As the fourth quarter between West Coast and Melbourne ticked into time-on, it seemed the Eagles had done enough to secure four hard-fought points.
Lewis Jetta had pounced on Jack Viney who had slipped 30 metres from the West Coast goal and was rewarded with a holding-the-ball decision and the opportunity to take the Eagles lead to a game high 21 points.
On only a slight angle, Jetta slid his shot wide, and the moment would become symbolic of the night for West Coast.
It also would have been a cruel ending for Viney, who despite carrying a shoulder injury for much of the second half, was clearly the most influential player on the ground, but at 16 points the Demons were still in the game and within a couple of minutes victory was in sight.
Following Jetta’s miss, the Demons swept the ball up the other end and Cam Pederson took a strong mark in amongst several players to reduce the margin to 10 points. Within a minute, Tom McDonald had marked and goaled, and it was back to under a kick.
With plenty of time for either side to win it, the game became a tense struggle for field position. Stoppages were followed by throw-ins as West Coast battled to hold on to their slender lead but the Demons got the ball forward on a break.
With 24 seconds remaining, Tom McDonald gathered the ball in the Melbourne goal square and while being tackled by Jeremy McGovern, swung a foot at the ball which squeezed over the goal umpire’s giving Melbourne the lead and stunning the Eagles home crowd.
The Eagles gave one final push forward, but ran out of time with Melbourne clinching a drought-breaking three point victory. The win was Melbourne’s first against West Coast since 2009, ending a nine game winning streak for the Eagles, the Demons first win in Perth since 2004 and the first win against West Coast in Perth since 2002.
Importantly the Demons fourth win in a row consolidated fifth spot, with a first finals appearance in 11 years starting to look more and more likely. Conversely, West Coast are left teetering on the edge of the top eight.
Whilst the game came down to a freakish finish in the final seconds, West Coast were made to pay for their own wastefulness during the game. The Eagles started strongly enough, with Adam Simpson’s suggestions during the week that the side would have a different make-up profiting early dividends.
Jeremy McGovern started forward, along with Lewis Jetta who began on a half-forward flank. Liam Duggan started in the middle and was the Eagles leading ball-winner at quarter time with 11, while third-gamer Malcolm Karpany was also busy in the opening term, often starting off the back of the centre square.
West Coast had 12 of the first 14 inside-50’s but could only muster one goal, with Lewis Jetta setting up Drew Petrie. The Eagles were dominating many of the early stats, but Melbourne were soon the ones hitting the scoreboard, with the next three majors and a minor break of 11 points.
This remained the distance between the sides for much of the next two quarters. Twice West Coast hit the lead during the second term, but couldn’t get beyond a major, with Melbourne punishing the Eagles on the counter.
The Eagles had the advantage with forward half possession but could find only one winner up forward in veteran Drew Petrie. Petrie had three of the Eagles five first half goals with Jack Darling having little impact up forward.
The sides could barely be separated after 60 minutes of football, and it continued into the half-time break as a melee broke out. Luke Shuey copped attention from a couple of Demons before Clayton Oliver collapsed in a heap when Will Schofield supposedly clipped him with an elbow. Schofield was placed in the book and subsequently copped a one week ban.
After the break it was more of the same, but the Eagles were able to stifle the centre clearance dominance that Max Gawn had provided the Demons midfielders in the opening half. Gawn, in his first game since Round 3, had the better of Vardy throughout the night, but the likes of Dom Sheed and Sam Mitchell were getting plenty of the first ball at the stoppages.
The lead chopped and changed on several occasions through the third quarter, before a brace from Tom McDonald once again had Melbourne out to an 11 point lead. The Eagles though finished with all of the momentum and the final three goals as Andrew Gaff, Mark Hutchings (courtesy of a 50m penalty) and Jeremy McGovern kicked truly.
