1. Has Walters taken Mark of the Year?
They don’t come much better than this. With Jeremy McGovern in his crosshairs, Dockers star Michael Walters sized up the opportunity to launch on top of his opponent, hang for several seconds and reel in a genuine contender for the Woolworths Mark of the Year. So good was the grab, the passionate West Coast faithful let slip a roar of approval. McGovern – true to character – laughed as his opponent as he picked himself up off the floor. It was a strange moment of ‘pure football’ on an afternoon swamped by controversy.
2. How long will Gaff miss?
West Coast star Andrew Gaff appears certain to miss the next three weeks – and likely more – after a brutal roundhouse hit on Andrew Brayshaw that left the Fremantle midfielder lying on the turf with blood running from his mouth. The two were isolated at least 20m from the play early in the third term of Sunday’s Western Derby at Optus Stadium, when Gaff connected with the underside of his opponent’s jaw. Brayshaw was escorted from the field and looked hesitant to remove his mouthguard, fearing his teeth might have been knocked out. The incident is bizarre for several reasons – not least the reputation of Gaff. Prior to Sunday, the restricted free agent boasted a squeaky-clean record and had previously shown no signs of an aggressive streak. A tearful Gaff needed consoling on the interchange bench and sat out the rest of the third term to gather his composure. Brayshaw was taken to hospital with a fractured jaw and four displaced teeth, placing Gaff’s finals hopes squarely in the crosshairs. A six-match suspension could spell the end of his season.
3. Demolition Derby 2.0
It came about for very different reasons, but Fremantle – rightfully or wrongfully – appeared determined to draw a line in the sand as they did in 2000. In the centre clearance following Gaff’s hit on Brayshaw, Hayden Ballantyne made a bee line for the West Coast wingman, before Michael Johnson followed suit in the final term. Johnson collected Gaff with his shoulder – in another incident that will likely come under scrutiny – leaving the 26-year-old dazed as he was escorted from the field in the hands of trainers. Countless other spot fires ensued to reignite a Western Derby rivalry that appeared to have plateaued in recent years. Spare a thought for Match Review Officer Michael Christian, who was his work cut out for him on Monday.
4. What will Gaff’s absence mean for West Coast’s finals hopes?
It will be fascinating to see what Adam Simpson does to combat the loss of his two greatest midfield assets in Gaff and the injured Nic Naitanui. Few on-ballers in the competition – let alone at West Coast – possess Gaff’s running capacity and nous around stoppages. Luke Shuey has the ability to lift his game while Elliot Yeo – who claimed the inaugural Glendinning-Allan medal – has the assets to rise among the League’s elite. Scott Lycett has done his bit as well, but the hole Gaff leaves will be difficult to fill. In West Coast’s favour is the leg work it's already done to date. At the end of round 20, the Eagles sit six points clear of GWS in second place and need two wins from clashes with Port Adelaide (away), Melbourne (home) and Brisbane (away) to secure a qualifying final at Optus Stadium.
5. Skill and effort beats effort
Both WA teams turned up to play. One of them just had more tools in the kitbag to use and came away with a 58-point win. West Coast showed subtlety with its ball use and a mastery of the fundamentals. Though scrappy early by their own standards, the Eagles hit most of their targets and linked up play with the certainty Fremantle lacked. The Dockers posed a threat at clearances and looked far from listless forward off the ball. Their troubles – as has often been the case in recent years – revolve around polish and conversion. Fremantle couldn’t execute the basics as well as its cross-town rival, and missed countless opportunities to capitalise on positional dominance with poor kicking and some questionable decision-making. The Eagles are too good to let those sorts of opportunities slide by.
TEMPERS FLARE, EAGLES SOAR Full match coverage and stats