West Coast travel to take on the Magpies in another crucial game for their finals hopes. The Magpies are just about out of finals calculations, with their performances for the remainder of the season set to determine the future of current under siege coach Nathan Buckley.
After recording their 9th win of the season against cross town rivals Fremantle, the Eagles draw opens up with games against Brisbane, St.Kilda and Carlton to follow the match against Collingwood. The battle for the bottom half of the finals is heating up with West Coast sitting in eighth spot, but the Saints, Bulldogs and Bombers all breathing down their neck.
West Coast returned to the winners list with a 30 point win over Fremantle in a game that never hit great heights. Shannon Hurn collected a career high 34 disposals, and as such, collected his first Ross Glendinning medal for best afield. Liam Duggan wasn’t far behind with his best performance in a short career with many of the Eagles defenders shining in the derby victory.
Brad Sheppard and Jeremy McGovern were both important in defence, while Mark Hutchings had the tagging role on the in-form Michael Walters, restricting the enigmatic forward to 14 disposals and two goals. Andrew Gaff continued his ball winning with 35 disposals and Sam Mitchell was influential around the stoppages, particularly through the second half. Jack Darling kicked two goals from 11 disposals and seven marks in what has been a mid-season revival in his form.
Collingwood recorded their first win since the bye when they got over the top of Gold Coast at Carrara. In a see-sawing game, the Magpies outlasted Gold Coast to record their 6th win of the season and break a run of four straight losses. Steele Sidebottom and Adam Treloar both collected 32 disposals to lead the way for the Magpies, while Ben Reid kicked three up forward.
The Recent History
The Eagles and Magpies met just the once in 2016, with Collingwood upsetting West Coast at the MCG. The Magpies produced one of their best tackling efforts in the clubs history as they battered the Eagles, recording a 19 point victory. The Eagles briefly took the lead in the final term, but Collingwood finished the stronger with five of the final six goals in the game.
Collingwood recorded 118 tackles and forced the Eagles into multiple mistakes, but were also able to control the uncontested possession. The Magpies had 90 more disposals and led the uncontested possession by 57 as the likes of Pendlebury, Adams, Treloar and Aish dominated possession. Andrew Gaff was the best for West Coast with 35, while Jack Darling led all goal scorers with four.
That result broke a run of three straight wins for West Coast stretching back to 2014. This three game stretch included the last game played between the two sides at Docklands, with West Coast saluting by 31 points, with only inaccuracy preventing the margin from being much larger. The two clubs have met seven times previously at Docklands, with Collingwood narrowly leading the ledger 4-3. The Eagles themselves have had a mixed bag at the ground in 2017 with impressive wins over North Melbourne and the Bulldogs split with a disappointing performance against Essendon.
West Coast have made two changes for the clash with Collingwood, the least number of changes they have made in a month. Elliot Yeo returns to the line up after being a late withdrawal before the derby due to knee soreness. Chris Masten was the one omission, casting doubts about the veteran midfielders’ future. It is the third time Masten has been dropped in the back half of this season.
Sam Mitchell travelled with the squad but will be rested with Adam Simpson admitting the veteran needs a break, having played 15 of the the Eagles first 16 games
Sharrod Wellingham and Josh Hill are two more that will have to continue to bide their time at East Perth, while Eric Mackenzie remains on the sidelines with a hamstring. Josh Kennedy survived his first outing in two months and was strong with three goals, while Jackson Nelson also holds his place in defence despite an underwhelming return from injury in the derby.
The Magpies made two changes, with their captain Scott Pendlebury undergoing surgery on a finger following the win over Gold Coast. Initially expected to miss the remainder of the season, Pendlebury could be back in the fortnight, but won’t be available to tackle West Coast.
Levi Greenwood returns from suspension and will provide some midfield grunt. Matthew Scharanberg was the other out for Collingwood, omitted with Rupert Wills coming in for his first game of 2017. The Magpies will keep the small forward line which delivered plenty in the win over Gold Coast. The likes of Jarryd Blair, Jamie Elliott, Alex Fasolo, and Josh Thomas can all hit the scoreboard, and will provide plenty of forward pressure on an Eagles defence who were able to dictate terms against the Dockers.
The Talking Points
Can West Coast make it back to back wins?
The Eagles haven’t won consecutive games since Round 7 and 8 and would want to string together some solid performances as the finals near. With only six games remaining the Eagles need to find momentum and they have a great opportunity with games against teams sitting at the lower end of the ladder in the next few weeks.
