Fremantle have started their AFL season on the best possible note, thrashing the West Coast Eagles with a convincing 28-point victory at Patersons Stadium this evening.
It was a game of two halves, as West Coast dominated the first half and Fremantle the second. While the match will be remembered for the brilliance of both teams, unfortunately it will also be remembered for a forearm injury suffered by Eagles forward Mark LeCras, playing his first match since 2011 after a knee injury wiped him out of the 2012 season.
The Eagles started well, booting three goals in the first 15 minutes before the Dockers got on the board through Nick Suban at the 18th minute mark. A further goal to Chris Mayne saw the Dockers trail the Eagles by 11 points at the quarter-time break.
Two goals to the Dockers, through Michael Walters and Ryan Crowley, saw the Purple Haze in front for the first time in the match. But their lead would not last long, with the Eagles regaining the lead three minutes later through Mark LeCras, not long after Dockers captain Matthew Pavlich was reported for charging into Will Schofield.
Two more goals, through Josh Kennedy, saw the Eagles’ lead out to 18 points. A run of three behinds followed for Freo before a goal to new import Danyle Pearce saw the Dockers enter the half-time break trailing by nine points.
But West Coast’s first half dominance would count for nothing in the second half.
Fremantle took the match by the throat with a six-goal third quarter, while the Eagles could only manage one through LeCras in the 12th minute (following a two-goal burst by the Dockers), following which the 2010 All-Australian suffered the forearm injury.
It was that goal that saw the Eagles take back the lead from the Dockers, but it wouldn’t last long, with the Dockers succeeding in booting four unanswered majors to enter the final change 24 points up.
The final quarter started with Jamie Cripps booting his second goal to bring the margin back to 18 points and thus restore some life in this match.
For the most part, it was an even final quarter, as Docker attempts to win the match were pegged back by Eagle attempts to snatch the victory.
Twice, the Dockers extended the lead to five goals, through Hayden Ballantyne (10th minute) and Michael Walters (14th), but the Eagles would not give up without a fight, and by the time Chris Masten and Josh Hill booted one major each, the deficit was only 18 points.
The match was still alive until Kepler Bradley scored what appeared to be the match winner with 26 minutes of the final quarter gone, to put the Dockers in pole position.
Nick Suban booted his third major two minutes later, to cap off a memorable Fremantle victory, 16.12 (108) to 11.14 (80).
It was a great way for the Dockers to start the season and this performance shows they are real contenders for the flag in 2013.
Ross Lyon looks set to enjoy another successful year in the west, having previously guided St Kilda to three grand finals in 2009-10, coming the closest in the second of that patch. But the question remains – can Fremantle actually feature in premiership contention at the business end of the season?
Next round, they are off to Melbourne to face the Western Bulldogs, one of the favourites to struggle this season.
As for the Eagles, who are being touted as premiership contenders this year, there’s still a lot of work to do if they are to feature in September this year.
The Eagles still have 21 more matches to improve and push for a top-four finish at the end of the season.
But that task might not start in the next round, as they play host to last year’s runners-up, Hawthorn.