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Round 17: Talking points

Rory Coleman-Heard, AFL.com.au  July 16, 2017 6:45 PM

Rd 17 highlights v Freo The Dockers and Eagles clash in round 17
AFL 2017 Round 17 - Fremantle v West Coast

Jeremy McGovern dominated in defence against the Dockers

1. Kennedy slots in seamlessly
After straining his calf against the Giants in round 10, West Coast was optimistic spearhead Josh Kennedy would only spend three weeks and two matches on the sidelines, given the Eagles had their bye in round 12. Seven weeks and six matches later, Kennedy’s return comes with his team desperately searching for impetus having fallen off the pace in his absence. Such was his form prior to injury, the 29-year-old started that match just 13 goals shy of Coleman Medal leader Lance Franklin. On Sunday, Kennedy had his first goal within five minutes and looked threatening from limited opportunities. The 29-year-old big man was quick of the mark, showed strong hands and kicked well for goal, finishing with six marks, 10 disposals and three goals in a promising return. Pleasingly, Jack Darling continued his good form with seven marks (four contested) and two goals after building strong form in his teammate’s absence. 

2. McGovern back where he belongs
Jeremy McGovern's role inside forward 50 was crucial to the Eagles staying competitive in Josh Kennedy’s absence, but his return to centre-half back reminded us where the burly utility is best suited. Initially faced with defensive pressure from second-gamer Ryan Nyhuis, McGovern commanded space from centre-half back and read the ball better than his opponents. Despite the Dockers’ manic forward pressure, West Coast was noticeably more composed out of defence as the key defender shifted his troops and combined well with Ross Glendinning medallist Shannon Hurn to exit defensive 50. The Eagles' ball movement across half back – alongside Fremantle’s woeful goalkicking – proved critical in the win and Gov's part in generating run shouldn’t be ignored.

3. Fremantle's horrendous goalkicking
The Dockers will be kicking themselves after one of the worst displays in front of goal this season. With momentum seemingly in their favour after a forgettable opening quarter, Freo spurned countless gettable chances in front of goal time after time, both from set shots and in open play. Even Brad Hill – usually smooth with ball in hand – sprayed three opportunities running unattended into goal from 35m. Ross Lyon's men banked 0.3 in the first, 2.5 in the second, 1.5 in the third and 2.1 in the fourth. To three-quarter time the Dockers had smashed West Coast for inside 50s (47-31). But the Eagles’ ability to hit short targets and convert simple chances proved too much in the end. Fremantle will view this match as a missed opportunity, while the Eagles slot back inside the top eight.

4. Fyfe picks up where he left off
Coming off his best game of the season last week, all eyes were on Nat Fyfe to put on a show against the Dockers' cross-town rivals. In round six, the Freo skipper had his colours lowered by Elliot Yeo, who was omitted late this time around with a lower leg complaint. The show continued on Sunday as Fyfe kicked things off with 13 disposals, 10 contested possessions and five clearances in the first term alone. As he did against the Kangaroos, Fyfe showed explosive strength out of stoppages and made his teammates look better – a performance benchmark set by Ross Lyon in recent weeks. The superstar midfielder finished second in the Ross Glendinning Medal count, having amassed 30 disposals (19 contested), four marks (three contested), eight clearances and three score assists. 

5. A scrappy send off for Subiaco derbies
The 46th and final derby at Subiaco Oval may not live long in the memory of WA footy fans. Much like round six, the match was blown open by quarter time as West Coast established what proved to be an unassailable 22-point lead. The 38,722-strong crowd groaned with frustration watching the home side repeatedly miss easy targets, fumble marks and tease – but not threaten – the Eagles' buffer. Ross Glendenning medallist Hurn was inspirational for West Coast, amassing 34 disposals and 14 marks as his team's talisman off half-back, while young midfielder Liam Duggan (31 disposals, 11 marks) played the best game of his career. Fyfe and Lachie Neale were the Dockers' best, but West Coast's superior ball skills proved the difference as the Eagles waltzed to their 26th derby victory.