FREMANTLE unleashed a ferocious tackling display to beat crosstown rival West Coast by 45 points in the first AFLW derby at Optus Stadium on Saturday.
In a historic day for WA football, the undefeated Dockers trounced the Eagles 9.6 (60) to 2.3 (15) in front of 35,185 fans, quickly establishing themselves as one of the form teams of the competition.
It was a powerful display from Trent Cooper's players, whose chemistry after three full seasons was evident against the West Coast newcomers, who went inside 50 just 19 times and fell to 0-2.
DOCKERS DEMOLISH EAGLES Full match coverage and stats
Tough Fremantle midfielder Kiara Bowers was the star, laying a massive 18 tackles and finishing with 13 disposals and four clearances to be a unanimous choice as the first AFLW Derby medallist.
The onballer laid an incredible 11 tackles in the first quarter to set the tone and held former teammate and star Eagle Dana Hooker to just one possession before quarter-time.
In a fiery contest between the rival teams, Fremantle was harder defensively, more organised with the ball, and more skilful. Its final score was the highest of the AFLW season so far.
Sabreena Duffy (one goal) was well held after her round one heroics, but other Dockers lifted, with Roxy Roux, Jasmin Stewart and Katie-Jayne Grieve all kicking two goals.
First-year star Roux was exciting in her second game, flying for marks and handling the ball cleanly, while Gemma Houghton continued a fine start to the season.
West Coast captain Emma Swanson (14 and three clearances) led her team well before leaving the ground in the fourth quarter with a head knock.
Hooker worked her way into the game after quarter-time to finish with 13 touches, including a game-high 11 contested, and four inside 50s.
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The most memorable of Bowers' 18 tackles came late in the first half when a protester burst onto Optus Stadium carrying a black and white flag with the words 'Right to Rescue' on it. The protester chose the wrong player to run towards and Bowers put an end to the invader's brief run. "We're here to play football and we just wanted to get on with the game," Bowers said, joking that she thought she'd be credited with an extra tackle for her efforts. The protester earned a three-year stadium ban and Bowers fell three short of the AFLW tackle record of 21.
Slice of history
Gabby O'Sullivan will be remembered for kicking the first ever AFLW Derby goal after converting from the pocket four minutes into the match. The former basketballer, who plays as both a pressure forward and a midfielder, was one of the Dockers' best and a livewire across half-forward all day. She joins former Docker Peter Miller, who kicked the first goal in an AFL Western Derby in 1995.
Bowers knew all roads would lead through former teammate Hooker if the Eagles were going to get on top, so she set herself for a physical duel with the two-time All Australian. The pair shook hands before the first bounce and then it was on. While she was well beaten early, Hooker's re-emergence in the final three quarters was a positive for West Coast.
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"We thought that West Coast probably had a fairly soft run-in. We thought that we needed to step it up and show them the AFL standard, and I think it was the best pressure game I've seen us play." – Fremantle coach Trent Cooper
"I was really proud of their effort right to the final siren. They never waved the white flag and they kept playing the style of footy we wanted them to play. Disappointed with the result, but a lot of learning and a lot of positives to come out of our game." – West Coast coach Luke Dwyer
Fremantle hosts Collingwood at Fremantle Oval next Saturday at 4.10pm AWST, while the Eagles travel to Blacktown International Sportspark to face Greater Western Sydney at 1.10pm AEDT.
WEST COAST 0.0. 1.1. 1.2. 2.3 (15)
FREMANTLE 2.2. 5.3. 7.6. 9.6 (60)
West Coast: Dowrick, Tester
Fremantle: Stewart 2, Grieve 2, Roux 2, O'Sullivan, Houghton, Duffy
West Coast: Swanson, Laurie, Smith, N Kelly, Cameron
Fremantle: Bowers, O'Sullivan, Roux, Stewart, Grieve, Houghton, Gooch
West Coast: Swanson (head)
Crowd: 35,185 at Optus Stadium