The West Coast Eagles have extended their record RAC Derby winning streak to 11 victories after a ferocious and committed performance behind closed doors at Optus Stadium on Sunday.
Following a disappointing effort in Geelong, the undermanned Eagles needed to respond and produced arguably the most consistent effort across four quarters for the season to run out dominant 20.12 (132) to 11.7 (73) victors.
Questions were raised whether a long injury list to key players would prove to be a tipping point ahead of RAC Derby No.52 – especially with gun defensive trio Jeremy McGovern, Tom Barrass and Shannon Hurn sidelined, plus midfield stars Elliot Yeo and Luke Shuey.
But West Coast withstood an early Fremantle barrage before putting the foot down in an entertaining match.
The Eagles piled on 13 goals to seven in the decisive middle terms after taking a two-point lead into quarter-time, turning the heat up around the contest, which was played before empty stands following a State government directive.
The midfield battle was always going to prove decisive and Glendinning-Allan medallist Tim Kelly (42 disposals, 23 contested, 14 clearances), Dom Sheed (30 disposals), Andrew Gaff (35, one goal), Jack Redden (29) and Nic Naitanui were immense, getting on top against one of the in-form engine rooms in the competition.
Big men Josh Kennedy (four goals), Jack Darling and versatile mid-sized forward Jake Waterman (three goals apiece), capitalised on the opportunities as West Coast ensured enough supply to a threatening attack (58-47 inside 50s).
Meanwhile, the fleet of smalls Jamaine Jones, Jamie Cripps (two each), Zac Langdon and Jack Petruccelle (one) also contributed strongly, applying intense ground-level pressure and threat around goals.
There were highlights galore but most pleasing for coach Simpson would have been the even effort across the board after an uncharacteristic display against the Cats.
The victory lifts the Eagles to 4-3 on the win-loss ledger and back into the top eight on percentage at the Dockers’ expense following a much-needed percentage-boosting triumph.
West Coast's advantage in RAC Derby clashes now stands at 32-20 overall.
West Coast 4.2 11.4 17.8 20.12 (132)
Fremantle 4.0 9.3 11.5 11.7 (73)
West Coast Kennedy 4, Waterman, Darling 3, Cripps, Jones, Brander 2, Langdon, Gaff, Petruccelle, Vardy
Fremantle Taberner 3, Lobb 2, Serong, Mundy, Walters, Frederick, Colyer, Watson
West Coast Kelly, Darling, Gaff, Redden, Kennedy, Rotham, Waterman
Fremantle Mundy, Brayshaw, Taberner, Fyfe, Serong, Aish
West Coast Nil
Fremantle Hughes (shoulder)