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Dublin: 7 °C Tuesday 10 December, 2019
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View from Oz: the west's awake on derby day

Our man in Australia, Neil Sherwin, was front and centre as one Australia’s biggest local rivalries was played out this weekend.

Dean Cox and Nic Natanui of the West Coast Eagles battle for possession in the 33rd Western Derby.
Dean Cox and Nic Natanui of the West Coast Eagles battle for possession in the 33rd Western Derby.
Image: Neil Sherwin

AFL

LOCAL RIVALRIES ARE prevalent in every sport with AFL no different.

The Western Australia version is every bit as passionate as any of the others in the league with no love lost between the West Coast Eagles and Fremantle Dockers, and I was lucky enough to be able to get along to Paterson’s Stadium in Perth yesterday for the latest instalment.

Tickets for the derby are like gold-dust with the ground holding just over 40,000 spectators. There are plans afoot to construct a new larger stadium but when that will happen is anyone’s guess (WA is referred to as ‘Wait Awhile’ for a reason).

Until then, the Average Joe has to fight it out with thousands of others for the few general admission tickets that go on sale via Ticketmaster in the run up to the game.

The sides meet twice every season and this particular game saw West Coast as the home side. Even still there was a strong contingent of purple clad Dockers, most of whom seemed to be sat in my section behind the goal. Fremantle were seen by most as favourites having won the last seven derbies while West Coast are in the middle of a rebuilding phase coming off the back of their worst season ever where they finished bottom of the ladder for the first time.

However it was the Eagles who came out of the blocks quickly and, despite losing star veterans Daniel Kerr and Andrew Embley to injuries sustained in the warm up, booted the first two goals through Josh Kennedy and 18 year old rookie Jack Darling. At quarter time they led 25-13.

Fremantle skipper Matthew Pavlich tried to kick start his side with a superb goal from close to the boundary on the right hand side but all the momentum was with West Coast as Dean Cox, Mark Nicoski and Chris Masten all added their names to scoresheet to stretch the lead to 37 points at the half.

Fremantle needed something special to try mount a comeback and they got it when 19 year old Nat Fyfe kicked a miracle goal from the left hand side. The gap closed in to 28 points heading into the final quarter and was reduced by a further seven points but an energetic run and goal by Nic Natanui gave the Eagles enough breathing space to leave the final score 95-63 to end the run of defeats.

Eagles midfielder Matthew Priddis picked up the Ross Glendenning medal for the best player on the ground as the vast majority went home happy knowing that work on Monday morning would be a lot more bearable with restored bragging rights.

In the round’s other games, Geelong inflicted Collingwood’s first defeat of the season on Friday night, while Sydney, North Melbourne, Adelaide, Essendon, Hawthorn and Western Bulldogs.

Super Rugby

The Western Force, Sharks and Waratahs all had byes in Round 13 of the Super Rugby season. The weekend’s most exciting came took place at Waikato Stadium in New Zealand as the Chiefs came from 20-3 down to beat the Stormers 30-23.

The game saw one of the best individual tries you will see (below) as Gio Aplon picked up the ball in own half to outpace the entire Chiefs defence to touch down having run diagonally from left to right. The comeback was a more than fitting way to celebrate the 100th appearance of Chiefs skipper Mils Muliaina.

There was a huge shock in South Africa as the Cheetahs overcame the Crusaders 33-20. Sias Ebersohn had an outstanding game, helping himself to 22 points which included a try in the 56th minute. The competition’s other form side, the Queensland Reds, enjoyed a great 37-31 win over the Blues at Suncorp Stadium with Quade Cooper again running the show.

Of the other Australian sides in action, the Melbourne Rebels crashed to a 47-10 defeat away to the Blues, while the Brumbies lost out at home to the Lions.

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Neil Sherwin

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