WEST Coast skipper Shannon Hurn is backing Andrew Gaff to block out the boos when the star midfielder steps out in front of more than 45,000 Fremantle fans in Saturday night’s western derby.
Gaff’s off-the-ball punch on Andrew Brayshaw is old news among the players involved, but it still lives on in the minds of Fremantle fans.
Brayshaw and Gaff have already played against each other twice since that incident – the first a pre-season game, and the second being West Coast’s home derby in Round 4.
The pair have publicly and privately made their peace.
But Saturday night’s match will be the first time Gaff will front up for a Fremantle home derby, meaning the bulk of the expected 58,000-strong crowd will be Dockers supporters.
Gaff has already been booed by rival fans this season and has performed well under the extra attention.
Hurn expects that to continue.
“There will probably be a few cheers and a couple of boos going on,” Hurn said.
“But what Gaffy’s been able to do throughout all of this year is play his best football and he can block that out.”
Eagles coach Adam Simpson issued a public apology last month after ruckman Nathan Vardy referenced the punch against Brayshaw when trying to distract Gaff at training.
Brayshaw accepted that apology, and both clubs have moved on.
“We’ve had a chat to Vards and he understands it’s a bit disappointing,” Hurn said.
Hurn doesn’t think his team hold a psychological edge over Fremantle despite being on the verge of equalling a long-standing western derby record.
The Eagles have won eight in a row against Fremantle, and another triumph on Saturday night would equal the derby winning streak that West Coast set at the start of the rivalry.
“Fremantle won six or seven in a row against us (in the past),” Hurn said.
“I don’t think there is that psychological thing against certain teams.
West Coast lead the western derby ledger 29-20.
But while local bragging rights are at stake this weekend, both teams are more concerned about the bigger picture.
West Coast (10-4) are just percentage adrift of second-placed Collingwood, while Fremantle (7-7) are clinging to eighth following two straight losses.
The Dockers could welcome back Rory Lobb from a foot injury this week, while West Coast will be boosted by the return of Jeremy McGovern from suspension.
Eagles defender Tom Barrass (corked calf) could also return, but tagger Mark Hutchings (hamstring) will miss the match.
© AAP 2019