FREMANTLE has won a bruising Western Derby by nine points, prevailing in the wet against a brave West Coast team that was left nursing more injuries at Fremantle Oval.
The Eagles drew to within six points early in the final quarter but couldn't find the late goal they needed, going down 2.11 (23) to 2.2 (14) in the second clash between the AFLW rivals.
DOCKERS v EAGLES Full match coverage and stats
Fremantle star Kiara Bowers was brilliant for the Dockers and gave her team the hard edge needed in the wet, finishing with 22 possessions (17 contested), seven clearances and a goal, winning the AFLW Derby Medal unanimously.
The skilful and fast Dockers were stripped of their attacking game in the conditions but stood up in the contest, winning the clearances 26-20 and the contested ball 120-89.
Beaten by 45 points in the first AFLW Derby in 2020, West Coast was a much-improved unit and sniffed an opportunity late in the final quarter.
The second-year team came up short, however, and was left nursing hand injuries to Niamh Kelly and Andrea Gilmore, who were both sidelined before three-quarter time.
Clever ruck Parris Laurie also looked to have suffered a serious leg injury on the cusp of three-quarter time but emerged in the final term and limped through to give her team a contest in the ruck.
The Dockers, who extended their unbeaten run, were challenged early when the Eagles got the first goal of the match through recruit Aisling McCarthy.
Bowers' midfield performance was supreme in conditions she would have relished. A tackling machine who is balancing her defensive assets with an attacking edge as well, she racked up 14 tackles, including eight in the first half. When the match was in the balance in the final quarter she was on the frontline, winning four of her seven clearances to ensure the ball kept going her team's way. The dual club champion looks in top form and will again be among the competition's very top bracket.
Second-year Eagle Mikayla Bowen is already a leader for her group and showed why on Sunday, playing with poise and skill beyond her years. She was everywhere at times, covering the ground to win her disposals at half-back, half-forward and inside and outside the contest, winning a team-high 10 of her 18 touches the hard way. In a physical Derby, she was shaded on the ground only by brilliant midfield opponent Bowers.
The injury issues at West Coast are such that coach Daniel Pratt conceded he was less concerned with winning late in the match and more concerned with getting his players to the finish line. If ruck Parris Laurie is unavailable next round, the club will likely need to look outside its list to fill its structural needs and field a full team. Pratt was hopeful Laurie had suffered a bad corkie and nothing structural after she insisted on playing on. Gilmore suffered split webbing and also wanted to push on, while Kelly's finger issue will be assessed.
"It was a credit to West Coast the way they defended, but they got a lot of numbers back, which made it difficult. They had 14 or sometimes even 15 players back behind the ball, so they never really looked like scoring. As frustrating as it was, we didn't feel in danger that they were going to score at the other end. Definitely would have liked a few more goals along the way, but at the same time we didn't feel like they were going to break it open at the other end." - Fremantle coach Trent Cooper
"They got on top of us, but I was really proud of the way our players kept fighting it out. Unfortunately in a short period of time we haven't been able to work on scenarios such as that, getting stuck in defensive 50 … They were tougher around the contest when they needed to be and they got the supply they needed to dominate the game." - West Coast coach Daniel Pratt
FREMANTLE 0.3 1.6 2.8 2.11 (23)
WEST COAST 1.1 1.1 1.2 2.2 (14)
Fremantle: Bowers, Houghton
West Coast: McCarthy, Cameron
Fremantle: Bowers, Cain, Miller, Duffy, Haynes, Cuthbertson, Houghton
West Coast: Bowen, Smith, McCarthy, Swanson, Laurie, Bullas
West Coast: Gilmore (hand), N Kelly (finger), Laurie (leg)
Crowd: closed to the public at Fremantle Oval
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