West Coast unveiled a host of new names, as the state unveiled a new football stadium, but it was an old rival who walked away with the points. Lance Franklin played destroyer, booting eight goals as the Swans spoiled the party with a 29 point win. Nic Naitnaui had an immediate impact in his first game back from a knee reconstruction, breathing life into West Coast late in the third quarter as they game looked like it would slip away.
Naitanui and Lycett combined for 66 hit-outs easily taking an advantage over former teammate Callum Sinclair – who had just 17 – but once again lost the clearances and contested ball to a midfielder group who were cleaner with the ball, particularly the hands. The two sides fought an entertaining opening quarter, which was bookended by heated scuffles on the starting and closing sirens.
Chris Masten goaled in the opening minute of the second term to put West Coast back in front, but for the next quarter and a half it was all Sydney as Franklin took over. Already with three goals in the opening quarter, Franklin added two more as the Swans reached the main break with a 26 point advantage. The Eagles started to control more ball ahead of centre, but couldn’t find the finishing touches with an inexperienced forward line. Franklin added a sixth and a seventh either side of a Liam Duggan major, to have the Swans still five goals ahead entering time on of the quarter.
However, the Eagles finally got reward for their play, banging on four goals in succession to reduce the Swans lead to under a kick with one quarter to play. West Coast had all of the momentum going into the last, but the Swans were able to steady with the first two goals of the term to take the sting out of the Eagles charge and the WA record 53,000 home support. West Coast kept pressing but for all their efforts, they couldn’t close down the Swans, finally succumbing to a miraculous scissor kick goal to Luke Parker.
West Coast had given plenty, but the Swans had Franklin.
WCE 4.2 5.3 10.7 13.8 (86)
SYD 5.1 9.5 11.6 18.7 (115)
Perth Stadium Crowd: 53,553
GOALS: WCE LeCras, Darling 3, Hurn, Naitanui, Ryan, Duggan, Masten, Waterman, Yeo
SYD Franklin 8, Hayward 2, Heeney, Hewett, Kennedy, Towers, Jack, Jones, Lloyd, Parker
Best of the West
Nic Naitanui returned for his first game with West Coast in 18 months and immediately showed his value around the stoppages. Naitanui had 10 hit-outs to advantage from 33 in total, and managed four clearances from 12 touches. Naitanui was able to bring back the x-factor and physicality that West Coast have missed through the middle from just 69 minutes of game time.
Mark LeCras wound back the clock with three goals from 16 disposals, and it could have been a night out had he not been denied a soccered goal – which was paid as a free kick to Sydney for kicking in danger – and another shot that slammed into the post. The biggest plus from the veteran was his nine tackles – the second best effort of his career. LeCras was dynamic in the forward half, setting up several other scoring opportunities and showing up some of his younger teammates.
Shannon Hurn remained a rock in defence and was well supported by Jeremy McGovern who roamed the back half, bar a short period in the second quarter which he spent manned directly against Franklin. Naitanui’s return was a boon for Elliot Yeo and Luke Shuey who led the way for West Coast in disposals and clearances.
Eagle Eye Votes
5 Mark LeCras
4 Shannon Hurn
3 Jeremy McGovern
2 Luke Shuey
1 Nic Naitanui
Edge of the Nest
The Eagles had strong contributions from many of their established stars, but the younger brigade failed to step up to the fierce nature of the contest. Jake Waterman and Liam Ryan had moments and each finished with a goal on debut, although Waterman dropped several straight forward marks and his disposal let him down. The Eagles third debutant, Daniel Venables, could only manage seven disposals but showed his potential with a couple of dashing breaks from stoppage situations.
Tom Barrass had his colours lowered opposed to Franklin, conceding five goals in little over a quarter before McGovern and Schofield had stints on the Sydney superstar. Barrass returned to Franklin in the final quarter and won a couple of key one-on-one battles, but with Sam Reid pulling out before the game, Barrass struggled to find a suitable match up. Jackson Nelson appeared slow in the intensity of the match, although curbed the influence of small forward Tom Papley. Will Schofield and Liam Duggan were also not at their best in defence, while Lewis Jetta finished with 16 disposals, but many were ineffective.
East Perth played their final practice game ahead of the WAFL season against Peel Thunder. The Royals were flogged, but there were still some impressive performances from Eagle-listed players. Initially in the squad of 26, Brayden Ainsworth couldn’t break through for an AFL debut, but he shouldn’t have to long of a wait showing a dogged tenacity despite the walloping. Willie Rioli also appeared, recovered from soreness, but could only manage seven disposals in a forward pocket and is unlikely to receive a call up.
Adam Simpson should show faith in the three debutants that played against Sydney and give them a solid block of games to build their own self-belief. Mark Hutchings, Fraser McInnes and Tom Cole could all come in, having been listed as emergencies for the Swans clash, as well as Francis Watson who could add some dash to a defence that got caught out when the Swans broke, and looked stodgy when trying to build attacks.
IN: Hutchings, Watson
OUT: Nelson, Schofield