The Eagles finish the season with the Giants and Adelaide, so it will be imperative that they have a top eight spot wrapped up before taking on two of the premiership fancies. The Eagles have dropped three games at Subiaco in that recent run and will be looking to make their home ground a fortress in the run home with those games to come against Brisbane, Carlton and possibly the final ever match at Subiaco against the Crows.
Does the absence of Scott Pendlebury change much for West Coast?
The Magpies will miss the influence of Pendlebury both in their midfield and as a leader, and will be a massive plus for West Coast. The Collingwood skipper has averaged 28.6 disposals against the Eagles across 16 games in his career – the highest average against any side in the competition.
Pendlebury is certainly one less problem for West Coast to consider, but there are still plenty of ball winners in the Magpies side that the Eagles midfielders will need to be wary of. Adam Treloar, Steele Sidebottom, Taylor Adams, Levi Greenwood and Jordan DeGoey can all rack up plenty of the ball and the Eagles have struggled in games when they haven’t won the uncontested ball. The Magpies have been criticised for over-possessing the Sherrin but will feel more comfortable in the contest if they can get the ball into their prime movers.
The lack of Pendlebury may free up Hutchings who has been used in several tagging roles through the back half of the season. Hutchings may not have gone to Pendlebury in any case but it seems that the Eagles may hold off using Hutchings in a run-with role, unless someone in particular in Collingwood’s midfield gets on top.
How will Josh Kennedy back up?
Josh Kennedy missed the best part of two months and was welcomed back into the side against Fremantle, after a couple of false starts in the weeks before. Kennedy was solid, if not spectacular, booting 3.2 from 10 disposals and 6 marks manned up against Joel Hamling. Kennedy also set up a late goal for Jack Darling after some strong work on the boundary line, which ultimately sealed the win for West Coast.
While Kennedy got through his first game back unscathed, generally with players returning from long term injuries, it’s the second game that sometimes can bite hard on returning players. While the first game is usually played on adrenalin and being back on the field, backing up can have a greater impact on the body’s recovery.
The Key Stat
Territory is going to be a major factor in this game with the Magpies one of the best sides in the competition for inside 50’s and West Coast one of the worst. However, efficiency has been a major factor in games for both sides this season. The Eagles have lost the inside-50 count in a number of games this year but are one of the best for scoring once they are inside 50, whereas the Magpies have struggled to maximise their inside-50 dominance in several games this season.
The Magpies have the least number of rebound 50s in the AFL, which could be in part to do with their ability to control the ball forward of centre. The Magpies though have been efficient with scores from their kick ins. Collingwood have scored from almost a quarter of their kick ins in 2017, the leading side in the competition. The Eagles though have been the best side at preventing teams from generating inside 50’s from opposition defensive chains, so the ability of West Coast to hold the Magpies out of their forward half will go a long way to determining the result.
It’s A Big Week For….
Liam Duggan. Duggan put in a career best performance in the win over Fremantle, collecting 31 disposals and 11 marks and providing plenty of run out of defence. Fremantle’s poor disposal into their forward 50 allowed the Eagles defenders to take plenty of intercept marks and set up the West Coast attack the other way.
Duggan has looked considerably more comfortable at AFL level since moving to the backline midway through season 2017 and will no doubt be starting to appear on the radars of opposition clubs and coaches. The Magpies have a more mobile forward line than the Dockers and will be looking to apply plenty of forward pressure, meaning Duggan will need to maintain the level he has reached knowing that he is now firmly on the opposition radar.
With Sam Mitchell rested, Duggan may return to more time in the midfield and it will be important that he can translate the form he has found through defence into a more prominent role through the centre.
Both these teams have been guilty of fluctuating attitudes from game to game, which has seen the Eagles and Magpies both record impressive wins and dismal losses. The two teams both have something at stake, with the Eagles trying to make finals, while the Magpies, and particularly Nathan Buckley, will be looking for improved performances as they start to look towards 2018.
West Coast will be happy the game isn’t at the MCG, considering their recent record at the home of football, but Adam Simpson will be more interested in seeing whether his side can deliver a four-quarter performance – something they arguably haven’t done in 2017. The Eagles will be buoyed by their last effort in Melbourne and should have enough quality across all areas on the ground, particularly with Scott Pendlebury missing for the Magpies.
West Coast by 25.
EAGLE TRIVIA: The Eagles have preferred playing the Magpies at Docklands when playing in Victoria. The Eagles are three wins from seven games at Docklands versus the Magpies, compared to one win in 12 matches at the MCG. (@WCE_History)