Western Derby 58 Preview: Will West Coast Make A Game Of It?

AFL Western Derby 58 Preview
Breaking down the action for Western Derby 58.

Western Derby 58 Preview: Will West Coast Make A Game Of It?

Breaking down the action for Western Derby 58.
AFL Western Derby 58 Preview
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Let’s be honest. Just a few weeks ago, it looked like this clash would be an absolute dud. 

All of a sudden, after two devastating losses for Fremantle, and a first win of the year for West Coast, the 58th edition of the Western Derby is a whole lot more intriguing. 

West Coast leads the overall tally of derby wins at 32 to 25, although pundits expect the Dockers to peg the deficit back with a comfortable win. 

Will the game play out the way most expect? 

Or will Adam Simpson’s men cause another upset for the second time in two weeks? 

We’re about to find out. 

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West Coast Preview

It was glorious.

Unless you’re a Richmond fan, of course. Or even a Docker.

But West Coast’s 39-point belting of Richmond felt like more than just four points for the struggling side. 

Richmond’s injury list is about as long as the trip from Melbourne to Perth, but there was a confidence and hunger from the Eagles we’d seldom seen in seasons past. And despite conceding the first four goals of the game, the home side controlled the majority of the match. 

They bullied Richmond around the ball, dominating clearances, centre clearances and contested possessions. The ball went inside 50 21 more times than it did for the opposition, and after the opening two quarters, they’d registered their highest half-time score since Round 7 of 2021, with 68 points. 

Devoted fans in the 47,000-strong crowd would have almost been brought to tears, as the likes of Elliott Yeo, Tim Kelly and Harley Reid burst away from stoppages, finally demonstrating the attitude the club and coach had been promising all pre-season. 

“Today was a step forward for the club,” Adam Simpson said post-game, before turning his attention to the upcoming clash with Fremantle. 

“There’s (still) a lot of work to do, we’re not delusional, we’ve got Fremantle in six days.”

“We’re excited, yeah, absolutely,” he responded when asked if the victory gave them momentum heading into Derby week.

“We haven’t even come close to Fremantle in the last three or four years.

“We just want to compete.”

And that’s exactly what the supporters will expect them to do. 

Perhaps the most optimistic of them believe they could even win. 

Talking Points

Raining goals for Waterman 

It’s unlikely he’ll be able to replicate the incredible performance produced last week, but Jake Waterman could be the key to the Eagles’ competitiveness against Fremantle. 

The 25-year old played the game of his AFL-life on Sunday, kicking a career-best six goals and clunking eight contested marks. 

He flung himself at the flurry of kicks inside 50, out-muscling and out-manoeuvring his Richmond opponents. It was like watching the full-forwards of yesteryear. 

The only difference, however, was the amount of running he did. Waterman covered a remarkable 14.2 kilometres, which was the most of any West Coast player. 

If he can bring that type of workrate, marking strength and accuracy, he’ll cause problems for Fremantle’s defence. 

What makes Waterman’s efforts even more incredible, is the fact he considered retirement last year after being diagnosed with an ulcerative colitis – an auto-immune condition that causes inflammation of the digestive system. 

His recovery has been inspirational, and his contribution exceptional. 

Could he be the hero once again in the Derby? 

Midfield Monsters 

West Coast’s midfield last week seemed ‘huge’ in comparison to Richmond’s. 

They got on top in all areas, and will have to repeat the same effort if they want to run with Fremantle’s on-ball brigade. 

The aforementioned clearance and contested numbers were phenomenal, but it was the power and strength of the centremen that pleased fans most. As well as the scores from stoppage – West Coast 10.6 to Richmond’s 4.2.

Elliott Yeo was best afield for the Eagles for the second consecutive week, while Harley Reid stepped up once again to be awarded with a Round 5 Rising Star nomination.

“It’s a pretty cool bunch we got in there,” Reid said about his midfield group post game. 

“So many contested bulls.”

Those contested bulls must be at their best if they want to compete with Fremantle this week. But after last week’s dominance, you wouldn’t put it past them.

Ruck It

There is going to be a huge focus on the ruck battle this week, with Dockers’ big man Sean Darcy set to return. 

