The Spy vs Spy games between Fremantle and West Coast have well and truly begun heading into Sunday’s western derby, and the Dockers hope some hired muscle will help them even up the ledger.
In a bid to keep the prying eyes of West Coast’s scouts out in the cold, the Dockers hired a security guard to man the gates at Fremantle Oval for Friday’s closed training session.
The unusual move adds further drama to a derby that will play a major role in shaping the premiership fortunes of both sides.
Consecutive defeats have left Fremantle’s premiership hopes on shaky ground, especially with crunch games against West Coast, Port Adelaide (away) and Geelong (home) over the next three weeks.
West Coast sat on top of the table after three rounds, but a three-game losing streak has left them clinging to seventh spot.
Fremantle Oval doubles as a public car park, making it easier for West Coast to gain useful insight into the Dockers’ tactics and personnel issues.
In contrast, West Coast train at Patersons Stadium, which can lock out any unwanted visitors.
“It’s probably just a bit of theatre because it’s a derby,” Fremantle coach Ross Lyon said when asked about the club’s new security measures.
“It’s really difficult here to have closed sessions. It’s a pretty hard ground to lock down.
“We’re just trying to get some equality. They can lock us out of Patersons Stadium – unfair advantage.
“Geppy (West Coast scout Tim Gepp) was here on his bicycle the other day. It’s a good ride down from (Subiaco).
“What happens is opposition scouts tend to turn up and, when you identify them, you are in a position where you can say, ‘Look, we will respect your environment’, and we can then ask them to leave.
“They will have to get the ladder out and be on the hill.”
A West Coast spokesperson said the Eagles had not made any changes to the way they manned closed training sessions this week.
The Dockers suffered a massive blow on Friday when star midfielder Stephen Hill was ruled out due to a hamstring injury.
His loss is set to be offset by the return of ball magnet Michael Barlow, who has overcome the knee injury he suffered in round two.
Fellow midfielder Nat Fyfe is also set to play despite being grounded by a bug earlier in the week, while goalsneak Hayden Ballantyne is back in the fold after serving his one-week ban.
Barlow is a proven performer in the derbies, with the Victorian winning the Ross Glendinning medal as best afield in both matches against West Coast last year.
West Coast have been bolstered by the return of captain Darren Glass from suspension and long-kicking defender Shannon Hurn from a knee injury.