A cursory glance at the margin would indicate that the West Coast Eagles won by a comfortable 35 points against Essendon in the West.

Not bad, huh? A six goal win coming off the bye? But it should have been so much more. Inaccuracy prevented the Eagles from amassing a huge score, registering 36 scoring shots to Essendon’s 16 in a dominant display that was not at all reflected on the scoreboard.

West Coast was able to completely shut down the Essendon run from half back, and repeatedly locked the ball inside their own forward half as the Bombers looked for answers inboard, and found only more questions.

Maybe we’ll have a few answers of our own as to what went down in The Mongrel’s good, bad and ugly.

Terrible segue, I know.

 

THE GOOD

 

MARK HUTCHINGS AND LIAM RYAN

Remember the Australian Democats? They were a political party with a decent amount of power a number of years ago. Until they totally screwed themselves and their voters over by selling out, their slogan was “Keep the bastards honest”.

Now, whilst I’m not going to question the parentage of Conor McKenna and Adam Saad, what I will do is state that the West Coast forwards did a wonderful job of keeping the running Essendon defenders honest, and as a result, the run and carry of the Bomber backline dried up completely.

Adam Saad looked lost at sea as Mark Hutchings simply refused to leave his side. Unable to get a clear run at the ball, and also prevented from running past for the cheeky handball, Saad was rendered redundant in the Bomber back half, amassing just 12 disposals for the game – his equal lowest total for the season.

Saad usually racks up the metres gained as well – not so today, with just 186 to his credit. For context, he had 457 against the Hawks last week, and 462 against Carlton in the previous game. He was shut down, taken out of his comfort zone, and comprehensively beaten by Hutch.

The other interesting match-up saw Conor McKenna trying to stifle the influence of Liam Ryan. Seeing them opposed to each other early in the game, I thought it would come down to how much Ryan was prepared to run defensively to curtail McKenna’s rebound that would go a long way to deciding this game.

Ryan ran hard, but he also played smart, and he continued to put himself in dangerous situations, to the point McKenna couldn’t and wouldn’t risk running off him. Ryan is simply too dangerous to leave unchecked, and even with his mind completely focused on Ryan, McKenna was still led a dance in the first half.

Ryan had nine touches to half time, and McKenna eight, but Ryan was probably should’ve really been hurting the Bombers on the scoreboard as well, but for a few errors in judgment. McKenna was held to 360 metres gained from 17 disposals, after having 25 touches and 622 metres gained last week as he tore Hawthorn apart.

The wash up of this game will see Ryan viewed as wasteful, with 15 touches and 20% scoring accuracy, while the stats for Hutchings will simply not do him justice. However, when you look at what they were able to produce as defensive forwards, you start to get a good understanding of how well this forward half functioned.

Hutchings took away what Saad likes to do best. Ryan made himself so dangerous that McKenna had no choice but to give him the respect he deserves. Those two actions combined made for a situation that rendered the Essendon backline stagnant. It was a match-winning combination.

 

BRAD SHEPPARD

I’m going to call him the forgotten man, but please, West Coast supporters…. I know you don’t forget him. It’s everyone else who does.

You see, Sheppard plays in a backline that houses Jeremy McGovern and Shannon Hurn; both stars and All-Australians. He takes a back seat to Tom Barrass when he’s healthy as well, as Barrass gets some huge jobs, but tonight, Brad Sheppard deserves singling out, as he was handed the job on Orazio Fantasia, and he took that job on with glee.

Looking at the half time stats, Fantasia sat on one solitary touch, whilst Sheppard not only kept him silent – he also picked up ten touches himself, thwarting a heap of Essendon offensive forays.

I’ll get to Fantasia’s deplorable efforts in a minute, but the way Brad Sheppard conducts himself is absolutely professional. He is not out there to accrue personal accolades, or be named man of the match – he goes about his business and slots into that West Coast defensive six like a hand in a glove… like a six fingered hand in a six fingered glove.

Where would you buy a glove like that? I think I pass one of those shops all the time when I am at work in South Melbourne.