It means the combination of Luke Jackson and Darcy may cause more than a few issues for the Eagles. Jackson has been impressive as the number one ruckman in his partner’s absence, although extra time up forward will now make him a goal-kicking threat. 

The combo of Bailey Williams and Jack Williams has been serviceable in the absence of Matt Flynn, but still lost the hitout count considerably last week. 

They were both good around the ground, with a few contested marks and a goal to Jack Williams, but they’ll need to be at their best against two classy rucks on Saturday night. 

Even if they don’t win the hitouts, applying physical pressure and working hard around the ground will make a difference. 

They’ll be a huge focus on it this week.  

Fremantle Preview

It doesn’t get much more heartbreaking for the Fremantle fans. 

For the second week in a row, Freo led the game with just a few minutes to go, only to fail under pressure and lose the match. 

This time, it was at the hands of Port Adelaide, who came from behind to snatch a three-point win. 

Once again, Fremantle were the better side for most of the game, controlling the tempo and defending well.

Fremantle’s defence is no.1 in the AFL for a reason, and they kept Port Adelaide to just nine goals for the game. Although their inability to make it count on the scoreboard meant the tally of 9.9 (63) in both games of the past fortnight was their lowest this year.

There were plenty of positive signs in the loss, with individual performances from Alex Pearce, Luke Ryan, Josh Treacy and Hayden Young probably the best of the lot. But it’s hard for the fans to smile after missed opportunities. 

They now sit seventh on the ladder with a record of 3-2 after starting the season with so much promise. 

A win here, after feeling like they should have two more in the bank already, is the only acceptable outcome.

West Coast should expect a huge response from Freo. 

Talking points

Too close for comfort 

If this game goes the way most expect, this shouldn’t be an issue, but Fremantle can’t afford to lose another close one. 

“To go home from Adelaide being in front in both games with three or four minutes to go, it’s flattening,” Coach Justin Longmuir said on Saturday night.

They should have beaten both Carlton and Port Adelaide in the last fortnight, but silly blunders and a lack of composure cost them. 

Bailey Banfield’s two out on the full kicks deep in the last quarter were costly, but if the side had taken its opportunities earlier in the game, it wouldn’t have been an issue. 

In the second term alone, Fremantle doubled Port Adelaide’s inside 50s and clearances but only managed a one-goal lead at halftime. 

If Fremantle can find a way to ensure their dominance is reflected on the scoreboard, and keep their defensive structure as sound and secure as it has been, there shouldn’t be a need for another close finish. 

Although we know it’s easier said than done. 

Confident boost

Yes, it’s a Derby, but Fremantle will know they’re a much better side than the Eagles.

In fact, they haven’t lost to the Eagles since Round 7, 2021.

Fremantle have had a lot of good performers this season, but there have been a few that have let the side down on occasion. 

A game against an inferior team like West Coast is a chance for the out-of-form players to perform. 

The likes of Ethan Hughes, Bailey Banfield and Neil Erasmus have copped a bit of criticism from supporters, and would surely love to take this opportunity to prove themselves. 

If Fremantle wants to be a contender in 2024, which they probably can be, all players must play their role. 

As the saying goes, a team is only as strong as its weakest player. 

Big opportunity for all the boys this week. 

Big Back Backman

Even if you don’t like defensive footy, the Dockers backline is great to watch. 

Their system has held both Carlton (73) and Port Adelaide (69) to their lowest scores of the season. 

Captain Alex Perace is in All-Australian form, winning nine of his 11 contested one-on-one contests last time out, while Luke Ryan nearly won Fremantle the game in the final term last week.

“Luke Ryan in that last quarter was probably one of the best quarters I’ve seen,” James Aish said post-game. 

“Just so good in the air and winning basically everything that came his way.”

Ryan had 10 disposals in the fourth quarter, along with six intercept possessions and five marks, while he’s averaging 26 disposals and nine rebound 50s this season. 

West Coast’s forward line is full of confidence after kicking over 100 points for the first time this year. So the Dockers defence may be tested once again. 

If they can keep yet another side to a low score, they’ll win this game. 

Western Derby 58 Prediction

This has to be a ‘statement game’ for Fremantle. Dockers by 30 points. As for the Glendinning–Allan Medal — ball magnet Caleb Serong is a good bet to collect his third medal.

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Featured image: AP Image