Season to Date
When they’re good, they’re good. Eagles with momentum can be a frightening thing, particularly on their home deck. Another MCG win over Collingwood and an absolute pantsing of GWS are the highlights but these were back in rounds 2 and 3. The problem for the Eagles is when they lose, they put the queue in the rack early and this has cost them. Big losses by 44 points to Brisbane, 41 to Port Adelaide, 58 to Geelong and 44 to Sydney means their current percentage of 103.0 which is 12.1 behind fourth placed Adelaide and 24.5 behind second placed Collingwood. Geelong and GWS are further ahead again. This could hurt come finals time.
What’s gone right?
The Eagles are strong all over the ground. Andrew Gaff’s return gets the midfield band back together with Shuey, Yeo and Dom Sheed and they can move the ball fast into a strong and well balanced forward line. Looking forward, there is Josh Kennedy and Jack Darling with Jamie Cripps, Liam Ryan and Willie Rioli at ground level. Then you throw in up and comers Oscar Allen and super speedy Jack Petruccelle. It’s both exciting and frightening at the same time. Any backline led by Jeremy and McGovern and Shannon Hurn will be hard to score against and it has proven so on most occasions.
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What’s gone wrong?
If there is a knock on the Eagles it is not having an A grader (or even a B grader with respect to Nathan Vardy and Tom Hickey) in the ruck. Injuries will hurt any team mid season and the Eagles have had a reasonable run until recently. Elliot Yeo and captain Shannon Hurn were huge outs just before the Sydney game and while 44 points is a big margin, balance and consistency is important and those two undoubtedly threw out the balance. Arguably though the biggest loss is Tom Barrass who has been missing since the Round 4 loss to the Dockers and is still listed as 2-3 weeks away. Veteran Will Schofield has been good in Barrass’ stead but with Barrass in, McGovern gets a little more freedom to read the play and take innumerable intercept marks. This was particularly evident in the loss to Sydney. There’s also the small matter of Nic Naitanui who isn’t too far off. Rumour is he goes OK and will be a good addition.
Stand out player
I’m going with Elliot Yeo here. Luke Shuey, Dom Sheed and Andrew Gaff are all a bit stiff but it has been a while since the Eagles had a strong inside midfielder who can get the ball out to the likes of Shuey and Gaff. Yeo averages nearly 25 disposals a game which is behind all those mentioned above but he leads the Eagles in tackles averaging over seven a game. He was sorely missed against Sydney. Can hit the scoreboard too.
The Run Home
The Eagles have a nice run. Only three games against top eight sides in the remaining ten rounds, one of those against a floundering Richmond and the other two against Adelaide and Collingwood both at Optus Stadium. There are four others at Optus Stadium and a Melbourne home game inexplicably in Alice Springs. It will be hard to stop them making the top four. How much will their lowly percentage come back to haunt them and how much can they make up in their relatively soft second half of the season?
Harsh but they should be so much better. The manner of the losses is a worry for Adam Simpson. This should be an A by the end of the season with a couple of big ins still to come and downhill run to the finals.