For the first time in the match West Coast enjoyed a lead greater than a kick, and the momentum continued with the home side in the final term with Mark Hutchings providing one of the individual highlights of the match. Hutchings gathered a loose ball across half forward, and dummied past two Melbourne defenders to kick one of the goals of the year, with West Coast on the brink of breaking the Demons resolve.
However, Jack Viney stepped up for one of the great final terms and the Demons late surge sunk West Coast to their second home loss in three games. With games to come against the Bulldogs, Port Adelaide and an improved Fremantle, the Eagles are well and truly in a battle to secure finals football in 2017.
Match Details Saturday 24 June 2017
Melbourne 3.1 6.6 10.8 15.9 (99)
West Coast 2.5 5.7 11.10 14.12 (96)
Subiaco Oval Attendance: 36,622
Goals: MEL T McDonald 5, Neal-Bullen 2, Hannan, Pedersen, Bugg, Harmes, Melksham, Petracca, Stretch, Viney.
WCE Petrie 4, McGovern 3, Hill, Hutchings 2, Sheed, Gaff, Karpany.
EAGLE EYE VOTES
Round 14 Season Total
5 Drew Petrie 29 Luke Shuey
4 Brad Sheppard 25 Elliot Yeo
3 Dom Sheed 18 Sam Mitchell
2 Jeremy McGovern 16 Andrew Gaff
1 Mark Hutchings 14 Jeremy McGovern
ROUND 15 FORECAST
The Eagles will be forced into at least one change, but there will be several others who could be facing the chop after the last minute loss to Melbourne. Will Schofield will serve a week for his ‘hit’ on Clayton Oliver during the half-time melee, with Sharrod Wellingham the most likely to be his replacement after being named an emergency for the Demons.
Scott Lycett seems certain to return after a third week with East Perth, where he spent considerable more time in the ruck. Lycett tallied 36 hit-outs to go with 21 disposals and five marks and would be a welcome addition to an Eagles side who have battled their way through a ruck deficiency across the opening two-thirds of the season. West Coast were once again made to pay for their lack of a recognised ruckman, although Nathan Vardy has been meritorious in the absence of Lycett and number one ruck Nic Naitanui.
Josh Kennedy will do all that he can to push for selection this week, but seems more likely to return in the following game against Port Adelaide at home. The Bulldogs aren’t blessed with height and on the fast track of Etihad, the Eagles may look to take a smaller side than the one they have run with in the past two home games.
Tom Barrass looks set to return to the WAFL, after being badly out-pointed by Melbourne’s defender-cum-forward Tom McDonald. McDonald booted five goals, including the match-winner, and while Barrass did some nice things during the game, Eric Mackenzie and Jeremy McGovern will most likely be preferred.
Tom Cole was less impressive against the Demons than he was against the Cats, but should hold his place for the zippy Bulldogs. Shannon Hurn will remain touch and go for the week after copping a late hit from Melbourne captain Jack Viney, but there weren’t too many strong performances from Eagle-listed defenders in the Royals 26 point loss to Swan Districts. Francis Watson had 17 disposals, but is still working his way back to full fitness after only recently returning to the East Perth seniors.
One player who must SURELY be closing in on an AFL debut is Luke Partington, who once again was the Royals’ best player. Partington gathered 28 disposals and booted 4.2 in a midfield/forward role to put pressure on the likes of Josh Hill who booted two goals from 8 disposals in his return from a week in the WAFL.
Jack Darling is another who could be in the game, after another underwhelming game. Darling had little impact against a side that he has traditionally dominated, with Drew Petrie and Jeremy McGovern combining for seven of West Coast’s 14 goals. Nathan Vardy and Drew Petrie have both performed to hold their place in the 22, meaning that Darling is facing stiff competition to hold his place, particularly with Josh Kennedy still to return.
Tom Lamb could have heaped more pressure on Darling, but continued his roller-coaster season with only 10 disposals and a goal. Fraser McInnes could also only manage 12 disposals playing forward, but Kurt Mutimer was more lively with 19 possessions and a goal across half-forward. Chris Masten did his recall chances no harm with 33 touches and five tackles.