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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.
Fremantle Dockers 14.17 (101)
West Coast Eagles 5.9 (39)
It’s derby time in the pre-season as Fremantle and West Coast look to get some early bragging rights in the lead-up to the home and away season. Join The Roar for live scores and our match blog from 7:05pm (AEDT).
After finishing first and second on the ladder back in 2015, the bottom has fallen out for both West Australian sides, with neither tipped by many pundits to so much as crack the top eight in 2018.
The Dockers have embarked on a slow but steady rebuild since their disastrous start to the 2016 season, but with plenty of reliance still on the old firm of captain Nat Fyfe, David Mundy, Lachie Neale and Michael Walters, they’ve still got a fair way to go before they can reach the premiership window once again.
Still, the men in purple showed some spunk in a gallant loss to Adelaide in their opening JLT series match, and while Fyfe was the star with 27 touches and two goals, the likes of Connor Blakely, Luke Ryan and Matt Taberner all showed enough to get Dockers fans excited about the year to come.
Unlike their bitter rivals, the Eagles have made the finals in the past two seasons since their run to the Grand Final in 2015, but a pair of inglorious exits in the first and second weeks respectively have been a poor return for a side so undoubtedly talented.
Now minus Brownlow Medallist Matt Priddis, who joined recruited duo Sam Mitchell and Drew Petrie in retirement after last years’ semi-final loss to GWS, it’s a fresh-looking Eagles side that heads into the new year, and with plenty of excitement in the ranks in the form of forward speedsters Liam Ryan and Willie Rioli, Eagles fans also have plenty to look forward to.
They showed plenty of mettle in a two-point win over Port Adelaide to kick off their pre-season, with Jack Redden impressing with 26 touches in the Priddis inside midfielder role, while the usual suspects Andrew Gaff, Luke Shuey and Elliot Yeo also found plenty of the Sherrin.
But there’s still no sign of marquee ruckman and most important player Nic Naitanui, the dreadlocked star making his return to football after a knee injury through the WAFL rather than being risked in the senior side, and his spot for Round 1 looks more uncertain by the day.
Two young sides smattered with midfield stars at the top, the Eagles and the Dockers look quite similar on paper. But the Eagles have that extra dollop of class that their rivals lack, and that should be enough to see them home.
Eagles by 22 points
One player who will be hoping more than most to catch the eye is Dockers’ youngster Bailey Banfield, the unknown rookie impressing tremendously with three goals in a scratch match against the Eagles and looming as a shock inclusion for Round 1.
Can the purple army get one over their crosstown rivals and get a win to their name for the pre-season? Or will the Eagles make it two from two?
Tune into The Roar’s live coverage from 7:05pm (AEDT) to find out, and don’t forget to tell us your thoughts in the comments section below.