GOOD luck playing Fremantle in Perth this year. Ross Lyon's team will be one tough unit to crack if its 28-point round one derby victory against West Coast is anything to go by.
Fremantle took some time to get going, unable to convert field position dominance into scoreboard success in the first half, but when it raised the stakes in the third quarter West Coast was left floundering at Patersons Stadium.
And in pain.
The Eagles have lost gun forward Mark LeCras for some time with a broken arm after a heavy clash with Tendai Mzungu, key defender Eric Mackenzie is doubtful for the round two clash against Hawthorn with a hamstring injury, and captain Darren Glass copped a painful corky.
LeCras - who missed all of last season with a knee injury - left the field in a makeshift sling and appears set for another lengthy stint on the sidelines.
On the negative side for Freo, skipper Matthew Pavlich was reported after a late challenge on Will Schofield in a marking contest and Hayden Ballantyne has a corked calf.
But it was a small negative on a night to savour for Freo fans at their home derby which they won 16.12 (108) to 11.14 (80).
It had been a tight match before Freo’s third quarter rampage.
The Eagles were ahead by nine points at the long break despite Fremantle having a 26-19 advantage in the inside 50s.
The reason was that the Eagles had a winning forward in Josh Kennedy, while Fremantle’s go-to man Pavlich was struggling after an interrupted pre-season. Consequently Freo was losing the aerial battle in its forward line and its smalls close to goal couldn’t get near it.
But how that changed in the third term when Kepler Bradley went forward, competed hard and brought Freo’s mosquito fleet into the game.
Michael Walters (three goals for the game), Danyle Pearce (two) and Nick Suban (three) took full advantage of their team's dominance at the centre clearances and blew the game apart.
David Mundy, Michael Barlow (who tied for the Roos Glendinning Medal) and Nat Fyfe slaughtered the Eagles in the clinches and eventually the weight of numbers told.
Fremantle had three times as many centre clearances by three-quarter time (12-4) and with its forward line pressure ramped up, booted 6.6 to 1.3 for the term to turn the game on its head.
"They dominated that early part of the third quarter," West Coast coach John Worsfold lamented post-match.
"The game was pretty even in the first half … we had better opportunities to score more than we did. That cost us."
Fremantle coach Ross Lyon said he had been confident of hitting back after half-time.
"I think you’ve got to admire the Eagles. We know paper teams mean nothing, but the reality is they were depleted in some areas, particularly in midfield, and I thought the way they came out and took the game right up to us," Lyon said.
"But in the end, I thought our preparation and our total teamsmanship in the end was quite dominant.
"And probably there were signs well before half-time but we just couldn’t hurt them on the scoreboard and they scored pretty easily.
"So once we tidied a few of those things up I thought our third quarter was dominant and then there was a real arm wrestle in the last and it opened up a bit. So, a lot to like but a lot to improve on."
West Coast was missing Nic Naitanui, Daniel Kerr and Matt Rosa while Fremantle’s losses were giant – galloping lamp post Aaron Sandilands and his back-up Zac Clarke.
The Eagles had a couple of bright lights with Adam Selwood magnificent in his shutdown job on Hayden Ballantyne, Kennedy the dominant tall forward on the field and St Kilda recruit Jamie Cripps handy with a couple of goals.
Worsfold said Kerr and Naitanui had been key members of their midfield last season and he was looking forward to having a full midfield complement in coming weeks.
FREMANTLE 2.0 5.4 11.10 16.12 (108)
WEST COAST 3.5 6.7 7.10 11.14 (80)
Fremantle: Walters 3, Suban 3, Mayne 2, Pearce 2, Bradley 2, Crowley, De Boer, Barlow, Ballantyne
West Coast: Hams 2, Kennedy 2, Lecras 2, Cripps 2, Hill 2, Masten
Fremantle: Barlow, Mundy, D Pearce, Hill, Fyfe, Mayne, Griffin
West Coast: Kennedy, A Selwood, Waters, Glass, Priddis
Fremantle: Ballantyne (knee)
West Coast: LeCras (arm), Mackenzie (hamstring)
Fremantle: Cameron Sutcliffe replaced Hayden Ballantyne during the last quarter
West Coast: Andrew Embley replaced Mark Lecras at three-quarter time
Reports: Pavlich for charging Schofield in the second quarter
Umpires: Margetts, Stevic, McInerney
Official crowd: 39,629 at the Patersons Stadium