AFL 2020: West Coast – Five Fearless Predictions

Hank Ryan passes judgement on what to expect from the Eagles in 2020.

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.

Be sure to check out who the Pinch Hitters names as the Top Ten Eagles of the 2010s.

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.

2020 Fixture

Rd 1MelbourneHOSSun, 6.20pm
Rd 2St KildaAMSSun, 3.20pm
Rd 3GeelongHOSSat, 8.10pm
Rd 4Port AdelaideAAOFri ,7.50pm
Rd 5RichmondHOSFri, 8.10pm
Rd 6HawthornAUTASSat, 1.10pm
Rd 7FremantleHOSSun, 5.20pm
Rd 8SydneyHOSSat, 4.35pm
Rd 9Gold CoastAMetriconSat, 2.10pm
Rd 10GWSHOSSun, 5.20pm
Rd 11CollingwoodAMCGSun, 3.20pm
Rd 12BYE
Rd 13EssendonHOSThurs, 8.10pm
Rd 14RichmondAMCGSun, 2.10pm
Rd 15North MelbourneHOSSat, 8.10pm
Rd 16GeelongAGMHBAFri, 7.50pm
Rd 17AdelaideHOSSun, 5.20pm
Rd 18FremantleAOSSat, 8.10pm
Rd 19CarltonAMCGSat, 1.45pm
Rd 20Port AdelaideHOSSat, 8.10pm
Rd 21BrisbaneAGabbaSat, 2.10pm
Rd 22CollingwoodHOSFri, 8.10pm
Rd 23BulldogsAMSTBC

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.

Check out who was named in the West Coast Eagles Team of the Decade.

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.

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