After last week’s loss to Fremantle, West Coast bounced back and secured a 10-point victory in round two of their preseason hit outs.
In what was a hard-fought contest, injuries overshadowed plenty of fantastic football from both sides.
From Fremantle, ruckman Rory Lobb was assisted off the field with a knee injury after being tackled by Tom Cole in the first quarter, and Michael Walters was benched for the second half with a hamstring.
West Coast defender Brad Sheppard and Fremantle forward Bailey Banfield both suffered injuries in a nasty collision during the fourth quarter. Sheppard left the ground bleeding from his head, while Banfield appeared to suffer a lower leg injury.
New recruit Zac Langdon was stretchered off after receiving a head knock from Nat Fyfe as they were both attacking a ground ball. Although conscious when he left the field, he will need to serve the compulsory 12 day period under new concussion protocols. Luke Shuey appeared to have an ankle complaint, but it was not concerning.
West Coast responded to last week’s loss with seamless passages of play, cleaner ball movement and an overall lift from players around the ground. It wasn’t often that pressure forced them into poor decisions and their entries into forward 50 were plentiful.
High-flier Liam Ryan’s work rate around the ground was exceptional, creating opportunities for goals, and bagging three himself. Around him, Jack Darling and Oscar Allen snagged two goals apiece.
While Jamie Cripps didn’t get a goal himself, he delivered plenty of pressure in the forward line.
West Coast’s inaccuracy in front of goal in the third quarter stopped them from comfortably winning the match, missing five goals out of six scoring opportunities.
Along with Liam Ryan, Andrew Gaff, Jack Redden, Luke Shuey and Dom Sheed lifted in the midfield, with Liam Duggan alternating between the backline and midfield, offering defensive output.
Jamaine Jones and Xavier O’Neil continues to develop their game in the middle, pushing for round one selection.
While Oscar Allen builds as an all-round footballer, rotating between the back and forward line.
Veteran Shannon Hurn played his standard tough brand of footy, with Brad Sheppard, Alex Witherden and Tom Cole around him, helping him contain the Dockers’ forward line. Tom Barrass had 12 marks and 14 spoils, rendering Matt Taberner and Josh Treacy goalless.
Plenty of young Dockers stood up and held their own against a vastly more experienced West Coast side. While they were outplayed due to a lack of energy in later stages of the game, they still took the fight to their cross-town rivals.
Two-time Brownlow medallist Nat Fyfe showed his class in both the midfield and forward line, with 27 disposals, one goal and 10 clearances. Andrew Brayshaw, James Aish and Blake Acres went hard at every contest and accumulated plenty of the ball themselves.
While West Coast controlled Freo’s forward 50, Michael Frederick and Lachie Schultz still broke through, scoring two goals each.
Among them James Aish, Bailey Banfield and Mitch Crowden booted a goal of their own.
The backline woes of the Dockers seem to be drawing to a close, with pillar Brennan Cox set to be a key part.
Accompanying him is Ethan Hughes, who had an excellent game and dominated in the stats.
With Luke Ryan, Joel Hamling, Alex Pearce and Hayden Young also in the mix, Freo is well on its way to having one of the strongest backlines in the competition.
Lloyd Meek held his own against Nic Naitanui, further pushing his case for selection in round 1.
Speedy wingman Michael Frederick also made a case for a permanent spot in the side with 17 disposals and one goal.
While West Coast coach Adam Simpson was happy to get the win, he suggests there is still more preparation to do before round one.
“We saw some good signs. There’s still a lot to work on and we’re still building to our best,” Simpson said.
“Our identity was there today for the most part and we really challenged some areas.”
From the other camp, Fremantle coach Justin Longmuir saw plenty of positive signs from his young side but would like to adjust a few things.
“I thought we got off to a really good start. I thought we shifted the ball really well, I thought it was really promising,” he said.
“We fought the game out reasonably well in the last quarter, started putting some pressure on West Coast in and around the contest but we went away from our brand of footy for a quarter and a half, so it wasn’t good enough.
“We’ve got a lot to work on.”
Fremantle head off to Melbourne to face the Demons on March 20, while West Coast kicks off its season against the Suns at Optus Stadium on March 21.