Was this the awakening of a sleeping giant?
Like the rest of the football world we have been shocked at the West Coast Eagles form after the season restart. In a tight season it was difficult to completely write them off but when they fell 20-points down early against Sydney the writing appeared to be on the wall.
Dragging themselves back into the contest, then away from a bitter rival might well be the moment they breathed life into a season that was slipping away. Remarkably, as a result of the even nature of the season, they now find themselves just one win outside the top eight with a long stretch of game in WA to follow. We have spent much of the last month wondering if hub-life had sunk their season when in fact it may well have set it up.
How the Game Was Won
In the end West Coast’s first win in their Queensland hub was relatively comfortable but it didn’t come without a fright. Sydney kicked three of the games first four goals to jump out of the blocks early. Jack Redden illustrated the Eagles frustrations with a first quarter report as his team struggled to stay in touch.
Yet, just as it looked as though the undersized Swans might run away with the game, Nic Natanui stood tall in the middle. With the Eagles star dominating the centre bounce, Jake Waterman and Oscar Allen benefited up forward. The two young forwards helping close the gap to just one point at the first break.
Despite Natanui continuing to give his team first use, the match remained in the balance with five points separating the two teams at the long break. When Oliver Florent kicked the first goal of the third quarter in the 10th minute, the Swans were just two points down and looked to have absorbed the Eagles best punch.
Then came four minutes that may well prove to be the moment the Eagles season turned around. First Jack Darling with one goal, then Jamie Cripps with two, kicked the Eagles clear and all but broke the Sydney challenge. Another three goals to one in the final quarter put the icing on an important victory.
Luke Parker was one of the Swans best on a difficult afternoon despite his 200th game celebrations being spoiled by a late change of opponent and venue. Josh Kennedy and Oliver Florent were also prominent for the official visiting team.
On the back of Natanui’s ruck dominance, the Eagles won the hit out count 46-10, his onballers were given every opportunity to prosper, and prosper they did. With Elliott Yeo and Dom Sheed constantly driving the ball away from the stoppage their forwards were on the receiving end of regular service. This was ultimately reflected in a +17 for inside 50’s which was simply too much for the Swans to handle.
What the Coaches Said
John Longmire lamented his team’s inability to modify their tempo with the momentum of the game. “You need to make sure you play with gears,” he told reporters post match. He also pointed to the teams shortage of key talls. “We had seven players on our injury list today that were 190cm plus and then we lost Melican,” he pointed out but refused to blame it entirely for the defeat. “We are playing a bit undersized but you’ve still got to find a way. We’ll try to keep finding a way and a method that can get that right.”
Adam Simpson was happy to see his team’s return to form. “It was good,” he told reporters. “Obviously we’ve been missing that for three weeks. Good intensity, pressure on the game field position through the contest all the basic stuff where the game is at the moment.” He was also full of praise for the younger players brought into the team. Labelling the likes of Jacob Waterman, Oscar Allen, Jamaine Jones, Liam Duggan and Jackson Nelson really important for the teams passion and spirit.
WEST COAST 3.1 5.4 8.9 11.11 (77)
SYDNEY 3.3 4.5 5.6 6.7 (43)
West Coast: Allen 3, Cripps 2, Darling 2, Waterman 2, Sheed, Ryan
Sydney: McLean 2, Hewett, Heeney, Florent, Papley
West Coast: Yeo, Naitanui, Sheed, Allen, Waterman, Sheppard
Sydney: Kennedy, Florent, Parker, Lloyd, Mills
West Coast: Shuey (hamstring), Jones (hamstring)
Sydney: Melican (groin)