.
    Steve – keep drinking the Kool Aid. Given the whack to the left ear from Suban after the ball had gone, I would say it is a case of biter bit.
    Swish – Robert Redford silver fox lookalike + paunch – hair.

  9. Sean Gorman says

    Yes Pedro the Eagers were v good – your forwards are great – with the tricky Frog to come in – Mayne was very frustrating and Silvagni was just… well the least said the better…. weeks I reckon. The Mastenicator might get a few also but well played. Go Dogs.

  10. Luke Reynolds says

    Well played Eagles. Well played Peter, very enjoyable story.
    The Fremantle beer squad- non drinkers before the R.Lyon appointment??

  11. Beautifully done, PB (& AE)
    You’ve long called out R Lyon’s style of play,
    How joyous it must be to witness your own mob a-rushing his Freo and a-felling his Freo.
    All the things must pass.
    Go eagles. Go dogs.

  12. Sean, Luke and ER – Interesting to look at the match stats. Freo dominate everything. Which shows that quantitative data means little without qualitative interpretation.
    I reckon Clarko worked out (and Simmo and Beveridge copied) that quick run and carry with rapid ball movement could catch out static defensive zones.
    Blitzkrieg swamps Maginot.
    Interesting that the Eagles refused to bomb long to the square as they did repeatedly under Woosha. Most goals from out near the 50 or on the run in broken play (rugby tactics – shock and awe).
    You can overcome a slightly inferior possession and entry rate, if you have a much higher goal conversion %.
    Our defenders refuse to man up. We are hopelessly outsized in a standing contest. The objective is to be close enough to get to the intended target in the hang time of the incoming kick. Smaller defenders can run and leap to spoil. They can’t stand and spoil.
    We get caught out by good kicking sides, but slow ball movement out of the opposing defence provides pressured kicks that are easily chopped off (hello Dockers). When they finally took us on we blinked, but the horse had bolted.
    Is Ross too old a dog to learn new tricks?
    Will Fyfe’s groin stand up? Notable that he refused to kick long.
    My guess is we are all playing for second.
    Lyon, Mick and Woosha’s game plan is dead. Speed kills. Thank Christ.

  13. Mickey Randall says

    PB- Thrilled that positive football triumphs. Looking forward to Crows and Eagles in a week or so. Should be fantastic. Enjoyed the insights and the lively delivery. Thanks.

  14. Brandon Erceg says

    another great article, and a win for the ages. I also thought JK was probably BOG but was happy to see ‘hillydard’ in fine form
    “Like fearful students facing an exam paper they had neglected to study for”, I know the feeling!!

  15. Well called Peter giving Josh Kennedy BOG. Best 2 goal game from a full forward I’ve seen. Was a presence from go to whoa and Freo without McPharlin never looked like controlling him.

  16. Brandon and Pottering – with Naitanui and McGovern out – the Eagles lacked mobile big men to make a contest down the ground. Kennedy (and Darling but not quite as effective) did an extraordinary amount of running to provide a contest – all the way to half back at times – and bring the ball to ground for our mosquito fleet. His chase and tackling pressure is enormous and that creates the opportunities for Josh Hill, Cripps, LeCras etc. Great team game – led from the front. Cheers.

  17. God help me, as a casual (that is not avid) follower of the AFL, I will be trapped in the same French car as PB and the AE

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