A gallant Fremantle have survived a late West Coast scare to put the Eagles’ finals hopes in serious doubt and breathe a glimmer of life into their own September ambitions with a thrilling 15-point western derby win.
The Eagles seemed certain to overturn what was a 40-point deficit when goals to Liam Ryan and Josh Kennedy brought the margin back to only six points at the 10-minute mark of the final quarter, but turning the tide was the precocious Caleb Serong, who somehow kept the ball in play as he fell, swiftly rose to his feet and bent a banana through from the tightest of angles.
Aside from capturing a goal-of-the-year contender, it halted West Coast’s momentum and gave the Dockers crucial breathing space in the face of a significant Eagles challenge. Serong finished the game best-afield with an inspiring blend of 32 touches, six tackles and two goals.
Tentatively assuming the Giants defeat Carlton in round 23, Fremantle’s first derby triumph since 2015 means they will rely on both Essendon and West Coast losing next week, as well as a win over St Kilda, to break into the final eight.
Such a result is difficult to fathom, but the Dockers can take solace in claiming a derby win that shattered the September plans of their cross-town rivals, who would need to produce an upset victory over the Lions in Brisbane and rely on Essendon or GWS losing to sneak into the finals.
Amid the sunshine and the roars of a near-capacity crowd, the derby was sparked by a shootout-style opening term that yielded 11 goals in total, and left one pondering whether it was, in fact, the same 2021 winter that has been so desperately deprived of high scores and spectator passion.
The Dockers, too, played like it was 2015, when a side featuring only two players from Sunday’s 23 – David Mundy and Matt Taberner – booted nine first-quarter goals. This Fremantle outfit did not quite match the same lofty feats, but through eight opening-term goals of their own, held a crucial 30-point lead by the first break.
West Coast, though, soared back into contention over the next two quarters, and while the second was an arm-wrestle, the Eagles had beaten Fremantle in both clearances and contested possessions by the last break to set the stage for a thrilling final term.