1. With the Eagles' defensive zone going into battle in the absence of any of Jeremy McGovern, Tom Barrass and Shannon Hurn for the first time since 2014, it was an inexperienced back seven. But they stood up to the challenge especially after half-time, when they conceded just two goals. Brad Sheppard led the group well, while Oscar Allen and Josh Rotham also stood tall. Allen was the primary match-up for Matt Taberner in the second half and kept him goalless, after he had kicked three to the main break. Also, Harry Edwards grew into the game and finished with eight marks as well as a number of strong spoils.
2. When the Eagles gained momentum in the middle of the second quarter there were important moments for some of the team’s emerging players. Fremantle held a 12-point advantage in the middle stages of the term, but players like Jake Waterman, Jarrod Brander and Zac Landon (who kicked his first goal for the club) were all involved as the Eagles wrested back control and took a two-goal advantage into half-time. As always, key forwards Josh Kennedy and Jack Darling were also ubiquitous in that game-breaking period.
3. There were some nervous moments in the Eagles camp when ruckman-forward Nathan Vardy ventured to the rooms in the middle stages of the first term for a medical assessment. Already a little light for tall personnel, Vardy provides critical support for Nic Naitanui. After a favourable assessment, Vardy resumed and was a strong contributor. In that period in the second term (as mentioned in #2), Vardy was central. From a point kick-in, he marked at centre half-back, and then hit Brander with a lateral kick to the wing. Brander did not break stride, continued to run and then hit up Waterman in the pocket. His conversion reduced the margin to a goal.
4. As always there was much emphasis placed on the midfield battle. And the assessment from most pundits going in was that Fremantle looked to have the edge in that area. But Tim Kelly, Andrew Gaff, Jack Redden and Dom Sheed – in unison with Naitanui – were having none of that. They had 136 possessions between them and were instrumental in setting up the game in the second and third terms, easing pressure off the defensive contingent and providing myriad scoring opportunities for the forwards.
5. Improvement in teams generally comes from the second-tier players and in that respect there were some important performances for the Eagles. Small forward/midfielder Jamaine Jones played his best game for the club with a 19 possession, two-goal game. He was lively through the midfield and generally used the ball well. His performance, along with Brander, especially after half-time, Langdon and Edwards were some of the most exciting elements in the game. The challenge for those players is to consistently perform at the elite level.