FREMANTLE has maintained its perfect Western Derby record and broken through for its first AFLW win this season, hanging on to beat the Eagles by three points in a thrilling clash at Optus Stadium.
In the closest and most entertaining Derby yet, West Coast pushed its more experienced opponents all the way but fell just short, with the Dockers prevailing 3.8 (26) to 3.5 (23).
Only five points separated the teams at the final change, and young West Coast star Bella Lewis cut the margin to one point in the dying minutes when she marked inside 50 and converted her set shot.
The Dockers were able to lock the ball in their forward half thereafter, however, and win their fifth consecutive Derby.
Captain Hayley Miller was outstanding and an unanimous choice for the Derby Medal after controlling the midfield with 26 disposals (17 contested), eight clearances and six inside 50s.
She set up an important goal that put Fremantle ahead with a piercing run through the midfield and pass to Aine Tighe, who booted two goals to be a crucial contributor.
EAGLES V DOCKERS Full match coverage and stats
Star onballer Kiara Bowers had a massive 18 tackles to go with 17 disposals and five clearances, while ruck Mim Strom was important around the ground with 17 touches and 17 hit-outs.
The gap has clearly closed between the two rivals, with West Coast backing up a strong four-quarter performance last week and bringing excellent pressure to the contest.
They were the better team early, winning the forward entries 11-4 in the first quarter but failing to take full toll on the scoreboard.
Lewis (25 and a goal) and captain Emma Swanson (20 and five clearances) led the way for the Eagles, who now have a 2-3 record, while ruck Sarah Lakay had 42 hit-outs.
Britton's got talent
The Eagles are showing each week that their future is in good hands, and on Thursday it was Jaide Britton's turn to show off her array of talents in her second AFLW game. The Peel Thunder product stood out in one particular passage in the second quarter when she intercepted the ball at speed at half-back and linked up three more times as the ball was worked forward. The 19-year-old has speed, clean hands and looks to be a smart player. Her ability to move the ball quickly was important.
Everything on the line
One contest in the third quarter summed up what Thursday's contest meant to the two teams. With an important ball to be won on Fremantle's half-forward flank, Eagle Eleanor Hartill and Docker Megan Kauffman attacked it fiercely, fairly and with eyes only on the footy. They arrived at same time and cannoned into each other in what was a brutal contest, with Hartill coming off second best. It summed up the pressure and desperation of the game.
A new medallist
Fremantle superstar Kiara Bowers has dominated the Derby Medal, winning award for best afield in all four previous clashes with West Coast and sharing the honour with Ebony Antonio in the most recent clash. It was Hayley Miller's turn on Thursday after a standout performance in the midfield, earning nine votes and getting better as those around her tired. Bowers was still prominent with six votes.
This 🥺 #foreverfreo pic.twitter.com/2AoFI0w3j9— Fremantle Dockers (@freodockers) September 22, 2022
WEST COAST 1.2 2.5 2.5 3.5 (23)
FREMANTLE 1.1 2.2 3.4 3.8 (26)
West Coast: Bartlett, Bushby, Lewis
Fremantle: Tighe 2, Franklin
West Coast: Lewis, Swanson, McCarthy, Thomas, Smith, Britton
Fremantle: Miller, Bowers, Tighe, Strom, Western, Verrier
West Coast: Nil