The West

Pav the killer as Eagles monstered
Pav the killer as Eagles monstered

When Andre Agassi lost his first grand slam final to a white-hot Pete Sampras at Flushing Meadow way back in the 1990s, he called the straight-sets thrashing a "good, old-fashioned mugging".

West Coast woke up yesterday knowing what Agassi meant and how he felt.

On the long, narrow alley that is Patersons Stadium on Saturday afternoon, the Eagles were set upon, swarmed over, picked off and sliced up by Fremantle.

Flat-out monstered by the leader of the pack, Matthew Pavlich, in particular.

Set upon in the ruck where Jonathon Griffin and Kepler Bradley bodied, bustled and bumped trump cards Dean Cox and Nic Naitanui off their game.

Swarmed on at ground level where midfielders David Mundy, Michael Barlow, Nat Fyfe, Clancee Pearce and Tendai Mzungu enforced a brutal regime of contested ball.

Not for the first time in recent weeks, the Eagles got clubbed in the contested possession count, 162-123.

Of the Eagles' engine room only Daniel Kerr emerged with his pride intact, but even his impact was limited.

Kerr won 21 of his 36 touches in contests but handballed 21 times as his influence was stymied. The handballs were picked off by Fremantle's defensive mechanisms.

Rebounder Shannon Hurn was blunted by Matt de Boer, clearance specialist Luke Shuey was the unexpected tagging target of Ryan Crowley. Even Beau Waters was made to be accountable for Michael Walters.

And then they were sliced up by a kicking game plan as Mundy, Barlow, Pearce, Stephen Hill and rebounders Michael Johnson, Lee Spurr, Garrick Ibbotson and Paul Duffield repeatedly poked holes in the Eagles' much-feared forward press, exposing Eric Mackenzie one-on-one against Pavlich in a hectare of space inside Fremantle's attacking 50.

What Pavlich didn't swallow whole, Hayden Ballantyne and Walters mopped up.

The final 17.11 (113) to 6.12 (48) win was Fremantle's biggest in a western derby. Pavlich's Ross Glendinning Medal effort will rate among the club's finest individual performances. His eight goals were the most by any Docker in a derby.

But this was much more than just another stellar display from Pavlich. Two very different tales unfolded. One was Fremantle's growing momentum since they had been played to a standstill by the Eagles in round nine and faced a storm of criticism.

The Dockers translated their best two quarters of football for the season in the first half against cellar dwellers Port Adelaide the previous round into four sustained quarters against the Eagles.

Ross Lyon might have commanded respect from his players from the time he walked in the door last year and demanded higher standards, but he has their full attention now. To use some Lyon jargon - a complete "buy-in" to the method.

Five wins in a row will do that for you and the Dockers are fairly rattling along now.

The other story is that of the Eagles. Beaten up by injury and hampered by a misfiring midfield, they have slowed to a walk. Since a 6-0 start to the year, they have gone 6-6 in their past dozen matches with three of the four games ahead of them set to be severe tests.

This has not been a sudden collapse, but a gradual decline which started with results on the road tapering off and has now started to bite hard at Patersons Stadium with Sydney and now Fremantle dishing out hidings.

The first term on Saturday was an arm wrestle, but one that Fremantle won, outscoring the Eagles four goals to one.

The second quarter was one of Fremantle dominance that was only half translated on to the scoreboard. The Eagles were held goalless, but Fremantle kicked just three - and one of them came from Pavlich in the final minute.

But the floodgates opened in the third term when West Coast, in their bid to add to a paltry first-half goal and bridge a five-goal gap, set about being more offensive through the midfield.

But while they scored, they got opened up at the other end. Few players are blessed with Pavlich's size, skill, athleticism and footy smarts and, now back as a power forward, he has, if anything, improved his work body-on-body.

Mackenzie was the victim. Three of Pavlich's first four goals were the result of great kicks and expert body positioning from the champ.

There was no Darren Glass as third man to the rescue.

Mackenzie, like Hawthorn's Ryan Schoenmakers against Geelong's Tom Hawkins on Friday night, found himself isolated on a quality power forward.

Ominously, Hawkins will probably be Mackenzie's opponent on Friday, but at least Glass will be back to lend a hand and a strong body to the contest.

By the time the Eagles' dam wall broke late in the third term, Pavlich was delivering a master class in getting goal side of his opponent and then nailing the shot.

He kicked three goals for the term, which was matched by Ballantyne, who added a couple of forward pocket party tricks as Fremantle took a 58-point stranglehold on the match.

When Pavlich climbed over a pack early in the last term to take a towering mark and goal from 40m, the lead was more than 10 goals and his grip on a third Glendinning Medal was unassailable.

But the depth in his support cast was undeniable.

Fyfe shrugged off the early attention of Scott Selwood to run up 28 possessions, 22 of them in contests. Barlow played one of his best games since breaking a leg two years ago, his 27 possessions including three goal assists. Mundy was at his decisive best, with seven clearances, a goal and six inside 50s punctuating his 27 touches.

The list stretched from end to end and side to side for Freo, not least of all their ruck of Griffin and Bradley, who ensured the Eagles had no aerial dominance.

West Coast could claim only Kerr, Waters, hard-running Andrew Gaff and defender Will Schofield as substantial contributors.

Fremantle's main concern is the match review panel. Pavlich will be scrutinised for a swinging arm in a third-quarter positioning wrestle with Mitch Brown that left the Eagle dazed for a few seconds.

Luke McPharlin collected Jack Darling front-on but appeared to miss his head, while de Boer is also probably tribunal bound after a sloppy challenge on a dodging Kerr resulted in an extended foot collecting the experienced Eagle near the groin.

The West Australian

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