Two sides desperate for a look in after poor starts will need a win here with tough times ahead. Both the Eagles and the Demons have won their last two matches, but this is the biggest test both have had to face for a while now.
Last Five Meetings
R26, 2018: West Coast Eagles 18.13 (121) def Melbourne 7.13 (55) @ OS
R22, 2018: West Coast Eagles 14.7 (91) def by Melbourne 16.12 (108) @ OS
R14, 2017: West Coast Eagles 14.12 (96) def by Melbourne 15.9 (99) @ DS
R18, 2016: West Coast Eagles 10.6 (66) def Melbourne 8.12 (60) @ DS
R14, 2015: Melbourne 9.6 (60) def by West Coast Eagles16.18 (114) @ TIO
Five Reasons to Watch
Maybe not the spectacle we thought, but still plenty on the line.
Two teams that found themselves facing off in a preliminary final last year now find themselves clashing in a rather anticlimactic Friday game that would have had us salivating at season’s kick off. Now, the Eagles are just clinging on to a spot in the lower part of the eight and the Demons have been languishing in the bottom four all season long. Now with three wins out of eight, the Demons have gained some traction with two straight victories, a very nice win over the Hawks in round seven, before only scraping home by literally a goalpost against the Suns last week. The Eagles have also won their last two matches, also knocking off the Gold Coast with a gritty win against the Suns last week. The Eagles will be desperate to win to help cement their place in the eight, previous years show that most teams in the eight after round nine will still be there at season’s end.
Eagle’s tall timber terrifies the Demons
In last season’s preliminary final the Eagles crushed Melbourne in nearly all aspects of the game, but it was their tall forwards that really piled on the pain, with Josh Kennedy and Jack Darling kicking seven goals between them. Kennedy in particular is a menace for any defender and is due for a huge game. At home, under lights he could get loose and pile on the goals. Personally, I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets off the chain, but stopping his run at the footy, and not allowing Kennedy to take any uncontested marks will go a long way to getting the Demons over the line.
Demon defence needs tightening
Last week Melbourne let through its lowest score of the year, 60 points by the Gold Coast. The Suns are the first team the Dees have played this year that hasn’t scored eleven goals or more, making Melbourne’s the second worst defence in the competition, with only North Melbourne letting more through. Although the Eagles are the third lowest scorers so far in 2019, I’ll still back them in against an undermanned Dees defence which looks shallow without star recruits Steven May and Kade Kolodjashnij. Michael Hibberd looks a shadow of his former self and Tom McDonald cannot be expected to carry the entire defensive group.
Tests to come for both sides, especially the loser.
It cannot be stressed enough how much rides on this match now for both teams. The byes are only a few weeks away, but there’s plenty of hard slogging to do before then. Next week the Eagles travel to Adelaide to face a Crows side which is starting to get its mojo back, and the Demons will return home to face another top four side in GWS. Then it stays tough for Melbourne as they too play the Crows and then Collingwood, facing three of the competition’s top four sides in a row. Travelling to Perth is never easy, but with that month ahead, this match nearly looms as the most winnable, and Melbourne will have to lift all aspects of their game.
Midfield battle should be something special.
Both sides have very talented engine rooms and will look to take first use of the ball straight from the off. Nathan Vardy will have his work cut out for him against Max Gawn, who is without doubt one of the competition’s top two ruckmen. Around Vardy, Gaff, Shuey and Yeo will be vital, looking to provide silver service to the Eagle’s elite tall forwards. Gawn however, is having yet another fantastic season and with Clayton Oliver, Angus Brayshaw and Nathan Jones at his disposal he’ll look to dominate the hit-outs and give his midfielders the best chance of racking up effective touches.
Two teams that I had in my top four at season kick off will now fight it out scrounging for ladder position. If Melbourne lose on Friday, it’s damn near season over so they’ll be desperate. But the Eagles are hard to beat in front of a passionate Perth crowd, and if Kennedy gets off the hook, they could look to go big.
West Coast Eagles by 25 Points.