Fremantle have ended their JLT Community Series on a perfect note, an emphatic 62-point win over a dreadful West Coast not only giving the men in purple some early crosstown bragging rights, but giving fans hope of a first finals appearance since 2015.
Three goals apiece to Lachie Neale and Hayden Ballantyne – the latter enjoying perhaps his best game since his halcyon days of 2015 – led the day for the Dockers, only some errant kicking in front of goal preventing the 14.17 (101) to 5.8 (38) victory being even greater.
Apart from a five-minute purple patch to start the game, during which the Eagles booted the first two goals of the match, it was a dismal performance from Adam Simpson’s charges, and while it’s not panic stations yet, there is plenty to improve on ahead of a blockbuster Round 1 clash with Sydney, the first senior AFL game at the new Optus Stadium.
Horrendous kicking – they finished with 72 clangers from just 318 disposals – afforded the Dockers turnovers galore, with not even captain Shannon Hurn immune, while just 33 inside-50s gave their forwards zero supply.
All that started at the coalface, where the Dockers’ trio of Neale, Aaron Sandilands and Nat Fyfe routinely blitzed the Eagles’ own centre square combination, the absence of retired clearance king Matt Priddis and marquee ruckman Nic Naitanui more glaring with every passing moment. 32 clearances to 26- at half time it was 22 to 11 – doesn’t do justice to the Dockers’ dominance.
The bright spots were few and far between, though Liam Ryan (13 touches and a goal) impressed from limited supply up forward, while Liam Duggan (24 disposals) did enough to suggest he’s ready to move into a more permanent midfield role in 2018, and looming free agent Jeremy McGovern held firm under sizeable pressure in the defensive 50.
But while everything the Dockers did had an asterisk attached to it, courtesy of the Eagles’ insipid display, it was a commendable effort from Ross Lyon’s men.
Slingshot footy from half-back was the order of the day, the stagnant, turnover-laced passages of play last year a distant memory as new recruit Nathan Wilson and Liam Ryan kickstarted multiple scoring chains from half-back.
Up forward, Matt Taberner continued his sterling pre-season form with a two-goal, 12-mark display that will have Dockers fans hoping a breakout year is on the cards, while 26 touches from Darcy Tucker and 22 from Ed Langdon showed the future in midfield is bright as well.
It’s only pre-season, but while the Eagles have a lot of work to do, the Dockers could hardly have been more impressive.
Fremantle Dockers 14.17 (101)
West Coast Eagles 5.9 (39)