AFL Round 4 Preview: Freo 4-0? West Coast Fans Look Away Now

AFL Round 4 Preview - West Coast Eagles
Breaking down the action ahead of AFL Round 4.

AFL Round 4 Preview: Freo 4-0? West Coast Fans Look Away Now

Breaking down the action ahead of AFL Round 4.
AFL Round 4 Preview - West Coast Eagles
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As Round 4 approaches do we hear whispers of FLAGmantle?

Collingwood has finally said goodbye to Owen with a big win away against Brisbane who are now 0-3 to start the season and are currently at the bottom of the ladder with Hawthorn, North Melbourne and of course West Coast. That’s a long way to drop for a team that played in last year’s grand final.

Looking ahead to the Gather Round in South Australia, Fremantle could be one of two teams to start the season 4-0 along with GWS who are currently flag favourites amongst punters. West Coast fans though might be best to look away this Saturday with a matchup against Sydney — which could see similar results as seen against GWS and the Bulldogs.

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Games To Watch In Round 4

Adelaide vs. Melbourne (Adelaide Oval, Thursday Night)

This game is a lot bigger for Adelaide than it is for the Melbourne. 

Adelaide is 0-3 and pressure is mounting for coach Matthew Nicks. 

In the opening game of Gather Round in South Australia, the home fans will be expecting a response after what was a poor performance against Fremantle last Friday night.

Adelaide lost by 35 points after kicking just four goals for the game. It was the side’s third-consecutive loss, following defeats to Geelong (19 points) and Gold Coast (6). 

All three losses have come to sides who didn’t play finals last year. And the team has totaled scores of just 54, 77 and 34, after being a high-scoring team in 2023. It’s extremely worrying. 

Adelaide missed out on playing finals last year by a slim margin and supporters had high hopes for 2024. But a loss here at home to Melbourne would mean their chances of taking part in September footy are almost gone. 

Melbourne will be tough to beat too, especially after defeating Port Adelaide at the same venue last week. 

Simon Goodwin’s men proved they’re able to lift away from home, holding on against Port Adelaide by seven points, even without one of their best defenders in Steven May. 

PREDICTION: Based on form, it’s too hard to tip Adelaide. Melbourne has proven they’re able to win in Adelaide and could also get Steven May back this week.

They look too good Melbourne by 15 points

Brisbane vs. North Melbourne (Norwood Oval, Friday Night)

It’s not often North Melbourne features in a list of ‘much-watch’ games, but all eyes are going to be on their upcoming opponents this round. 

Brisbane is winless after three games and the pundits who backed them to win the flag this year are jumping off. 

They’ve lost to decent sides in Carlton, Fremantle and Collingwood, but their connectivity has been poor, forwards are out of form, and they’ve been dropping off in intensity during second halves this season. 

Reports that events on a pre-season trip to the US caused tensions within the playing have been denied by the club, but it’s undoubtedly caused off-field distractions, at least this week. 

An upset loss to the Kangaroos would be disastrous for the Lions. It would be hard to see them bouncing back from 0-4. 

Good thing for them, the Roos don’t look good. They were smashed by Carlton last week by 56 points, and are also winless so far this season. 

Everyone will be watching Brisbane to see what the response is like. 

PREDICTION: It’s almost impossible to tip North Melbourne this year, but stranger things have happened.

Surely Brisbane gets its first win of the season Lions by 30 points 

Port Adelaide vs. Essendon (Adelaide Oval, Friday Night)

Port Adelaide will be looking to bounce back in front of grumpy home supporters, while Essendon will want to continue the momentum after a gusty win last week. 

Port Adelaide gave up a three-quarter time lead to go down to the Demons by seven points at Adelaide Oval in a game they could have easily won. While Essendon trailed St Kilda for almost the entire match until a late Jake Stringer goal put the side in front to set up a brave four-point win.

Port Adelaide has defeated West Coast and Richmond this season, which isn’t an impressive list for 2024. So after going down to Melbourne last week, the questions over the side’s credentials have started.

A win for Port Adelaide and belief would be restored, but a loss heaps more scrutiny on the side during an important weekend for the club. 

