The best way to look at Saturday’s game against Melbourne is to accept the four points and move on.
Adam Simpson admitted that West Coast shouldn’t have won, and many players in the aftermath acknowledged they were outplayed, but the annals of time will show the Eagles somehow manufactured a gritty six-point win.
The Eagles lost on all of the key statistical indicators, and were made to look second rate by a side that was more willing to attack the contest. The rain arrived as the sides ran out, and the Demons looked more at home in the wet conditions, as the likes of Nathan Jones, Jack Viney and Matt Jones showed more interest in winning the contested ball.
West Coast scrounged two goals from limited opportunities to be level at quarter time, and when the rain vanished in the second quarter, the Eagles had control of the game for the first time in the match. A goal to Scott Lycett and a brace to Josh Kennedy, in the space of seven minutes, had West Coast in front by a goal, and order seemingly restored.
But Melbourne wouldn’t wilt, and had secured the lead again by half time, albeit by just two points. It was unjust reward for an inspired effort at a ground they hadn’t won at since 2004. It was more of the same in the third quarter, and when Jeff Garlett broke the deadlock after 16 minutes, the Demons led by 12 points and a major upset seemed on the cards.
West Coast responded with Kennedy’s third, before the sides traded goals for the rest of the quarter. It seemed as though the two teams would enter the final stanza all square, but Sharrod Wellingham gifted the Demons the lead with just seconds remaining, when he found Dean Kent directly in front from a kick out.
The Demons continued to control the ball and control the ball in their forward half, but it was West Coast with the only two goals of the final quarter that secured the vital win. By game’s end, the Demons won the disposals count by 90, had more contested possession, laid more tackles, and smashed the Eagles for inside-50’s 66-37.
Ultimately though, the Demons couldn’t capitalise on their dominance through a combination of stoic Eagles defence, and a number of butchered opportunities. The questions remain with West Coast, but the win keeps them in touch with the top four.
Priddis was clearly the Eagle’s best for the day, and stood up through the first half particularly, when the Melbourne midfielders had the better of the Eagles. Priddis laid 9 tackles in the opening quarter, and did all he could to keep West Coast in the contest. Priddis also kicked a crucial early goal when Melbourne had all the running and recorded 17 contested possessions and seven clearances.
While Priddis was carrying the can at the start of the game, it was Shuey after half-time who lifted to provide impetus around the contest. Shuey finished with 24 disposals, laid 10 tackles, but most importantly had 8 clearances in the game, many of which came in the desperate final quarter. Shuey played a large role in the Eagles actually finishing in front on the clearances count, despite losing the hit-outs.
The Eagles ruckman has had better days in 2016, but up against the premier ruckman in the competition was more than serviceable. Lycett had 18 disposals with 21 hit-outs and a goal, and probably broke even with Max Gawn who had 17 disposals, 41 hit-outs and eight tackles. Importantly for West Coast, Lycett was able to nullify the advantage Gawn usually wields and as a result the Eagles were able to finish the game winning the clearances 42-38.
Edge of the Nest?
Jon Giles is likely to lose his place as soon as Nic Naitanui is deemed fit for selection, and it could happen as soon as this week, with many around West Coast confident the number one ruckman could make an earlier-than-initially-predicted return.
Dom Sheed is also a good chance to play his first game for 2016, meaning that any one of Liam Duggan, Jackson Nelson or Jack Redden could make way. Redden was better against the Demons with 15 disposals and six tackles, after recording just 8 possessions the week before against Carlton. Nelson and Duggan had 10 and 8 possessions, respectively, but both were tough around the contest
Shannon Hurn, Jack Darling and Sharrod Wellingham all had days to forget, but all three will have a chance to bounce back against Collingwood.
At East Perth, plenty of Eagle-listed players had good games in an eight point win over Claremont. Patrick McGinnity was one of the best in his return to the WAFL, finishing with 27 touches and a goal. Mark Hutchings had 24, and was probably unlucky to lose his place at West Coast to start with, even after a couple of quiet weeks. Brant Colledge was East Perth’s only multiple goal scorer with two goals, along with 22 possessions. Colledge also had 9 tackles in a solid performance. Tom Lamb has had an inconsistent year, but had 24 touches and 8 marks, while Malcolm Karpany had 22 and a goal.
The Question Mark?
Could West Coast find a small forward before the end of the season? Too many times in recent weeks, the Eagles have lacked a crumbing option at the feet of Josh Kennedy and Jack Darling. With the loss of Naitanui, West Coast have played an extra player behind the stoppages, to protect against the drop in advantage around the ball and in clearances. The consequence of this has been opposition sides have also run with an extra player behind the ball, often leaving Kennedy and Darling outnumbered in marking contests. If Kennedy or Darling don’t take marks, the ball is cleared from the forward half with too much ease.
The Eagles have a plethora of forward options, but Josh Hill, Jamie Cripps and Mark Le Cras play as high half-forwards, and are rarely found front and centre of the contest. Adam Simpson would love to have a genuine small forward in the mould of Eddie Betts or Cyril Rioli to provide a different dynamic in the forward half, but unfortunately, there are no clear options on the list.
Much was hoped in the pre-season for Jamie Bennell, but he hasn’t been spotted since Round 2, Patrick McGinnity booted four goals against the Bombers, but lost his place on the weekend after two quiet weeks, and Malcolm Karpany has been on the list for three years, but is yet to crack through for a debut. Karpany has had a good block of games at East Perth in recent times, and could be a wildcard for a senior appearance in the run to the finals.
The Eagles return to the MCG for the second time in three weeks to tackle an improving Collingwood. The Eagles need to keep winning to maintain pace with top four and can’t afford to drop games against sides outside of the finals, whether home or away. The next fortnight are must-wins, with a final triumvirate of games against GWS (away), Hawthorn and Adelaide (away).