When you get the chance to put the West Coast Eagles away on their home deck, you damn sure better take it.
Melbourne wasted opportunities early and made the cardinal error of leaving the door ajar with a few minutes remaining in the third quarter, and what resulted was West Coast barging through the opening, kicking seven of the last eight goals to once again put the Demons season in peril, and take their own record to a very healthy 6-3.
But it wasn’t all smiles and hangers for the Eagles – they had some real concerns through the first three quarters, and we’ll try to cover them as we give you the good, bad and ugly of the Eagles’ 16 point win at Optus Stadium.
He was a tackling machine in this one, and at times when the Eagles looked a little vulnerable… and let’s face it – there were plenty of those times in the first three quarters, it was usually Elliot Yeo throwing his body into the contest to win a 50-50 ball to keep his team in the hunt.
Yeo, whose name continually autocorrects to “yep” and it really pisses me off, finished with 18 contested touches amongst his 26 possessions, but it was his 16 tackles that were the standout. He also amassed seven clearances on the night as he battled on despite Max Gawn’s ruck dominance consistently giving the Melbourne mids the first use. The Dees won the overall clearances 38-34, but it was a lot of bullocking work by Yeo that kept that number close.
These are the types of performances that have seen Yeo take out consecutive John Worsfold medals, and will have him right up there again this season. For mine, Shannon Hurn would have to be the front-runner currently, but defensive midfield efforts like the one Yeo performed tonight rate very highly internally at clubs, and a few more games in this vein will see Yeo right in contention again.
And while he’s on his merry way to individual success, maybe he could teach Dom Sheed how to lay a tackle or two?
I want to preface this by saying that I really rate Tom Hickey, and thought he’d be a great addition to the Eagles this season. I like his clearance work, and he has the ability to bob up and do something unexpected.
That said, the level which Max Gawn dominated him in this game was the only unexpected thing he was involved in. Gawn made him redundant in the ruck, picking up 56 hit outs, and feeding his midfield brigade, led by Harmes and Jones, on numerous occasions.
As if that wasn’t enough, Gawn tied for the equal most clearances on the ground with Yeo, finishing with seven for the game, restricting Hickey to just two in the process.
Gawn’s start to the season was a little slow. Beaten, and beaten up by Scott Lycett and Paddy Ryder, many questioned his desire to compete at the level he displayed in 2018. His performance on the road tonight probably silenced anyone who still had lingering doubts.
The Dees fell over, but Gawn can definitely hold his head up high after that performance.
And Nathan Vardy… pull your head in, mate. Your actions after Liam Ryan took the speccy on Gawn were cheap enough to get even the old Bruce McAvaney riled up. You finished with five disposals and seven hit outs for the night. Gawn could play one quarter and be that influential. Know your limitations and save your celebrations and taunts for when you’ve actually done something, yourself, to warrant them.
THIRD TIME LUCKY LIAM RYAN
As soon as Liam Ryan came into the league, people started saying he was going to take mark of the year, and tonight he made a very strong case with a classic grab at one of the most crucial moments of the game.
But before we talk about the grab and watch the video, let’s talk about work rate. Ryan first took the ball between half forward and the wing. It was his kick that put the Eagles into a scoring position, and when he ran forward, Bailey Fritsch went with him.
Well, he kind of went with him. Ryan ran all the way to deep right forward pocket, with Fritsch zoning off to cut off any leads that may eventuate. Maybe he should’ve stayed with Ryan.
You can watch for yourself below, but sometimes you have to judge the quality of the mark by the quality of the opposition it’s being taken against. Ryan’s hanger was taken against Max Gawn – the biggest and most influential aerialist out there for the game (sorry Jeremy and Shannon). The fact he was able to time that leap, push off the oncoming Gawn and take that speccy means he has one hand on the car keys this season.
But those who watched the whole game would know it was his third attempt at the big grab for the game. With the previous two unsuccessful, it took a big pair of balls to try a third, but that’s exactly what he did, and he dragged it in beautifully.
I love writing about this bloke, and you all know I’ve been banging on about the huge AFL fail in not awarding him the All-Australian captaincy last season, right?
Good, because I reckon this season has been a massive F-U by Shannon Hurn. When his team has been falling down around him, he has stood up. While his team has been on its knees in games, he has been there to grab them and drag them to their feet, and when teams have come at the West Coast Eagles, Shannon Hurn has made a stand, time and time again.
He looks like a captain, he acts like a captain and he deserves all the credit in the world AGAIN tonight for another captain’s knock.
He had 33 touches on the night, and ran at an astonishing 93% efficiency. Wait a second… I want to knock you on your backside a little. This season, the lowest efficiency rating for Hurn in any game is 84%. There are plenty of players who would not have that sort of number in their best outing for the year, let alone their worst! When you consider how often he kicks, that is quite amazing. Then if you factor in that he has played in heavy losses, in slippery conditions, and often under pressure, those numbers are incredible.
We did our Player Power Rankings earlier this week, and Hurn was right up there. Tonight he hit marks to accrue more points, because right now, he is simply one of the best defenders in the game. Oh, and click the pic below to go to our Power Rankings – Shannon would want you to so you can revel in how well he’s traveling.
