Eleni Glouftsis made AFL history by being the first female field umpire, but it was a case of history repeating itself for West Coast who put in another poor performance in Melbourne.
The Eagles were made to lethargic from the get go by the Bombers who blitzed their way to a 55 point half-time lead on the back of eight consecutive goals either side of quarter time. The Eagles fared only slightly better in the second half, as Essendon coasted to a ten goal victory.
Joe Daniher did the damage up forward for Essendon in the opening half, booting four goals, before finishing the game with five. Daniher proved to be too tall and too mobile for Jeremy McGovern and Tom Barrass, but he was well served by an Essendon midfield who smashed the Eagles around the clearances.
The lack of a recognised ruckman hurt West Coast, as they lost the centre clearances 18-10 and the overall clearances 34-28, but it was the effect of the clearances that told the story. The Bombers were harder and more desperate around the contest, but also showed a greater desire to run and spread as the Bombers finished with 31 more contested disposals and 85 more uncontested disposals.
Zach Merrett, David Zaharakis, Jobe Watson and Dyson Heppell all had plenty of the ball through the midfield, with the Eagle midfielders unable to match them. Only Chris Masten had more than a dozen touches for West Coast in the first half, but many were ineffective. Luke Shuey (11 possessions), Matthew Priddis (11), Sam Mitchell (9), Elliot Yeo (8) and Andrew Gaff (6) were all down on their normal standards, with Essendon monopolising possession for much of the first two quarters.
The Bombers had the Eagle defence under immense pressure through the first half, as the ball was camped in their forward half. Both sides have struggled with inside-50’s in the opening eight weeks of 2017, but Essendon doubled the Eagle count in the first half and racked up their highest half-time score against West Coast in over two decades.
When the Eagles could get the ball forward, they wasted numerous chances, with Jack Darling, Josh Kennedy and Mark Le Cras all missing simple shots. Darling would finish the afternoon with 2.5, while LeCras would kick 0.3 for the second consecutive week. The Bombers were also able to exit the Eagles forward zone with ease, finding their way through with pinpoint passes. Of the Bombers 132 kicks in the first half, only three went longer than 40 metres as they avoided bombing long to the waiting arms of Eagle defenders, as previous clubs had made the mistake of making.
Adam Simpson made some positional changes after half-time sending Jeremy McGovern forward and Fraser McInnes in defence, but the same problems kept showing for West Coast. Essendon won the centre clearances for the quarter 6-0 and continued to control the ball around the ground.
The Eagles performance was best summed up by a passage of play during the third quarter. West Coast moved the ball from defence to the forward 50 through a chain of handpasses, only for Nathan Vardy – who was probably one of the Eagles best on the day – to drop a simple chest mark. The ball rebounded up the other end for Essendon to score and represented another wasted opportunity for the visitors.
After booting 1.9 in the second half the previous week against the Bulldogs, the Eagles had a paltry 5.13 on the board at three quarter time, and while they managed to win the final quarter, the damage of the opening half meant they were never going to threaten an Essendon side who showed a lot more intent to win.
The loss once again raised the issue of West Coast’s poor record in Melbourne, with their three losses this year all coming in trips to Melbourne, by an average of 42 points. The loss also could be a setback for the Eagles top four hopes, with the defeat dropping them a game behind Adelaide and GWS at the top of the ladder, with next week’s clash against the Giants now having a lot more significance.
Match Details Sunday 21 May 2017
Essendon 5.2 12.8 16.10 19.11 (125)
West Coast 2.4 3.7 5.13 8.16 (64)
Docklands Attendance: 36,403
Goals: ESS Daniher 5, Fantasia 3, Hooker, Green, McDonald-Tipungwuti 2, Colyer, Dea, Leuenberger, Parish, Stewart
WCE Kennedy 4, Darling, Vardy 2.
EAGLE EYE VOTES
Round 9 Season Total
5 Nathan Vardy 24 Luke Shuey
4 Luke Shuey 21 Elliot Yeo
3 Jack Darling 16 Andrew Gaff
2 Josh Kennedy 12 Josh Kennedy
1 Liam Duggan 11 Matthew Priddis
ROUND 10 FORECAST
Adam Simpson has forecast changes following the ‘disappointing’ performance with the Eagles now in a crunch game against the 2nd placed Giants. A number of Eagles will be looking over their shoulder, with plenty of players at East Perth ready to push up. Jack Redden had another quiet performance, and must surely be close to losing his spot to Mark Hutchings who was once again one of the best at the Royals.
The Royals came from three goals down at three quarter time to get over South Fremantle by a point and many Eagle-listed players had a big say in the final result. Tom Lamb booted two crucial goals in the final term comeback, while youngster Luke Partington once again led the way with 30 disposals and must surely be closing in on an AFL debut. The Eagles were exposed for a lack of pace at Etihad, which could open the door for Jetta to receive another senior opportunity after he showed plenty of run and carry for the Royals, delivering 10 inside-50’s from 21 disposals.
Josh Hill was the travelling emergency and was unable to show his wares for the Royals, but may come back into contention with the forward line misfiring against the Bombers. Jamie Cripps struggled in his return from an ankle injury, while Kurt Mutimer also failed to have an impact.
Drew Petrie had a solid game in his East Perth debut and may come in for Fraser McInnes who was unable to follow up his stellar first game of the year against the Bulldogs. Willie Rioli is another who will be on the radar for West Coast, with the new recruit making a successful return from a serious hamstring injury in the East Perth reserves side. Rioli was electric throughout the game, finishing with four goals from 16 touches.
West Coast are also likely to have at least one change in defence, with Sharrod Wellingham spotted on crutches at the club following the Bombers loss. The Giants tend to operate with three talls in Jeremy Cameron, Jonathan Patton and Rory Lobb, so a third tall defender may be needed, opening the door for either Will Schofield or Eric Mackenzie.
Mackenzie has been used up forward and in the ruck at East Perth the past two weeks, but moved back to defence in the second half against South Fremantle and looked much more comfortable. Schofield though may be slightly ahead as a running back to replace Wellingham, and would be more suited to the versatile Cameron. Jackson Nelson is another who will be putting their hand up for a spot in the defensive half.
With players unable to show they can perform on the road in important games, expect a multitude of changes for the Giants clash, with performances at East Perth to be rewarded.