Despite the slim win over the Saints, Essendon might not have much confidence going into this one if they look back at recent history. They’ve lost the last seven against Port Adelaide, with the most recent victory coming back in 2018. 

It’s going to be tough for Essendon, but all the pressure is on Port Adelaide.

PREDICTION: Despite the fightback, Essendon weren’t all that great for large parts of their game last week. Port Adelaide would be extremely disappointed not to get the win against Melbourne, and should be keen to make a statement in front of the home fans they let down the last time they ran out.

Port Adelaide by 20 points 

West Coast Eagles

Last Week

So where do you start? 

Last week against the Western Bulldogs was simply horrible for West Coast. They recorded their lowest-ever total at Marvel Stadium, with just 30 points for the game, which was also the club’s sixth-lowest score in its history. 

After an even first quarter, with two goals apiece, the Bulldogs went on to kick 11 unanswered goals, until the Eagles kicked their third and final major midway through the last quarter. 

It was ugly. Unfortunately for the fans, the 76-point defeat convinced the footy world the team is getting worse week after week. 

Remarkably, however, West Coast levelled the Wester Bulldogs for inside 50s, and beat them in clearances. So, that’s kind of a positive… we guess? 

West Coast Eagles vs. Sydney Swans (Adelaide Hills, Saturday)

It doesn’t get any easier for West Coast, with a clash against Sydney to come on Saturday in the Adelaide Hills. 

The Swans went down to Richmond by five points in the upset of the round. They were out-pressured and out-worked in their worst performance of the year so far. 

John Longmire’s men are now 3-1, but have shown enough class already to prove last week was just a hiccup. They’re still regarded as a genuine premiership contender, having comfortable wins over Melbourne, Collingwood and Essendon in the bank. 

The once nail-biting matchups between Sydney and West Coast are a thing of the past as Sydney have won six of the last seven against West Coast and recorded a whopping 171-point against them the last time they played, in Round 15 of 2023. 

It’s going to be tough … to say the least.

Talking Points

  1. One quarter at a time

Can the Eagles at least win a quarter? 

West Coast has lost all 12 of its quarters this season, and games look pretty much over at halftime. 

Since the start of last season, the average losing margin is 11 goals, and their overall record in the last two years is five wins and 43 losses.

Eight clubs have had their biggest wins over the Eagles during that time.

The fans understand they’re not expected to win many games, but providing some positives, by at least taking small wins here and there, would make a huge difference. 

30 mins of good footy – is it too much to ask for? Is it too much to expect?

  1. Goals, glorious goals

The fans witnessed just three goals for the entire game last week.

It was poor. Especially when you consider the chances they had to kick a score — equalling the Dogs for inside 50s, with 51 apiece. 

Jeremy McGovern this week said they “didn’t give the forwards good supply at times,” and  “couldn’t lock it in our front half.” 

You can say that again, Jeremy. 

The loss of key forward Oscar Allen and ruck recruit Matt Flynn hurts, especially in terms of structure, but they need to find goals from somewhere. 

They just can’t afford to kick only three goals for the game again. It’s not fair to the supporters. 

  1. A bright future? 

“I see the club in the doldrums for a little bit longer,” club great Peter Sumich said this week.

“A fair bit longer, five-plus years.”

It’s a pessimistic view, but it may be fair. Especially after most of the side’s best players at the weekend were seasoned veterans. 

Jeremy McGovern, Elliot Yeo and Tim Kelly were the best of the lot. 

And while they’ve started the season well, young guns Harley Reid and Ruben Ginbey were quiet. 

There’s a big gap in the list that’s alarming for Eagles supporters. With an ageing roster of (former) ‘A-graders’ in their early to mid-30s featuring in the best players, what bright signs are there for the future? 

The club needs young players, other than just Reid and Ginbey (although a better game than last week would help) to step up to the level that’s required. 

They don’t need to win, but the young players must make a statement this week. 

PREDICTION: Sydney is looking for a dominant win after their upset loss last week. This could be a big one for the Bloods.

Swans by 50 points

Fremantle Dockers vs. Carlton Blues (Adelaide Oval, Saturday)

Last Week

The Dockers remain undefeated this season after beating Adelaide by 35 points in what was a fairly dull game of footy. 

