With the Grand Final played and won, the long dark no football months of summer lie in wait for us. In an effort to bring some light to this miserable time, The Pinch Hitters intend to take a look back at the season that was and celebrate the great moments of season 2018. Today we shine a spotlight on the Premiers. In a season that Eagles fans will remember for some time there is no shortage of memorable moment to consider but we have trimmed the list down to just the Top Five.
5. Jetta Channels Ronaldo
Having just grabbed back the lead for his team late in the last quarter of the Second Qualifying Final against Collingwood, Lewis Jetta basked in the moment as the roar of the crowd washed over him. The sole focus of nearly 60,000 screaming fans he chose a Cristiano Ronaldo stance for his moment of glory.
His desire to revel in his breakout night on the big stage completely understandable after a number of disappointing past finals performances. After collecting 20-possessions and kicking the go-ahead goal, he was one of his teams best as they qualified for a home preliminary final.
4. Deja Vu All Over Again in Adelaide.
Like it had the last time they met at the same venue, it took a goal after the siren to decide the winner of the West Coast and Port Adelaide when they met at the Adelaide Oval in Round 21. After a slow start, in which they conceded five of the first six goals of the game, West Coast came home hard in the final term but looked to be out of time when they trailed by 10 points with less than a minute to play. A Mark LeCras goal with 43 seconds on the clock set up a pulsating and memorable finish.
With Port Adelaide clinging on grimly, the ball was unable to be cleared from the centre bounce. The secondary contest appeared to be headed the same way until Scott Lycett managed to gain possession and hurriedly booted the ball forward. Reading the ball perfectly, having only been recently thrown forward, Jeremy McGovern marked the ball almost uncontested. In almost the exact same position as Luke Shuey’s match winner in the 2017 Elimination Final, the siren sounded as he prepared for his kick. Undeterred by the situation McGovern kicked truly to deliver another dagger to the heart of Port fans.
3. Jack Darling – Tiger Tamer.
In front of a full house at Optus Stadium, the Eagles came out swinging in their top of the ladder clash with defending Premiers Richmond in Round Nine. After the Eagles fast start, the match developed into an absorbing contest that saw scores level at half time. It was one traffic from then on though with the Eagles announcing themselves as genuine contenders with a 13-goal second half.
Laying the platform for West Coast’s domination was a career performance from Jack Darling. A giant presence up forward, Darling would take seven contested marks and kick six goals to see his team claim an eighth straight victory and move one game clear on top of the AFL ladder.
2. A Norm Smith Winning Performance.
Champion Data rated it the best final performance by any player this decade and with stakes as they were, who are we to nominate a better individual performance this year While his team mates struggled early, Shuey was superb from the opening bounce. In fact it was his pinpoint pass that should have resulted in the first goal of the game if not for Josh Kennedy’s early miss in the first quarter that was followed by five Collingwood goals.
Undeterred Shuey continued to rack up possessions, collecting a game high 34 with 18 contested, and in tandem with Dom Sheed he ensured that the Pies dual threats of Steele Sidebottom and Scott Pendlebury were well and truly out-pointed. While his partner in crime would kick the most important goal of the game, Shuey himself kicked a vital goal to keep the Eagles in touch before half time.
Champion Data weren’t the only ones to recognise 28-year-old’s impact on the Grand Final, the Norm Smith Medal judges were almost unanimous in their decision to award him the honour. Shuey garnered 11 of a possible 12 votes for the award, with only Gavin Wanganeen providing a dissenting opinion. With due respect to the 1993 Brownlow Medallist, he got it wrong, Luke Shuey produced the best individual performance of 2018 in the seasons biggest game.
1. A Premiership Winning Kick.
With the small matter of the Grand Final lead riding on his kick, Dom Sheed lined up for a goal deep in the Eagles pocket, 40 metres out with time running low. Rather than wilt under the weight of pressure and expectation, Sheed rose to the occasion and kicked a goal worthy of the place it will hold in football folklore.
Sheed’s match winning kick came about as a result of an attacking thrust that began with an intercept mark by Jeremy McGovern in defensive fifty. Threading the needle the defender found Vardy with a pinpoint kick amongst a nest of Magpies. Liam Ryan was next link in the chain before he drove it towards Sheed at half forward.
With ice water running through his veins, the veteran midfielder didn’t as much as flinch before putting a knife through Magpie fans hearts with a drop punt right through the middle of the big sticks. Collingwood had one last roll of the dice but came up short meaning West Coast were premiers for the fourth time. On every possible level, it was the best Eagles moment of 2018.