The Eagles 2017 season is over after a comprehensive 67 point loss to the Giants.
Many of the same problems that have impeded the Eagles this season were exposed as GWS ran rings over West Coast for much of the game.
The Eagles appeared spent after two highly emotional victories over Adelaide and Port Adelaide in recent weeks and boasted very few winners on the night.
Luke Shuey and Jack Redden both tried through the midfield, Matthew Priddis and Sam Mitchell were solid at the stoppages in their last AFL games and Jeremy McGovern was able to pick off the Giants when they went long to their forward line.
However, GWS made sure not to fall into the same trap as Port Adelaide the week before, often looking short when heading towards goal. The Giants had the better of the inside and outside ball, were dominant in inside-50’s which resulted in an additional 17 scoring shots and were generally cleaner than West Coast, who often butchered the ball by both hand and foot.
Nathan Vardy and Drew Petrie were expected to give the Eagles control in the ruck following their terrific tandem job on Paddy Ryder the week before, but lost their battle with Rory Lobb, who stepped into the leading ruck role in the absence of Shane Mumford.
Toby Greene would prove to be a thorn in the Eagles side for the third time this season to boot three goals, while Steve Johnson cashed in after the main break to kick six second-half goals. Jon Patton was the dominant player in the forward line, racking up similar numbers to Charlie Dixon the week before and Aidan Corr and Adam Tomlinson eclipsed the Eagles forward duo of Josh Kennedy and Jack Darling.
However, the Eagles forwards cause wasn’t helped by an ineffective midfield who were made to look slow against the daring Giants. Stephen Coniglio was arguably best on ground with 35 disposals, Josh Kelly had 33, although he wasn’t as damaging as the last time these two teams met and Callan Ward and Lachie Whitfield had 28 apiece.
The Eagles took the most experienced squad in club history with the 22 players carrying 3300 games of experience but many of the stars of the previous weeks incredible win over Port Adelaide failed to back up. The three ultimate retirees in Priddis, Mitchell and Petrie all didn’t have their best game, LeCras was non-existent while Sharrod Wellingham – the one change from the elimination final – was out of his depth.
The Eagles have been known for their fast starts through latter part of the season, winning their previous ten opening quarters. However, they were immediately behind the eight ball. The Giants controlled the ball for the first ten minutes and it was once again left to the Eagles defence to keep West Coast in the game.
Dylan Shiel kicked the opening goal after picking off a kick-in, before Jon Patton picked up where Charlie Dixon left off, missing two gettable shots on goal from strong contested marks. Bad kicking had the Eagles still in it on the scoreboard, and briefly West Coast got the edge with Nathan Vardy and Josh Kennedy making it two goals from two entries.
GWS though got the lead back through Toby Greene and would never give it up again. By quarter time the lead was 16 points and two minutes into the second term the Eagles night was stamped. With the ball on the half back line, Andrew Gaff looked to kick backwards to Elliot Yeo. His pass dribbled along the ground, with Yeo able to collect the ball and escape an opponent. His attempt to hit up Brad Sheppard through the middle of the ground also fell short, with Sheppard only able to get a rushed handpass back to Yeo, looking for the one-two.
That handpass evaded Yeo, and was swooped upon by Harry Himmelberg who had four free teammates inside 50. Matt de Boer waltzed into an open goal to put the Giants 24 points up but the sense was that the game was beyond West Coast. To further encapsulate their plight, the Eagles had a late surge towards the end of the quarter, and after Sam Mitchell had reduced the deficit to 30 points, a hardly contested ball released Lewis Jetta on the outer wing, with only space between he and the goals.
As Jetta bounded down the wing, it seemed a goal was inevitable, but despite having the option of scoring himself, or spotting up several teammates who had worked their way into the forward 50, the Eagles somehow stuffed it up, and received the ultimate two-goal turnaround with Toby Greene kicking truly and taking the lead out to six goals.
From half-time the game represented nothing more than a training drill, with the Stevie-J show taking centre stage.
It was a sad end to a season that left more questions at the end about where West Coast sit in the competition. A contender for many at the start of the season, the Eagles seemed destined to miss for much of the year, before a magical fortnight saw West Coast officially finish in sixth.
The Eagles have been aware of their shortcomings for much of the season and with a summer of change imminent, the off-season will have a large bearing on whether they can still challenge in 2018 or if they fall off the cliff.
Match Details Saturday 16 September 2017
GWS Giants 5.4 9.7 15.10 19.11 (125)
West Coast 3.0 4.2 5.2 9.4 (58)
Sydney Showgrounds Attendance: 14,865
Goals: GWS Johnson 6, Greene 3, Patton 2, Himmelberg, Shiel, Coniglio, Deledio, Scully, Taranto, Ward, de Boer.
WCE LeCras, Mitchell 2, Kennedy, Darling, Petrie, Shuey, Vardy.
EAGLE EYE VOTES
Semi Final Season Total
5 Luke Shuey 45 Luke Shuey
4 Matthew Priddis 36 Jeremy McGovern
3 Jack Redden 32 Josh Kennedy
2 Jeremy McGovern 32 Elliot Yeo
1 Sam Mitchell 29 Sam Mitchell