Freo was solid, but the exhibition wasn’t. 

The scrappiness of the contest won’t worry the fans though, who would have been thrilled to see their side keep Adelaide to just four goals for the game in Fremantle’s best start to a season since 2015. 

The crowd of 51,037 saw solid displays from Hayden Young, Alex Pearce, Luke Ryan and Jordan Clarke in his 50th game for the club. 

And speaking of the crowd, the fans didn’t go unnoticed by the players either, even getting credit for helping the side turn Optus Stadium into a bit of a fortress. 

“Looking around at the start of the game you couldn’t see too many empty seats and that really lifts us,” Bailey Banfield said post-match.

“When that Freo chant gets going it’s awesome.

“To have the Purple Army out in absolute force is awesome and hopefully we can keep building on that because they’re a massive advantage for us.”

This Week

Fremantle won’t have the advantage of home fans this week as they take on Carlton at Adelaide Oval on Saturday afternoon.

The Blues are also undefeated, having smashed North Melbourne by 56 points on Good Friday. 

But while Fremantle has taken the pundits by surprise, Carlton is probably expected to be this good. 

Their 46-point comeback against Brisbane in Opening Round was heroic, the five-point win over Richmond the following week was respectable, and the victory over North Melbourne last week was a ‘flex’. 

North Melboure never really worried them, as they piled on 21 goals in a dominant display. 

It’s going to be a huge test for Fremantle, against a team that beat them the last time they met by 53 points at Optus Stadium.

Talking Points

  1. Dogged defence vs. Ferocious forwards 

The Dockers’ defence is in top shape heading into this one. 

Captain Alex Pearce is in All-Australian form, while Luke Ryan continued his excellent start to the season against the Crows. The pair kept Taylor Walker and Darcy Fogarty to a combined 0.3 while also setting up Fremantle’s attack with crucial intercepts.

The backline last week was involved in 12 contested one-on-one duels and lost just three. They’ve also given up just three goals in the third quarter this year.

It’s quite remarkable. 

And remarkable is what they’re going to have to be when they come up against the likes of Carlton’s Charlie Curnow and Harry McKay, who kicked nine goals between them last week. 

McKay has 11 for the season, while Curnow has 10, and both look like they’re ready for a lot more. 

It’s going to be a huge battle between top defenders and dangerous tall forwards. 

The footy world is keen to see who wins out. 

  1. Statement win?

Could this be the statement win Fremantle fans have been waiting for? 

Despite having won the same amount of games as Carlton, against two of the same opponents, Carlton has come in as strong favourites.

Is it Victorian bias? Or have we not seen enough from Fremantle? 

It’s hard to trust a side that promised a lot a couple of years ago, only to produce a slow, ugly and disappointing 2023 season. 

The start of the campaign has been solid, and fans are starting to believe that FLAGmantle could be feasible. But a loss against Carlton would almost take away all the good work that’s been done so far in 2024. 

A win, however, would be a solid statement to the rest of the competition. 

There wasn’t a pundit in sight who backed the Dockers this year, but four points at Gather Round would change all of that. 

  1. Pressure, pressure, pressure 

After a big slog last week, it will be interesting to see if Fremantle can produce the same intensity once again.

Last season Fremantle were constantly smashed around the contest, being bullied and bumped off the ball. This season, with Nat Fyfe offering protection in the centre, Hayden Young emerging and Caleb Serong averaging 16 contested possessions a game, it’s a new feel Freo.  

They’re playing a tough brand of hard, in-and-under, competitive footy. They’ve won the contested ball in every game so far this season and even out-tackled Adelaide 63-43 during the Round 3 win.

The gutsy game style was also highlighted postgame by Justin Longmuir. 

“The desperation comes back to trademark and culture in some respect,” Longmuir said.

“We want to build a culture and a game style of play where we never give up and that’s all part of it.”

They’ll need that attitude against Carlton who cleaned up North in contested ball and clearances last week, as well as out-tackling by 21, despite having more of the ball.

PREDICTION: It’s almost too close to call. Carlton’s forwards are in top form, but so are the Dockers’ defenders. It should be a tight, tough contest.

Fremantle by 2 points.

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Featured image: AAP Image / MORGAN HANCOCK