The Eagles have well and truly put any ‘Melbourne demons’ to bed, after chalking their seventh straight win in Victoria against a dogged Saints outfit. Following a tight first half in which neither team could gain the ascendency, the reigning Premiers flexed their muscle in the third quarter and all but wrapped up the four points by three quarter time. Yet, the Saints kept the Eagles honest in the final term, closing the margin to 12 points with a couple of minutes left, before Jack Darling iced the game for the blue and gold.
The Mongrel looks at the heroes and zeroes from West Coast’s triumph over St Kilda.
Bunga Hurn is like a quality drop of red wine; he gets better with age. His 2019 numbers have been elite, and his game against the Saints was no exception, with the Eagles skipper again leading the way from the back-half. Using the ball at 88% efficiency, Hurn had 23 kicks from his 25 touches, giving the Eagles mids first use with his penetrative kick-ins.
While he may have dropped off slightly in the second half after heading to the sheds with an incredible 17 kicks next to his name, Hurn must be a shoe-in for All-Australian selection already. In fact, if he keeps up his current vein of form, it would be crude of the selectors to not choose him as AA skipper.
In a day where the grit and grunt of football has been largely replaced by the silky skills and uncontested disposals, it’s very refreshing to see a no-nonsense player like Hurn dominating at the highest level.
‘Flyin Ryan’ is fast becoming one of the most exciting forwards to watch. Not only is his marking ability sublime, but his kicking skills are something else. Twice, Ryan set-up an Eagles goal with lovely delivery from a fair distance, too. He’ll rue his missed opportunities in front of the sticks, with the second-year machine finishing with four wasteful behinds and just a single goal.
It could have been a “break out” game for the local WA boy, but one feels a big five or six goal game isn’t too far away, particularly if the Eagles continue to whip the ball into the forward-line with relative immediacy.
I have always liked Luke Dunstan, although I feel he has never received the praise in the media that he probably deserves. The Saints on-baller wears his heart on his sleeve, week in and week out, and again he stood up in the clinches with another strong performance.
Finishing with 26 touches, four marks and five tackles, Dunstan kick-started plenty of transition football for his team. At times, Dunstan’s foot skills let him down, but he has certainly improved his disposal efficiency over the off-season. Credit where credit is due to the 24 year old for putting in the hard yards when his team is winning or losing games.
Chris Masten was dropped for this clash, and Dom Sheed was clearly out to lock in his spot as a first-choice midfielder at the Eagles. Lock in his spot; he did, with the left-footer putting on a clinic, particularly in the first half.
Sheed finished with 29 disposals (19 of which came in the first half) and a goal. His kicking accuracy has let him down in the past, but Sheed has grown his game and accounted for his previous deficiencies. The Eagles will be hoping for more of the same as they prepare for a mouth-watering Friday night clash against the Demons.
By name and by nature, the Saints back-man loves to win a battle. He won plenty on Saturday night and was certainly one of his team’s better players. Battle ended the evening with 21 touches at an astonishing 95% efficiency, and kept his opponent, Jack Darling to just a single goal from 13 bites of the Sherrin.
At the half-time break, Darling had only won 4 touches and hadn’t troubled the scorers. It’s been a breakout season for Battle in his new posting as a key defender, and the young man is delivering what his team requires: consistent and measured performances. A huge round of applause to Alan Richardson and his team for throwing Battle down back and sticking with him
AFL umpiring has certainly been a contentious issue all season, and it’s back in the spotlight again after Friday night’s dubious non-decision at the death of the Swans-Bombers clash. Now, the umpires are a critical part of the game, don’t get me wrong. I have been an umpire for five years now, and when you do it, you certainly appreciate its importance. But at the end of the day, players and fans expect a certain level of professionalism from the men and women in green at the highest level and rightly so. Yet, the umpiring in this game was simply below par and unacceptable.
Twice a St Kilda defender was kept from being able to impact a contest against their direct opponent. Why? Well, a terribly positioned whistle-blower got in their way and effectively blocked them. There are no excuses for something like this. Frankly it’s inexcusable. I could harp on about the inconsistent decision making in relation to dangerous tackles, too. Suffice to say, it was another shocker from the AFL umpires, and unfortunately it is starting to become a real blight on our great game.
Jacky boy, you never cease to amaze, amuse and astonish with your inability to string together consistent games of football. Darling was poor on Saturday, very poor at that. It’s easy to say the Eagles victory came off the back of a “balanced, team performance,” but let’s take nothing away from the fact their power forward failed to show up again.
Josh Battle wore Darling like a glove in the first half and kept him to a meager 4 disposals, no goals and a dented ego. To Darling’s credit, he clunked a couple of big grabs in the third quarter and kicked the sealer late in the last term. But if the Eagles want to go back-to-back and win the flag again this year, Darling needs to start standing up right from the get-go.
Josh Kennedy is past his absolute best, while Darling is in the prime of his career. Now is the time for Jack Darling to show the footballing world what he is truly capable of, as a potent power-forward.
West Coast has been largely reliant on Lewis Jetta’s ball penetration from the back-half this season; however he was virtually unsighted on Saturday evening. Jetta had just seven kicks and a handball, with Shannon Hurn occupying kick-in duty for most of the game.
It was one of ‘those nights’ for Jetta, where he just couldn’t find a way to impact the contest. Needless to say, the Eagles will need Jetta firing up again as they face a few stern tests over the coming weeks. When Jetta is on, so usually are the Eagles, and opposition teams know all too well how dangerous the running machine can be with his precision foot skills and delivery.
The Saints ‘feel good’ story for 2019 may be due for a stint in the VFL after a very ordinary game against the Eagles. Parker was blanketed by the Eagles defence and struggled to compete in the contest up forward. He had a big chance to keep the Saints in it in the last, with a very gettable set-shot from 40m out directly in front, but blew it awfully.
There is no doubt Parker needs to work on his fitness and consistency as a forward. Perhaps the VFL is the best place for him to do it. With that being said, the Saints would be wary of dropping a player who has given them so much over the first third of the season.
Many touted this clash to be the “deal breaker” for the Eagles season. When the Eagles headed into the last term with a five goal lead after being up by just seven points at quarter time, many footballing faithful would have thought the monkey is off the back. However, like their season so far, the Eagles failed to secure a convincing victory in the final quarter.
They kept the door ajar for the Saints to secure an unlikely victory. It would be crass to rule the Eagles out as premiership contenders. With that being said, I find it hard to see them being at the G’ on the last day in September. As they say, time will tell, and the Eagles will be hoping the next few weeks all result in victories to steady a ship that has navigated some rough seas early in the season.
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