2019 in a nutshell.
The Eagles were impressive again in the year of their premiership defence, finishing in 5th with 15 wins, the most impressive of those being a thriller against Richmond at the G, a win in the Grand Final replay and a demolition of Essendon in their elimination final.
It wasn’t all smooth sailing.
Disappointingly large defeats at the hands of Brisbane, Geelong, Port Adelaide and Sydney were ominous, but fans and players alike will be most filthy that the Eagles seemingly let a top 4 berth slip in the final round against Hawthorn in an insipid effort, going down by 38 points at home.
Arguably the most disappointing thing (for both WCE fans and the general football public) was the “Powerade gate” – the scandal involving Willie Rioli and drug test tampering. Rioli was a barometer for the Eagles in 2018, and the excitement machine really looked to have stepped it up in 2019.
Ultimately, they fell well short of the undoubted potential and expectation that comes with being a reigning premier.
2020 Playing List
1. Liam Ryan, 2. Jake Waterman, 3. Andrew Gaff, 4. Dom Sheed, 5. Brad Sheppard, 6. Elliot Yeo, 8. Jack Redden, 9. Nic Natanui, 10 Jarrod Brander, 11. Tim Kelly, 12. Oscar Allen, 13. Luke Shuey, 14. Liam Duggan, 15. Jamie Cripps, 16. Tom Hickey, 17. Josh Kennedy, 18. Daniel Venables, 19. Nathan Vardy, 20. Jeremy McGovern, 21. Jack Pettruccelle, 22. Hamish Brayshaw, 23. Lewis Jetta, 24. Xavier O’Neill, 25. Shannon Hurn, 26. Francis Watson, 27. Jack Darling, 28. Tom Cole, 29. Luke Foley, 30. Jackson Nelson, 31. Will Schofield, 32. Bailey Williams, 33. Brayden Ainsworth, 34. Mark Hutchings, 35. Josh Rotham, 37. Tom Barrass, 38. Ben Johnson, 39. Jarrod Cameron, 40. Callum Jamieson, 41. Brendon Ah Chee, 42. Harry Edwards, 43. Anthony Treacy, 44. Willie Rioli, 45. Mitchell O’Neill.
Ins: Tim Kelly (Geelong), Callum Jamieson (Claremont), Ben Johnson (Perth), Anthony Treacy (Claremont), Mitch O’Neill (North Hobart).
Outs: Chris Masten, Fraser McInnes, Brodie Riach, Patrick Bines, Kurt Murtimer, Matthew Allen, Keegan Brooksby, Josh Smith.
|Rd 1||Melbourne||H||OS||Sun, 6.20pm|
|Rd 2||St Kilda||A||MS||Sun, 3.20pm|
|Rd 3||Geelong||H||OS||Sat, 8.10pm|
|Rd 4||Port Adelaide||A||AO||Fri ,7.50pm|
|Rd 5||Richmond||H||OS||Fri, 8.10pm|
|Rd 6||Hawthorn||A||UTAS||Sat, 1.10pm|
|Rd 7||Fremantle||H||OS||Sun, 5.20pm|
|Rd 8||Sydney||H||OS||Sat, 4.35pm|
|Rd 9||Gold Coast||A||Metricon||Sat, 2.10pm|
|Rd 10||GWS||H||OS||Sun, 5.20pm|
|Rd 11||Collingwood||A||MCG||Sun, 3.20pm|
|Rd 13||Essendon||H||OS||Thurs, 8.10pm|
|Rd 14||Richmond||A||MCG||Sun, 2.10pm|
|Rd 15||North Melbourne||H||OS||Sat, 8.10pm|
|Rd 16||Geelong||A||GMHBA||Fri, 7.50pm|
|Rd 17||Adelaide||H||OS||Sun, 5.20pm|
|Rd 18||Fremantle||A||OS||Sat, 8.10pm|
|Rd 19||Carlton||A||MCG||Sat, 1.45pm|
|Rd 20||Port Adelaide||H||OS||Sat, 8.10pm|
|Rd 21||Brisbane||A||Gabba||Sat, 2.10pm|
|Rd 22||Collingwood||H||OS||Fri, 8.10pm|
Five games at home in the first eight weeks is a good start to the season but overall its a tough draw for the Eagles with return games against Richmond, Geelong, and Collingwood. As always they get their fair share of frequent flyer points and face taxing road trips to Launceston, Geelong, and Queensland twice.
Five Fearless Predictions
WCE will reign supreme in the midfield
Bookmark it. The comp’s most underrated midfielder in Luke Shuey in the engine room together with the class of Yeo, Gaff and Redden and some new guy named Tim Kelly will be a major hurdle for opposition teams. Add a fit and firing NicNat and it becomes hard to see how any team can knock them off.
The other side of that is whether a fit and firing NicNat can remain that way. Ruck depth becomes an issue if injury hampers Naitanui again, although Tom Hickey is a decent enough backup.
Jack Darling Will Continue to Silence Doubters
I was one. A doubter. The playing for free kicks, the remonstrating, the faltering under pressure, the seemingly uncanny ability to botch a chestmark…
The 2019 season helped to wipe away a lot of the stigma that Darling has earned over the stretch. Finishing the year with 59 goals is a fantastic effort, rewarded with a maiden berth selection in the All-Australian team. If he can do the same in 2020 and share the goal-kicking load with Josh Kennedy, lookout.
Optus Stadium Will Be Hell for Opposition
I don’t see the Eagles dropping a game at home. Shit, I’d rest players instead of sending them over.
The Eagles Will Return to Their Best
The West Coast Eagles have a short, but proud club history. One of the most successful AFL-era clubs with four flags from six Grand final appearances, their supporters are accustomed to a certain level of performance. For the most part, said supporters have not been left unsatisfied for long. They will not be happy with the result of 2019 and no doubt the Eagles will respond. They’ll take it up to the Tigers, and they are probably best positioned to unseat them.
Jarrod Cameron will fill the Willie Rioli – sized hole in the Eagles forward line
The younger brother of Brisbane livewire Charlie, Jarrod offers similar characteristics and forward pressure. He is tipped to play round one and if he makes half of the impact that his brother does, the Eagles will pick up where they left off pre-Willie gate.
Where will they finish?
The Eagles will enter the 2020 season with high expectations after having paid a heavy price to add Tim Kelly to their squad in the off-season. Anything less than a top four finish will be considered a failure for Adam Simpson and his men.