Fremantle has demolished West Coast in a pre-season clash that has worsened the Eagles’ already-say injury list.
The Dockers prevailed by nearly 100 points against their cross-town rivals, but the lasting impact for Adam Simpson will be injury blows to Dom Sheed, Elliot Yeo and Campbell Chesser, who all limped off the ground during the opening half and failed to return to the field.
For the Dockers, new recruit Jordan Clark showed plenty of promise with his dash, while for the Eagles there was some good news with the successful return of Willie Rioli after more than 900 days since his last AFL match.
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The Eagles got on the board first via Josh Kennedy, who benefitted from a Willie Rioli assist.
Dom Sheed came off worse for wear after the ensuing centre-bounce and was “struggling to move”, going to the sidelines for further assessment of his lower leg.
Michael Frederick kicked the opening two goals of the game for the Dockers, showcasing some hard-running to generate space.
Andrew Brayshaw looked brilliant early on as he looked to continue his rise into the competition’s midfield elite.
There were more injury concerns for the Eagles as Campbell Chesser, the club’s top draft pick (No.14) from last year, landed awkwardly in a marking contest and limped off the ground.
Both Sheed and Chesser had their ankle / leg bandaged up and iced, with Sheed “not looking good” and “limping quite heavily”.
Former Eagle Will Schofield painted a grim picture of the pair’s immediate future.
“I dare say they have very similar injuries,” he said watching the pair limp to the rooms.
“I’ve done a few ankles in my time and the way he (Chesser) is walking there I reckon he’s done an inside one and it’s probably going to be a three or four week recovery at best.”
On Chesser, Schofield added: “It’s just shocking. From all reports he’s come over here, he’s put in a terrific pre-season … from that sense, he’s a young plauyer and you just don’t want to see him injured.”
Dockers recruit Jordan Clark launched a goal from outside 50 to add to West Coast’s pain.
The Eagles went into the quarter-time huddle trailing 1.3 (9) to 6.3 (39), but injuries were the main story.
A rare highlight for the Eagles came midway through the second quarter, when Willie Rioli, after a 904-day absence from AFL matches, roved the ball brilliantly in the forward line and kicked a goal, which saw virtually the entire team come to congratulate him .
It was a rare moment of respite for the Eagles however, with the Dockers ruthlessly dismantling the Eagles defense consistently to storm to 10 goals midway through the term.
“West Coast’s backline is looking a bit dumbfounded at the moment,” Schofield said.
“My best guess is that layer of defense up in the midfield when that turnover happens … they’re not switching on quick enough, they’re not reacting to the play before it happens and then Fremantle are that on and highly tuned that it’s too late to stop.”
Clark’s run continued to help generate scores for the Dockers, with his performance impressing Schofield.
“Jordan Clark is playing at half-back but he’s going to be your offensive backman,” he said.
“Himself and Hayden Young are of a similar ilk, run and carry and use the footy, a bit more offensive. You’ve got your lockdown defenders too… I really like it.”
They continued to pile on the pain as the injury-ravaged Eagles continued to fall further behind.
By half-time, the score was 13.6 (84) to 3.4 (22) in favor of the Dockers.
Elliot Yeo could be seen with his lower leg iced and limping off the ground at half-time, adding even more pain to the Eagles’ list.
The Dockers continued to assert dominance over the Eagles for much of the third term, piling on the goals.
With the game decided, the Eagles looked to minimize the damage from that point onward, with forward Josh Kennedy taken off after completing his required minutes.
Fremantle’s powerful counterattacking continued, with the final score 22.9 (141) to 6.8 (44) and a “disastrous” night of injury blows for the Eagles.
3) EAGLES’ INJURIES WOES WORSEN
If there was one team in the competition that couldn’t afford any more injuries, it was the Eagles.
Dom Sheet went down in the opening moments of the match, Campbell Chesser followed not long after and then Elliot Yeo was seen limping off the ground at half-time.
None of the trio would return to the ground and it looks bleak at best for all three.
It’s a nasty blow to a side that is already without a number of its starting 22 and one that has got to cast supreme doubt on the side’s ability to even be competitive in the opening few rounds of the season.
Not many are predicting the Eagles to pose a premiership threat this year, but the key challenge facing Adam Simpson may now be minimizing the damage as much as possible as he waits for the cavalry to arrive.
As Adam Papalia said at the end of the match, it was a “disastrous” night for the Eagles.
2) DOCKERS’ NEW MOVE
Fremantle’s acquisition of Jordan Clark suggests a more attacking style of football from the Dockers in 2022 and they delivered on that.
Even without Nat Fyfe and Michael Walters, the Dockers’ engine room looked imposing and transition through the ground was fantastic.
That movement allowed for greater opportunities than Fremantle’s forwards usually enjoy – Michael Frederick looked damaging, kicking five goals as he hit the contests hard.
Of key interest in Schofield was the stop-start movement at times from the Dockers as they spread the ground and maneuvered the Eagles into position before pouncing.
“This is a part of their game plan, make no mistake. That short chip play is now a big part of Fremantle’s game plan,” Schofield said.
“It doesn’t happen like this often with every other kick from a turnover like that. That’s not coincidence, it’s part of their game plan and we should look to see Fremantle mark, kick the ball a lot this year.
“They’ve had good light and shade though. They’ve had moments where they’ve burst the game open. If they can do both ways it makes them an incredibly dangerous footy side.”
1) CLARK’S SOLID DEBUT
Jordan Clark’s future was one that was debated heavily throughout the trade period, but the Dockers have to be happy with picking him up after what he displayed on Friday night.
Starved of senior opportunity at Geelong, Clark looked right at home in Dockers colours, repeatedly streaming out of defense to provide link-up play and create scoring chains.
It was a great start to what will hopefully be a watershed year for Clark, where he can fulfill the promise he has shown in glimpses during his time at Geelong.
The Dockers look poised to play a more offensive style of game in 2022 and Clark appears as central to that method as any.
Eagles squad: 2. Jake Waterman, 3. Andrew Gaff, 4. Dom Sheed, 6. Elliot Yeo, 7. Zac Langdon, 8. Jack Redden, 9. Nic Naitanui, 11. Tim Kelly, 17. Josh Kennedy, 18. Campbell Chesser, 19. Brady Hough, 20. Jeremy McGovern, 21. Jack Petruccelle, 22. Isiah Winder, 23. Alex Witherden, 24. Xavier O’Neill, 25. Shannon Hurn, 29. Luke Foley, 30. Jackson Nelson, 31. Jamaine Jones, 32. Bailey Williams, 33. Tom Blechynden*, 35. Josh Rotham, 36. Connor West, 37. Tom Barrass, 38. Toby McQuilkin*, 40. Callum Jamieson, 41. Hugh Dixon*, 42. Harry Edwards, 43. Tyler Keitel*, 44. Willie Rioli (* = train-on players)
Dockers squad: 2. Griffin Logue, 3. Caleb Serong, 5. Lachlan Schulz, 6. Jordan Clark, 8. Andrew Brayshaw, 9. Blake Acres, 12. Mitchell Crowden, 14. Nathan Wilson, 15. Ethan Hughes, 17. Will Brodie, 19. Connor Blakely, 20. Matt Taberner, 22. Lloyd Meek, 23. Liam Henry, 25. Alex Pearce, 26. Hayden Young, 27. Heath Chapman, 30. Nathan O’Driscoll, 32. Minairo Frederick, 33. Travis Colyer, 34. Joel Western, 36. Brennan Cox, 37. Rory Lobb, 39. Sam Switkowski, 41. Bailey Banfield
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