West Coast booked a semi final clash with the GWS Giants after recording one of the clubs most famous victories.
Luke Shuey had the final heroic moment on a night of heroes with his winning goal after the siren delivering the Eagles a two point victory following ten minutes of extra time.
The Eagles and Power were locked on 60 points apiece after four quarters and with 30 seconds remaining in the first period of overtime, the gallant Eagles effort looked shot as they trailed by 13 points.
Josh Kennedy slid home a late goal to reduce the deficit to 7 at the extra-time interval, before West Coast continued to fight against the Power momentum through the second extra five minute period. Chad Wingard, Travis Boak and Charlie Dixon all missed shots on goal with Josh Kennedy booting his second goal of overtime, and third for the night. Two points down and with the clock ticking into its final moments, Shuey drew the high tackle from Jared Polec that delivered the euphoric finish.
Across all lines on the field, Eagles players were huge in the contest and they were led by three players in the sunset of their careers. Matthew Priddis and Sam Mitchell were momentous around the stoppages with 15 clearances between them as the Eagles controlled the inside ball. Drew Petrie joined forces with Nathan Vardy to nullify the influence of All-Australian ruckman Paddy Ryder and also booted two goals including a vital final term goal that put West Coast back in front.
Jeremy McGovern was impenetrable down back in the face of a barrage of inside-50’s finishing with 25 disposals and 15 marks, including 10 intercept possessions, while Eric Mackenzie had arguably as defining a moment as Luke Shuey’s winner when he bore the brunt of a goal post in a courageous effort.
As a loose ball rolled towards the Power goal line, Eric Mackenzie led Charlie Dixon and aware that conceding a point could spell defeat, accepted the hit from Dixon that cannoned him into the behind post, as he desperately rushed the ball across the boundary line. With 40 seconds remaining in the game, Mackenzie had kept his side level and keep West Coast in the contest.
Shannon Hurn and Elliot Yeo were massive in defence, Shuey got full votes from the coaches for his 32 disposal, five clearances and two goals, including the match winner, and for the second game in a row Lewis Jetta found the run and carry West Coast needed in the second half as players from both sides ground to a halt.
The Eagles win came despite once again being smashed by the Power in the majority of key indicators. In both games this year, the Power had walloped the Eagles in inside-50’s and it proved the case again, particularly after half-time. In an almost identical plotline to the narrow victory in Round 7, the Eagles built a sizeable lead in the first half before desperately holding on for the remainder of the game.
As well as the inside-50's , the Eagles lost the contested and uncontested possession count, conceded more marks inside 50 than they took, laid less tackles and gave up an additional 8 scoring shots. The Power ruckmen also tallied 17 more hit-outs, but while the story of the stats matched what had happened in the previous two matches between these sides in 2017, there was one telltale difference.
The Eagles recorded nine more clearances for the game, but held a far greater advantage through the opening half, with Matthew Priddis and Sam Mitchell instrumental. The Eagles were able to control the first possession and with Darling, Kennedy and Petrie all on top early, West Coast established a 31 point lead during the second term. Ken Hinkley was forced to throw Justin Westhoff behind the ball to blunt the stoppage dominance as the experienced Eagles bullied the younger Port counterparts.
The Eagles couldn’t work their way through the extra player in defence and as the Eagles midfield slowed, the Power started to control the forward possession. Charlie Dixon loomed as the biggest threat up forward for Port Adelaide and having kept the Power in the game early, the hulking forward had the home side back in the game by the major break.
Dixon booted Port Adelaide’s first three goals in the game (along with a number of points) before Sam Gray and Brad Ebert punished Eagle turnovers to reduce the Eagles lead to just 11 at the main break.
The Power then continued to dominate possession and territory after the break, but couldn’t capitalise on their efforts. 18 inside-50’s for the term returned just 1.3 (and a number of non-scoring sprayed shots on goal), as West Coast’s defence stood resolute. The Eagles could manage just a behind at the other end, and turned for home with a slender three point lead.
Port Adelaide continued to press forward and finally hit the lead early in the last. A stoppage deep in the Power forward line was cleared by Ollie Wines who strolled into an open goal. The Eagles had led for near on the first 100 minutes of the game and were now in danger of being overrun. Moments later, Sam Powell-Pepper stretched the Power lead to nine. Port Adelaide had booted the last six goals in the game, and West Coast looked shot.
However the Eagles broke their hour long goal drought shortly after another Dixon miss, when Luke Shuey weaved his way out of trouble to find an unmarked Priddis. Two minutes later, Petrie goaled from a strong contested mark directly in front to restore the Eagles’ lead and the Power could only manage two further behinds – both to captain Travis Boak – as the game entered just the third ever instance of finals overtime.
Coach Adam Simpson stated after the Crows victory that his side were in it to win it and after one of the great victories in club history, the Eagles were now in the final six contenders for 2017.
Match Details Saturday 9 September 2017
West Coast 4.2 7.4 7.5 (9.6) 12.6 (78)
Port Adelaide 1.0 5.5 6.8 (8.12) 10.16 (76)
Adelaide Oval Attendance: 41,172
Goals: WC Darling, Kennedy 3, Petrie, Shuey 2, Cripps, Priddis.
PTA Dixon 3, S Gray, Wines 2, Wingard, Powell-Pepper, Ebert.
EAGLE EYE VOTES
Elimination Final Season Leaderboard
5 Matthew Priddis 40 Luke Shuey
4 Jeremy McGovern 34 Jeremy McGovern
3 Luke Shuey 32 Elliot Yeo
2 Drew Petrie 32 Josh Kennedy
1 Jack Darling 28 Sam Mitchell
SEMI FINAL FORECAST
West Coast will hit the road again to take on the stumbling Giants with coach Adam Simpson flagging the possibility of bringing in fresh players to combat the travel load. With East Perth out of the WAFL finals the Eagles fringe players are out of opportunities to press their case, but with senior players Sharrod Wellingham and Chris Masten listed as emergencies, there could be at least one change to the side.
The Eagles were unchanged for the final against Port Adelaide for the first time in 2017 and Adam Simpson may be tempted to back the 22 who have gotten the job done in the past two crunch games. The Eagles made it through the elimination final with no new injury concerns and only a handful of players were below their best in the hard-fought game.
The Eagles’ two finals debutants in Luke Partington and Liam Duggan both seemed overawed by the occasion, although Duggan has credits in the back following a strong back end of the season across half-back. Mark LeCras will once again be under the microscope following a goalless effort, while Nathan Vardy wasn’t as influential as Drew Petrie in the ruck and finished with just seven disposals.
It couldn’t have come at a worse time for Vardy either, as momentum continues to build for number one ruckman Nic Naitanui. Naitanui has been training with the main squad for a number of weeks and Adam Simpson refused to rule out the Eagles ruck ahead of the semi-final. The decision to include Naitanui would be a major call, and while the sensible option appears to be to hold off the Fijian until 2018, he could provide the x-factor around the contests that West Coast have been missing all season.
Willie Rioli has also been the talk of the town to revitalise an aging forward line, but seems a more far-fetched possibility than Naitanui.