There’s a novel’s worth of fierce history across almost 30 years of Western Derbies and that’ll be re-ignited on Saturday night at Optus Stadium when West Coast take on Fremantle for the 57th time.
Finals are out of the equation for both sides, so the 57th edition will be all about crosstown bragging rights (unless you’re an Eagles supporter desperate for the no.1 draft pick, AKA Harley Reid, and you actually don’t want to win!).
Memorably back in Round 21 of the 2000 season, in similar circumstances to this Saturday night with
both sides destined to miss the top eight, the notorious Demolition Derby occurred with mass melees and brawls blotting the occasion which will forever go down in footy folklore.
But the relatively low stakes got us thinking beyond the Western Derby controversies and longing for some of the past glories, such as tight finishes or stand-out individual performances. Freo fans will look back at Paul Hasleby as a derby legend, winning the game’s Glendinning-Allan medal for best afield a record four times, while West Coast’s Chris Judd won it three times in a row from 2005 to 2006, albeit the latter didn’t feel warranted according to booing Dockers fans.
So ahead of Saturday’s clash, we’ve compiled a list of our top seven Western Derby individual performances.
Brett Heady, Round 7 1995
West Coast 23.13 (151) def Fremantle 9.12 (66)
There’s no place better to start this list than the highly anticipated first-ever derby back on May 14 1995, when 40,356 fans packed into Subiaco Oval. For all the excitement around the historic contest, the match was effectively over by half-time, with Brett Heady playing a key part in that. The Eagles half-forward booted two goals in the first term, setting up another for Tony Evans before taking a spectacular pack mark over teammate Craig Turley as West Coast blew away their little sibling, leading by 44 points at half-time.
Heady finished the game with five goals (he could’ve had more, kicking 5.3) from 19 disposals and 12 marks to win the inaugural Glendinning-Allan medal (known then as the Ross Glendinning medal) for best on ground. He ensured his place in derby history by winning the medal again in the second edition between the sides later that season too after another five-goal haul.
Tony Modra, Round 16 1999
West Coast 11.6 (72) def by Fremantle 17.17 (119)
The Eagles had won the first nine Western Derbies, reinforcing their claim to be WA’s top club. But in 1999, the Dockers landed a big fish in the off-season with the recruitment from Adelaide of 1997 Coleman Medal winner Tony Modra – who was known for spectacular marks and goals. The full forward delivered on that hype in the second derby of his first year at Freo, booting six goals as the Dockers ended West Coast’s nine-game winning run with a 47-point victory.
Modra’s highlight, though, was a freakish goal 35m out from deep in the pocket late in the third quarter, paddling the ball along the boundary line before gathering it and nailing a drop punt under pressure from Ashley McIntosh. Modra thumped the turf repetitively with both hands in an iconic celebration and moment in derby history.
Paul Hasleby, Round 6 2006
Fremantle 12.16 (88) def West Coast 12.11 (83)
It’s hard to compile a list like this without four-time Glendinning-Allan medalist Hasleby, but this game is actually one where he didn’t actually get awarded that gong. Instead, it was Hasleby who stepped up to slot the match-winning goal from a 45m set shot with 41 seconds to go in an absolute thriller. For context, the Eagles had finished 2005 as beaten grand finalists and came into this round six derby with an unbeaten start to the 2006 season, while the Dockers were 3-2. There was recent history with Hasleby, who was the Eagles’ nemesis having won the medal for best afield in derbies in 2002, 2003 and 2004.
The Dockers onballer hadn’t been the best player on the park this time out, finishing with 23 disposals with six marks. But with the game on the line in the final two minutes and Freo trailing by one point, he found space to take a mark 40m out from Peter Bell’s pass. If there was one player Fremantle could trust with the set shot, it was their derby specialist Hasleby. He obliged.
For the record, Judd won the Glendinning-Allan medal, becoming the only player ever to win that award on a losing side.
Scott Cummings, Round 6 2000
West Coast 28.10 (178) def Fremantle 9.7 (61)
Before the 2000 Demolition Derby, there was an actual demolition led by Eagles full-forward Scott Cummings who bagged a massive 10 goals in a record 117-point victory. With silver service from midfielder Ben Cousins feeding the bal to lead-up spearhead Cummings, the 1999 Coleman Medal winner took eight marks, kicking 10.2 from 12 kicks for the game. Freo simply couldn’t find a match-up for him, trying both Leigh Brown and James Clement without success.
Cummings’ 10-goal haul remains to this day the most goals kicked by an individual in a Western Derby, with Matthew Pavlich booting eight in 2012 and Josh Kennedy managing seven in 2016. The enigmatic Clive Waterhouse kicked seven in the 2000 Demolition Derby too.
Matthew Pavlich, Round 19 2012
Fremantle 17.11 (113) def West Coast 6.12 (48)
Pavlich is a three-time Glendinning-Allan medal winner and has the most goals in Western Derby history with 61 from 34 games, but his crowning derby moment was the 2012 clash where his eight-goal haul led the Dockers to a 65-point victory (Freo’s biggest ever derby win). Pavlich was the unanimous medal winner for best afield, with 24 disposals including 15 contested possessions and nine marks, six coming inside 50. With Eagles full-back Darren Glass suspended, West Coast tried both Mitch Brown and Eric MacKenzie on him with no success with Pavlich simply unstoppable.
The win made it five straight victories for Freo, on their road to clinching a top-eight spot, knocking off Geelong in an elimination final in the MCG, where Pav kicked six, before going down to Adelaide in the semi-finals.
Josh Kennedy, Round 20 2016
Fremantle 9.10 (64) def by West Coast 17.8 (110)
While Pavlich holds the record for the most goals in Western Derby history, Eagles legend Josh Kennedy ended his career not far behind, with 53 from 20 games. Kennedy claimed the first of three Glendinning-Allan medals in his career in 2016, putting through seven goals when his side needed him. With the two sides at opposite ends of the ladder, Fremantle threatened an upset early, leading by 15 points in the second quarter before JK took over. Kennedy kicked three goals in the third quarter alone to help the Eagles pull clear, leading by five goals at the final change.
Kennedy, who went on to win the Coleman Medal that year, capped his best afield display with his seventh goal with five minutes remaining after getting in behind the Freo’s defence and marking 15m out for a simple set shot.
Caleb Serong, Round 22 2021
Fremantle 12.7 (79) def West Coast 9.10 (64)
This Western Derby marked the changing of the guard, with West Coast’s 11-game derby winning streak ended with Fremantle winning by 15 points. But it was also a changing of the guard in the sense that Freo’s next wave of talent were emerging, headlined by Caleb Serong who snagged the Goal of the Year in this game. Serong had 31 disposals – well shy of the Western Derby record held by Matt Rosa (43 in 2012) followed by Lachie Neale (42 in 2015) – but there was more to it, with six clearances, five tackles and two goals, including that crazy shot with the game on the line.
With Fremantle up by six points with 11 minutes left in the final term, the bandaged Docker willed himself under pressure from Dom Sheed in a tiring sequence. Serong had fallen to the ground before recovering his feet and putting through the impossible with a brilliant banana from the boundary. Commentator Anthony Hudson’s call “Serong, so right” is another for derby folklore.
Eagles fans, however, will lament that the ball may have been out of bounds in the lead-up to the
Western Derby 57 hits Optus Stadium Saturday 12 August at 6.10pm, tickets are sold out.
Image Credit: AFL Photos