The Eagles and Giants both enter Round 10 inside the top four and will want to keep pace with Adelaide and Geelong at the top. There is plenty of pressure coming from sides underneath and the Eagles have just one further game before the mid-season bye. They will be confident heading up to the Gold Coast, so a win against the Giants could have them sitting 8-3 at the halfway point.
The Eagles run of three wins came to an end in disappointing fashion when they lost once again in Melbourne. The Eagles were never in the contest against Essendon, losing by 61 points. It continued an abhorrent record in Melbourne, with all three losses this season coming in Victoria. Such was the poorness of the performance, Adam Simpson quipped that 21 of 22 players should be worried.
The Giants have won three of their past four games, with all three wins less than a goal. A two point win over the Bulldogs was followed by a 20 point loss to the Saints, and then two come-from-behind wins against Collingwood and Richmond. In both of those past two games, the Giants won with the final score of the game and the ability to win those close games has been key to their current top four standing.
The Recent History
The last meeting between the Eagles and Giants became one of the games of the year. Trailing by 23 points at the final change, the Eagles stormed back to level the scores with just over three minutes remaining. Rory Lobb booted his fourth goal of the afternoon to put the Giants back in front, before Josh Hill missed a running shot from the boundary in what seemed like the Eagles final chance. However, Nic Naitanui took possession from a boundary throw in to snap the winning goal in the final second of the game.
Luke Shuey was best on ground with 38 disposals and two goals and was the key driver in the Eagles comeback. Josh Kennedy finished with three goals, while Lobb proved to be a difficult match-up with four goals from 15 possessions.
The Eagles last-second win maintained their perfect record over the Giants, with five wins from five meetings. West Coast won the first four games by an average of 95 points, but the Giants were a much different proposition of their formative years.
Adam Simpson promised to ring the changes following the disastrous showing against Essendon and the Eagles haven’t held back making six changes. Fraser McInnes, Kurt Mutimer, Jack Redden and Tom Barrass were all dumped, while Sharrod Wellingham couldn’t be considered due to a minor ankle injury. Mark Le Cras was also a late withdrawal due to hip soreness, meaning six changes all up.
Drew Petrie returned for just his second game with the club after breaking his hand in his debut game, Will Schofield replaces Tom Barrass down back and Josh Hill earned a reprieve after being dropped last week. Mark Hutchings was the late inclusion for Le Cras, after being unlucky not to be included in the initial side after solid form with East Perth. The Eagles also opted for speed after being made to look slow against the Bombers, bringing back Lewis Jetta for his first game since Round 3, and Jackson Nelson who was in fine form across half-back through the first month of the season before breaking a wrist.
At the Giants, it is more a case of finding anyone who can take the field as the West Sydney side battle a debilitating injury list. Leon Cameron had just 26 fit players to choose from, with a number of first-choice players unavailable. Ryan Griffin, Brett Deledio, Matt Buntine, Devon Smith, Jacob Hopper, Nick Haynes, Adam Kennedy and Stephen Coniglio are all sidelined with long term injuries and were joined this week by Rory Lobb and Steve Johnson.
Matthew Kennedy and Harry Himmelberg were the two inclusions for GWS, with both players bringing less than 10 games experience. Himmelberg provides added support as a tall defender for an Eagles side that boasts Kennedy, Darling and the resting ruckmen in Petrie and Vardy, while Kennedy slots up forward in place of Lobb. Shane Mumford may have to carry the majority of the ruck, with Patton for support.
The Talking Points
What will six changes do for West Coast?
The number of changes could be seen as both a positive and negative and it will be up to the squad that takes the field to determine its impact. While changing a quarter of the side could be disruptive it should hopefully put the whole club on notice regarding poor performances. Despite the warning, there was no big name omission at West Coast with three youngsters and an underperforming Redden making way.
Several Eagles have been rewarded for strong form at East Perth, and the inclusion of Jetta and Nelson will provide additional speed for a side that was exposed on the fast track of Docklands. There may still be some nervous players with the likes of Chris Masten and Jack Darling to feel the heat if inconsistent performances continue.
Does a win mean West Coast is top four bound?
The competition is one of the most even in recent memory and there are plenty of sides putting their hands up for one of the coveted double chance positions. Only two games separated the top ten teams coming into Round 10 and the race will be in earnest after the completion of the mid-year byes.
West Coast will fancy themselves if they do get victory against the Giants, with the draw opening up in the second half of the season. Seven of the remaining 12 games will be against teams outside of the top eight, which theoretically would give them at least 14 wins. The Eagles will also start favourites against the Cats at home after the bye, and have home games against the Power and the Crows. 16 wins would almost guarantee a top four spot, but if there has been anything learned in season 2017, it is that no game is a guarantee.
Josh Kennedy vs Jeremy Cameron?
The respective full forwards entered Round 10 as joint leaders of the Coleman Medal, with 31 goals apiece. Both would be candidates for All-Australian selection and both have had influential matches in 2017. Kennedy opened his season with seven majors against North Melbourne and followed up with three final quarter goals in the Eagles come-from-behind win against St.Kilda. Kennedy is certainly a barometer for West Coast averaging four goals in their wins and just over two in the losses.
Cameron has shown greater maturity in 2017 and is once again a key focal point of the Giants forward line. Many considered Cameron to have an average season in 2016, but the full-forward still managed over 50 goals for the season. With the return of Jonathan Patton, Cameron has spent more time up the ground, averaging 17 disposals per game (up from 11 in 2016), 7 marks (up from 3.5) and three inside-50’s. Cameron has been more consistent in 2017, kicking at least three goals in every game bar three and booted the winner in the dying minutes against the Tigers last week.
Both sides will be looking for a strong contribution from their number one forwards and the output of the two players may have a bearing on the final result.
The Eagles will have the football world watching after they failed to put up a fight against Essendon, and the Giants should be wary of a fierce display from West Coast on their home track. The Giants are rightfully one of the premiership favourites, while the jury remains out on whether the Eagles are genuine contenders.
However, on the Eagles home deck and with the Giants fighting a monstrous injury list, West Coast should respond to win their seventh game of the season.
West Coast by 14.
EAGLE TRIVIA: West Coast are the only side in the competition not to lose against the two expansion sides. (@WCE_History)