BAD KICKING IS BAD FOOTBALL, MR PETRACCA
It ended up being 24 shots to 20 in Melbourne’s favour, but some of the misses early on from the Dees really kept the Eagles in the hunt.
Christian Petracca’s miss in the first quarter from 25 metres out was horrendous. This was on the back of a flying shot at goal that trickled out of bounds. He had another chance in the second quarter, running to 40 metres before putting it out on the full, and another in the third when he muffed his running shot at goal as Shannon Hurn pressured him from behind.
It might come across as though I am picking on Petracca here, and you know what, I might be, but if he kicks two of those goals, I reckon the game is over before three quarter time. I’m not saying he was horrible overall (but that missed mark in the third quarter WAS completely horrible) but he just seems to be able to make lemon peel out of lemonade sometimes.
Other inaccurate culprits included Tom McDonald, who looked like a world beater early, only to fade when it mattered. He finished with two behinds for the game and went at an abysmal 33% efficiency on the night. Garlett missed an easy one, and Billy Stretch shanked one on the run which could’ve given the Dees a faint glimmer of hope in the last.
Speaking of faint glimmers, the finals must be looking like a pipedream for Melbourne. They’d seriously have to rattle off a 4-5 game winning streak very soon to be considered. They fell in against the Hawks and Suns, and fell over against the Eagles.
You’ll see below that I am not a fan of rewarding ineptitude, and in truth, Melbourne don’t deserve to play finals footy this year. They had this game in hand, and they let it slip though their fingers. If they’re not feeling ashamed of themselves, I am sure their supporters are.
How do they fix it? Making sure of easy goals would be a good start.
DANGEROUS, OR NOT?
Okay, this is going to be contentious, and I am happy to cop it.
Lewis Jetta tackled Tim Smith in the last quarter, and Smith was driven into the ground. The commentators cried for a dangerous tackle. The post-game show called for Lewis Jetta to be suspended. The umpire called holding the ball and Lewis Jetta was rightfully awarded the free kick.
That’s right – RIGHTFULLY awarded the free kick.
Let’s get this straight – I am sick to death of players with zero wits about them being bailed out for being pinged holding the ball. It is not Lewis Jetta’s fault that Tim Smith stood there like a stunned mullet and held up the play. It’s not Lewis Jetta’s fault that Tim Smith made an incorrect assumption, and it is not Lewis Jetta’s fault that Smith didn’t hear the umpire calling “play on”.
Tim Smith stopped. Tim Smith got caught. And Tim Smith was caught holding the ball.
I heard calls that the umpire should’ve called for a ball up as Smith didn’t hear the play on call. That is rubbish. He didn’t hear the whistle either – you play to the whistle! That’s what we had in the Essendon v Collingwood game a couple of weeks ago; players stopping themselves and not playing to the whistle. And now look where we are – a player deciding to hold up play, himself, and getting buried as a result.
I know it’s the in-thing to do to side with the player who gets hurt, but I am siding with the player who actually listened, assessed the situation and didn’t stand there making an assumption that play had stopped.
There was no whistle. It was play on, and Tim Smith didn’t play on. He paid for it, and so did his team.
There’ll be those who point to this incident, the umpires, and the “dangerous” tackle as the reason Melbourne lost this game. Please don’t. They lost because they were overrun by a team hungrier than them when the heat was on. Tim Smith’s brain fade… his costly brain fade that penalised both himself and his team, was one of the reasons the Eagles were able to launch into attack and score.
Lewis Jetta took advantage of an opponent’s inability to react. He’ll get suspended because that’s what the AFL do these days – suspend people for great tackles, but I am so glad that Jetta was awarded that free kick, and that the Eagles went forward as a result. I’m not a fan of rewarding ineptitude, and anything other than holding the ball would have rewarded Smith for one of the dumbest plays of the season.
Play to the whistle, kids… just as the umpires said you should a couple of short weeks ago.
BUT WAIT… THERE’S MORE
So, for those who check out our Facebook page during or after games, we occasionally post videos of great moments during games. This year, great moments have been few and far between, but tonight there were two. One was the amazing mark by Liam Ryan, and the other was Sam Frost rag-dolling Jack Petruccelle in a brilliant tackle.
Now we like to remain unbiased. We just love good, bloody footy. But you know what I saw from supporters after viewing that tackle? Complaints that it was a sling tackle.
Seriously, I cannot believe this is what we’re doing now. A player takes the tackler on, arches the back and tries to speed past him, gets caught red-handed and supporters want him rewarded because he was tackled too well? If that’s a sling tackle, and Frost cops a charge for it, I reckon I’ll almost give footy away.
Petruccelle is a jet, but even jets get shot down, and tonight he was brought down by Sam Frost. It was a wonderful tackle and was rewarded thusly. If you’re calling for that to be graded as a sling, seriously, I reckon you’d be better off watching netball. But only low grade netball – the professionals actually collide with one another here and there… you probably wouldn’t like it.
