ARE Dockers fans getting a little nervous and Eagles fans a little cocky?
Despite bolting away at the beginning of the season and finishing with their first-ever minor premiership (gaining a prized bit of silverware to rattle around the trophy cabinet along the way), it seems Freo fans haven’t quite got the swagger of their latte-sipping northern neighbours.
In an exclusive poll of Perth Voice and Fremantle Herald readers, the Eagles scored a massive 94 per cent of the vote to knock off North Melbourne in this Saturday’s preliminary final.
But just 64 per cent of readers liked the Dockers’ chances against Hawthorn, following the latter’s demolition of the Adelaide Crows at the MCG in last week’s semi-final. One Freo fan admitted to being “terrified” by the rampant Hawks, given they tore his team apart by 72 points in round 15.
The Voice’s southern spies also reckon the port city is a slightly paler shade of “purple haze” compared to the 2013 finals campaign—with punters perhaps holding onto the bunting for a big splash if there’s a boil-over in Friday night’s clash.
Bookies are solidly on Hawthorn’s side, but a minor premiership’s nothing to sneeze at and ruckman Aaron Sandilands is in scintillating form—detractors who reckon he’s over-the-hill and not enough of an all-rounder forget he’s been running neck-and-neck with Todd Goldstein to set a new hitout benchmark for the AFL. And the pair hasn’t just scratched past Gary Dempsey’s old record of 952; they’ve gone to a whole new level—like running the 100 metres in 8. something seconds. And there’s still a game (or two) to go.
Speaking of Goldstein, the Kangaroo might just be the man to spoil the Eagles’ party. When the two teams met in round 10, he dominated Nic Naitanui, nearly notching up 50 hitouts while keeping his opponent to just 30—one of his lowest for the season. Goldstein topped off a great day and a great win for North with a goal.
Goldstein was also considered such a standout this year, that he was—unusually—the only ruckman the All Australian selectors bothered with when they announced their pick this week.
But since that clash the Eagles have been building momentum with some monster wins, thrashing the Doggies 162-85, pounding Adelaide 126-69, demoralising St Kilda 125-30 and even teaching the Hawks a lesson with a 96-64 win in the first final just two weeks ago. They’re still the bookies favourite to take out the flag, but only just.
The Dockers, on the other hand, have been up and down like the tide in Fremantle harbour, dropping to West Coast and North Melbourne, bounding back for a win against lowly Melbourne, copping a flogging from Port Adelaide before holding off Sydney in a thrilling first final.
But after all this, what are the chances of Sandgropers taking over the G for its first derby grand final? Who knows: as one hopeful Dockers punter put it: “it just depends on who turns up to play on the day.”