Makaela Tuhakaraina celebrates a goal during round one, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

FREMANTLE has held a desperate West Coast at bay and maintained its dominant Derby record with an eight-point win to open the season at Fremantle Community Bank Oval on Sunday.

The Dockers made it six from six against their crosstown rivals in a hard-fought, physical Derby, keeping the Eagles to just one inside 50 in an imposing final term to win 4.3 (27) to 2.7 (19) and launch a new era under Lisa Webb.

The Eagles would not have lost any fans after playing the better football through the third quarter and cutting the margin to just two points as they looked to gain a foothold in a growing rivalry.


Their young star Ella Roberts won the Derby Medal in a losing cause after a fantastic performance, starting forward and moving into the midfield to finish with a game-high 24 disposals and five clearances.

The Dockers' weight of opportunities proved the difference, winning the inside 50 count 38-22 and applying ferocious forward pressure to lock the ball in their half for long periods.

DOCKERS v EAGLES Full match coverage and stats

Gabby O'Sullivan (14 tackles) and Ange Stannett (nine) were outstanding on that front, while defender Laura Pugh (19 disposals and five rebounds) was a rock in defence. In a low-scoring game, Aine Tighe's two goals proved critical. 

West Coast made a competitive start as it looked to break its Derby duck, with the pre-game withdrawal of Fremantle star and four-time Derby medallist Kiara Bowers due to knee soreness providing a boost for the underdogs.

The pressure applied from both teams resulted in a scrappy opening and few clean attacking chances, with Tighe booting the only goal of the opening quarter while the Freo defenders did a good job intercepting at the other end.

The second quarter opened up somewhat, despite heavy rain falling in Fremantle for a brief period, with Ebony Antonio crumbing in attack to extend the Dockers' lead.


Roberts grew in prominence for the Eagles and worked up the ground, but the Eagles couldn't convert their opportunities and had kicked six behinds from their 15 forward entries as half time approached.

A nine-point deficit was manageable, but Tighe's ability to dribble through a skilful goal with only a handful of seconds gave the Dockers momentum and a 15-point lead at the main break.   

It took a pair of former Dockers to get the Eagles on the board, with Kellie Gibson and then Amy Franklin, who crossed to enemy lines in the off-season, booting back-to-back goals to cut the margin to two points late in the third.

A goal for Freo's late inclusion Makaela Tuhakaraina, however, kept the Eagles and proved crucial in a low-scoring finish to the game.


Bowers loss doesn't impact tackle game
Fremantle set a new club record for tackles despite the late withdrawal of pressure specialist Kiara Bowers. The Dockers laid a massive 98 tackles in a highly contested and sometimes wet game, with the Eagles rising to the challenge and laying 88 of their own. There is a sense that the WA rivalry is growing fast in the AFLW and it was obvious in the way the game was played.  

Roberts goes to new level
It takes a special effort to win the best on ground medal is a losing team, but Ella Roberts looks every bit a special player. Recruited as a tall forward, she started in attack on Sunday but was soon shifted onto the ball with good effect, winning seven disposals in the second term. She polled seven votes to edge Docker Laura Pugh (six) for the Derby Medal, with Aine Tighe (three) and Ange Stannett (two) also polling.   

Up next
West Coast travel on a six-day break and take on Gold Coast at Heritage Bank Stadium next Saturday at 11.05 AEST, having lost the most recent match-up against the Suns by 33 points. The Dockers are also on the road in round two, heading to Victoria Park to face Collingwood on Sunday at 11.05 AEST.


FREMANTLE         1.2   3.3   4.3   4.3 (27)
WEST COAST        0.3   0.6   2.7   2.7 (19)

Fremantle: Tighe 2, Antonio, Tuhakaraina
West Coast: Franklin, Gibson

Fremantle: Pugh, Stannett, Tighe, Strom, O'Sullivan, O'Driscoll
West Coast: Roberts, Swanson, McCarthy, Hooker, Lewis  

Fremantle: Nil
West Coast: Nil

Fremantle: Kiara Bowers (knee soreness) replaced by Makaela Tuhakaraina
West Coast: Nil

Crowd: 3790 at Fremantle Community Bank Oval