I reckon the Eagles took until the third quarter to start to get Andrew Gaff in positions to use him well. This season I’ve seen Gaff too close to stoppages, and what has resulted is Gaff getting hurried, hacking kicks forward. It started to happen again in this game, but after half time, he seemed to start to set up as the handball backwards option – it is a much better way to utilise his skill.
This was probably Gaff’s most effective game I’ve watched this season. Hopefully Adam Simpson continues to allow for him to sneak out the back and hurt teams with a little more time up his sleeve.
How good did Melbourne look when they were allowed to have the corridor? They seriously looked as though they were going to tear West Coast to shreds with that run and carry through the middle. The play in which Clayton Oliver had three possessions was one of the best of the season for the Dees.
They needed something like the above play late in the game, but their run seemed to stop at about the middle as the Eagles woke up to the tactic, and high long balls inside 50 were the result. By this stage, Hurn and McGovern were all over everything that came in without pinpoint direction.
Speaking of McGovern, is it fair to say he’s still working his way into the season? I’ve missed a couple of WCE games this year (only a couple… gimme a break!) but I’ve yet to see him put together a good, four quarter performance. I know teams are really starting to negate his influence tactically, but has he had a game where he is the best defender on the park? From what I’ve seen, the answer would be no, and in the last four years, I don’t think he’ll have had a start to the year this… average.
I really dislike the way Jack Darling is continually lurching forward to try to draw a free kick whenever he feels contact at the moment. If this were basketball, he’d be a flopper! I want to see him crash into a few people and make contests rather than looking to be bailed out.
I’m not sure Eagles’ fans could be completely happy with that win – there were some really worrying signs, particularly in the first half. For me, the main one was that no one was running to receive when the pressure was on. An Eagle would be tackled, and the Dees were tackling hard, but there’d be no one to give the ball to as a first option. As a result, the Eagles would either be caught, or there’d be a stoppage.
Compare the efforts in the first two quarter to that of the last, and you’ll see such a contrast. It was as though the Eagles well and truly flipped the switch in the last quarter and decided to start helping their mates a little more.
Not really sure the free kick against Sam Frost, resulting in the Josh Kennedy goal in the first quarter was there. On replay, they both looked to be watching the ball. I’m not a fan of players being penalised for being stronger, or having better position than their opponents.
Loved seeing Willie Rioli back in the Eagles team. He looked pretty gassed after half time, which I suppose was to be expected, but what he adds is class, clean hands, and the ability to finish. Pretty lucky he rolled through the first goal, with Kennedy 20 metres in the open as the ball flew past him.
Speaking of Kennedy, I didn’t think he was great by any stretch, but a four goal return in this day and age is a good night at the office. Good forwards can be kept relatively quiet and still walk out with four goals… it’s how they win Coleman Medals.
Nice game for Jamie Cripps. He has had a couple of ordinary outings this season, but his vision and finishing in this game showed plenty of signs that 2018 form might not be far away. He certainly earned his money if we’re talking about work rate. He was on his bike all night long, and often found himself helping out up near the half back line.
The Dees taking the game on in the first half was exactly the kind of gutsy play they needed, and as we’ve covered, they should have been reaping the rewards of those courageous kicks inboard on the scoreboard. Alas, they were unable to capitalise, and though the kicks came off, teams will be ready for that next week… and the Eagles smartened up to it as well… after two and a half loooong quarters.
This may have gone unnoticed, but Brad Sheppard’s three consecutive defensive efforts, including both smothers and tackles inside defensive 50 was a real highlight for lovers of good defensive footy. He was so desperate and definitely saved his team a shot at goal.
The game of Marty Hore would be a real positive for the Dees. He is starting to look like a legitimate long-term prospect down back.
It’s probably the best outing I’ve seen from Jayden Hunt. Or at least the best first half. He seemed a little subdued after half time, but his propensity to work hard into space really got the Dees up and running early on.
If Max Gawn were in a Game of Thrones House, I reckon he’d be a Greyjoy. He put his body on the line a bit tonight… paid the iron price a couple of times. Also… he just looks a little dirty.
Eagles supporters, once Nic Nat gets back, are you content allowing Nathan Vardy to slip back to the WAFL? If I am forced to choose, I’d keep Hickey.
And yes, while Naitanui will be brilliant to have back in the team, the Eagles are really missing Tom Barrass. His ability to zone off, or lockdown on an opponent is what usually allows McGovern to float around, doing as he pleases. Without Barrass, Gov has an increased responsibility. I think Gov will be smiling the widest when Barrass makes his way back into the team.
I’m probably on an island here, but I really don’t get what all the fuss is about Jack Viney. Oh, he’s injured,” they always cry. “Oh, he’s not 100%”
Well, hardly anyone is 100%. 19 touches at 68% on the night. At 22 touches per game and under 68% efficiency overall, if this bloke wasn’t captain, he’d probably play a few in the seconds.
I’m going to leave it there. I’m tired… you tired… Jesus wept.
The Eagles take on the Crows in Adelaide next week… my two favourite teams to watch. I want to cover that one. Meanwhile, the Dees get the Giants at the ‘G and must fancy their chances if they’ve learnt anything from the way the Hawks played them there last week
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