Dockers bullies eye more AFL derby glory

They’ve watched their little brother turn into a big bully, but now West Coast want their mantle back.


Fremantle have the chance to level the western derby ledger at 21-21 when they take on the Eagles in Sunday’s grudge match at Domain Stadium.

That prospect seemed unthinkable after West Coast opened the rivalry with nine-straight wins, and, at one point, led 17-5 in the head-to-head stakes.

But fortunes have changed dramatically over the past decade, with Fremantle winning 15 of the past 19 derbies to snatch the bully-boy mantle off the Eagles.

And with West Coast missing a host of stars for Sunday’s clash, the Dockers have the chance to inflict even more pain.

Nic Naitanui (personal leave), Mark LeCras (suspended), Jeremy McGovern (hamstring) and Scott Selwood (ankle) are all out, leaving plenty of holes in West Coast’s young side.

In contrast, Fremantle have been bolstered by the return of Brownlow medal favourite Nat Fyfe and defender Michael Johnson, while skipper Matthew Pavlich (achilles) and David Mundy (ankle) were cleared to play.

Veteran Luke McPharlin was initially named in the 22, but he was replaced by Alex Silvagni on Saturday after failing to recover from a corked calf.

Dockers fans endured plenty of derby pain during the early years.

But coach Ross Lyon said the state of the current season, with both teams sitting in the top two, was far more important than equalling the overall ledger.

“I don’t think anyone is looking back like that,” Lyon said.

“No Fremantle supporter has mentioned it to me.

“I think they are interested in the current season; they are interested in the current state of the ladder.”

Although Fremantle are all but assured of winning the minor premiership, West Coast’s chances of finishing second will be majorly dented if they suffer a seventh straight derby loss.

Fyfe looms as West Coast’s biggest headache.

The 23-year-old is fresh after spending the past two weeks recovering from a minor groin niggle and his knack of drifting forward will severely test West Coast’s depleted defence.

“I’m like a little kid again,” Fyfe said ahead of his return.

“Derbies are huge and this one is going to be the biggest I’ve been involved in so far.”

West Coast could meet Fremantle during this year’s finals series, making it more important than ever for the Eagles to break out of their derby funk.

Fremantle have won the past six derbies, with their performance in round three particularly ruthless.

The Dockers kicked the opening 11 goals of that match to set up a cruisy 30-point win. But West Coast have improved dramatically since that point to soar into premiership contention.

“We’re not robots, so when you’re winning games you generate belief and confidence in what you’re doing,” Eagles coach Adam Simpson said.

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