SOUTH Fremantle has continued its dominance over East Fremantle but the gap closed significantly with the Bulldogs prevailing in a bruising WA Day Foundation Derby by 16 points at New Choice Homes Park on the public holiday Monday.
It consistently is the standout day on the WA football calendar year after year, and after it was forced to be missed in 2020 thanks to COVID-19, both clubs and their supporters embraced its return on Monday with a crowd of around 6000 people packing into Shark Park.
They witness a vastly more competitive derby than they have seen in a long time with South Fremantle having won the past 10 by an average of 75.9 points.
The start to the game looked like following a similar path with South Fremantle piling on four goals in the opening 17 minutes, but it was a tight contest from there before the Bulldogs ran out winners 11.8 (74) to 8.10 (58) winners for their 11th straight derby victory.
To add injury to insult, the Sharks were reduced to two rotations on the bench for much of the second half, after injuries to defender Cody Leggett (hamstring) and forward Dillon O’Reilly (finger).
South Fremantle also lost emerging defender Kye Barker in the opening minutes after he suffered a concussion and was ruled out in the first quarter.
Zac Strom was sensational for the visitors, using his size and athleticism to gather 26 disposals and eight marks playing on the wing.
Skipper Dylan Main was also excellent for the Bulldogs with a 30-disposal game, while Mason Shaw and Cody Ninyette were constant threats up forward, kicking four goals each.
For the Sharks, Cam Eardley did a power of work in the midfield to gather 31 disposals, while former Fremantle Docker Hugh Dixon was terrific as a key forward, playing with a commanding presence to take nine marks and kick three goals.
The Bulldogs burst out of the gates, playing the game in their front half and slamming on the first four goals to open up a 26-point lead inside 20 minutes.
But the Sharks would steady courtesy of some improved clearance work and would kick the next three majors before quarter-time to reduce the margin to just six points at the first change.
Tensions threatened to boil over in a fiery second term, with Sandover Medallist Haiden Schloithe being put down off the ball on two occasions and subjected to heavy attention from Sharks tagger Morgan Davies.
On the scoreboard, the Bulldogs would extend their lead out to 11 points at the long break, with Ninyette’s three first half goals proving crucial.
But after a see-sawing first half, the Bulldogs would gain the ascendency in the premiership quarter, booting four goals to none for the term to open up a 36-point lead at three quarter-time and put the result seemingly beyond doubt.
To their credit, the undermanned Sharks would fight back in the last, kicking four goals to one but it would prove to be too little too late, as the Bulldogs secured bragging rights once again over their cross town rivals.
SHARKS GO AFTER SCHLOITHE IN PHYSICAL DERBY
In a hotly contested Fremantle derby, Sandover Medallist Haiden Schloithe seemed to be the target of much of the East Fremantle attention, with the Bulldogs star being made to earn every one of his possessions under a heavy tag from Shark Morgan Davies. Despite being battered from pillar to post, Schloithe worked his way through the attention to pick up 17 disposals and nine inside 50s to be a solid contributor in his sides win. Overall, it was a ferocious contest with plenty of players putting their bodies on the line for both sides and plenty of niggle, with no love lost between the arch-rivals.
ENGROSSING BATTLE BETWEEN BIG MEN
The clash between the Sharks and Bulldogs saw a fascinating battle transpire in the ruck between two of the competition's better ruckmen in Brock Higgins and Luke Strnadica. The East Fremantle big man started well using his athleticism to spread from the contest and gather seven first quarter disposals. But the longer the game went on, the more Higgins began to use his physical frame to impose himself on the match and give his midfielders first use. Higgins finished the match with 39 hit outs and 18 disposals to edge the duel against Strnadica, who ended with 21 hit outs and 13 disposals.
OPTUS WAFL PREMIERSHIP SEASON – ROUND 9
EAST FREMANTLE 3.2 4.6 4.7 8.10 (58)
SOUTH FREMANTLE 4.2 6.5 10.7 11.8 (74)
EAST FREMANTLE: Goals – Bockman, Dixon 3; Marsh, Lester-Smith.
Best – Eardley, Jansen, Dixon, Jupp, Baskerville, Bockman, Tassone.
SOUTH FREMANTLE: Goals – Ninyette, Shaw 4; Dragovich, Main, Salmeri.
Best – Strom, Higgins, Main, Ninyette, Pearson, Doney, Shaw, Schloithe.