West Coast Eagles 2019 – Five Fearless Predictions

Adrian Meredith tells us what we should expect from the defending premiers in 2019.

2018 in Snapshot

West Coast Eagles are the reigning premiers, words I had never expected to write 12 months ago, when the continued absence of Nic Naitanui had led most to think that West Coast Eagles would either just miss out or just make the finals, and yet, somehow or other, last year West Coast Eagles went all the way to winning the premiership, a shock if ever there was one.

Five Fearless Predictions

1 – Nic Naitanui will play less than 5 games but will be talked about more than anyone who actually plays.

2 – Josh Kennedy will win the Coleman medal.

3 – West Coast could go back to back or miss the finals entirely but will probably settle in around about 4th spot.

4 – West Coast will finish the season unable to win a big match in Melbourne.

5 – Nic Naitanui will be a better cheerleader than player – again.

The Australian Football League has been full of unpredictable premiers in recent years. Before West Coast Eagles’ shock win in 2018 we had Richmond come from 5th to win their first premiership since 1981 in 2017, and the year before that Western Bulldogs came all the way from 7th to win their first premiership since 1954 and their second overall in 2016.

Gone are the days of the predictable premiers, such as Hawthorn winning three premierships in a row from 2013 to 2015 inclusive. We were supposed to have a predictable premier last year in Richmond, only for them to fall in the preliminary final to Collingwood after Collingwood got the jump on them. Right up to that point, they looked certainties to win last year but then suddenly it was a coin flip as to which of Collingwood or West Coast would win, and the Eagles were lucky enough to win that coin flip and hang on to win in shocking scenes.

I’d like to say for 2019 that we’ll win again but realistically we are facing similar uncertainties to what we were facing ahead of 2018, with Richmond and GWS again looming as serious premiership contenders and beyond that it is anyone’s business. While it’d be nice to think that the two sides that fought out the grand final in 2018, in Collingwood and West Coast Eagles, will do it again, with the expected tough draws afforded to sides who fight out the grand final, I doubt that either side will find it as easy in 2019 as they did in 2018, and sides that didn’t do quite as well, such as GWS, may find themselves with that easy ride that they need to take that step up.

With that being said, though, Hawthorn managed to go back to back to back in spite of a tough draw and Richmond’s tough draw last year didn’t hold them back, so there is a chance. Certainly, if West Coast manage to make the finals, and especially if they make top 4, let alone top 2, then they will find the finals considerably easier than the home and away season. The larger problem is that the home and away season is looming as being very tough.

Mark LeCras has retired, which will make some difference to the margin of victory in home wins, but otherwise is a gap that should be able to be covered, as most games he wasn’t very influential. A bigger issue is the loss of backup ruckman Scott Lycett, a player who is sorely needed, given that Nic Naitanui is still out injured, and may not play much part in 2019 either. Tom Hickey has come in to replace him from St Kilda, and at 201 cm he is certainly tall enough, but whether he can be influential is another issue entirely.

The good news for West Coast Eagles is that, as far as the big names are concerned, that’s pretty much it. The new guys who performed so admirably in 2018 will be adding another year’s experience while the older guys who just started to do well in 2018 are not yet ready to hang up the boots.

The biggest problem for West Coast Eagles is that, in spite of an MCG premiership, they have still failed to really play well in Melbourne. They can play interstate in Adelaide and Brisbane, but in Melbourne against top teams they struggled. Had they faced Richmond in the grand final last year, there was surely no chance of victory, and that is still the biggest barrier towards them.

With that being said, there is cause for optimism. West Coast Eagles have tended to make the finals and have tended to lift for the finals, throughout their history, and I can hope for a top 4 position this year and from there if the top teams stuff up like GWS and Richmond did last year then who knows maybe we can go back to back.

With a lack of powerful forwards going around, I can also hope for Josh Kennedy to push for Coleman medal contention again.

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