I digress…

Sheppard had one errant possession amongst his 19 touches for the game (it was as though he and Hurn were in a contest to see who could screw up the least… Hurn won with 17 touches at 100%, by the way) as he had Fantasia moved up the field to get involved. If this were a baseball game, Sheppard was close to pitching a shutout against Fantasia.

And there was not one pinch to be seen, either.

 

THE TACKLING MACHINE

I love watching Elliot Yeo play, and not for the way he bounces off tackles and wins the hard ball. I love watching him hunt.

I’d liken him to a tiger, or lion, but he doesn’t exactly stalk his prey. He more just eyeballs it, and says with his actions “I’ve got you covered, mate.” And then he goes right at them.

He had the entire Essendon midfield covered in this one with 12 tackles for the game, six of which came in the first quarter, which set the Bombers back on their heels as they tried to buy time at stoppages.

This is the fourth time this season Yeo has laid double figure tackles. And it’s the third time in the last five games. There are midfielders who like to do the fancy stuff – run ahead of the ball, receive the handball, and kick long inside 50. Yeo can do all of that, but he also does the hard stuff.

When his opponent gets the ball, Yeo is never far away, and whilst not a direct tagger, he is as accountable as they come as a mid. In a head-to-head match-up, he would be a nightmare to deal with. He just does not like his opponent getting a touch!

It’s games like tonight that will see Yeo poll well again in the Eagles’ best and fairest this year. With 25 touches, nine clearances and 12 tackles, Yeo may become a three time club champion when all is said and done in 2019.

 

GIMME A HICKEY

I sung his praises earlier in the year, and without Nathan Vardy to split time with, Tom Hickey seemed to relish the role as the only ruck on the ground for West Coast.

What I sung his praises about earlier was his clearance work, and it was completely on-song in this one, as he collected a game-high eight. Matched up against Tom Bellchambers, who came across as lumbering in comparison, Hickey’s clearance work, combined with some great taps to Yeo and company, assisted the Eagles to pull away from the Bombers.

How will he go with Naitanui back in the team? It’ll be interesting, that’s for sure. Hickey seemed to relish being the number one option, and without having to worry about resting forward – a position he never looks comfortable in – he played the kind of game that most teams would be very content with from their big man.

Naitanui is a force of nature, but will see limited minutes in the ruck as he eases back in. Hickey will still need to provide plenty of grunt, and keep up that clearance work as Naitanui rests either up forward, or on the bench.

 Grab a Mongrel Bumper Sticker - click the image, grab a sticker and help spread the Mongrel word. We’d really appreciate it.

Grab a Mongrel Bumper Sticker – click the image, grab a sticker and help spread the Mongrel word. We’d really appreciate it.

 

THE HOOKER AND THE GOVERNOR

Sounds like an American telemovie, huh? I’d probably watch it if I was at home taking a sickie and there was some nudity in it, but hey, what I do in the privacy of my own home is my own business.

Until I share it on the internet.

Anyway, we had the pleasure of seeing two intercept defenders at their best tonight. A lot of was made of McGovern’s efforts to cut off the forward thrusts of the Bombers, but the work of Cale Hooker was forgotten pretty quickly amid his side’s capitulation.

Hooker had 14 intercepts for the game and five came via contested grabs. As the commentators spoke about Gov being the best mark in the game, Hooker made some claims of his own by way of his game, and he didn’t need the commentators talking him up. He got the better of Jack Darling (whose attack on the long ball, crashing the packs, I kind of liked) and knew when to zone off to be effective as the chop out player.

At the other end, McGovern really kicked into high gear in the second quarter as he finished with 10 intercepts for the night. He had four contested marks of his own, and was a monster crashing into packs, or backing into contests to bring the ball to ground.

Gov’s season has been quite amazing – viewed as a little quiet, and at times neglectful of his defensive duties, he is right up there with the leaders for both intercepts and spoils as he goes about his business of cutting off opposition forays into his defensive 50. At the halfway point, not many had him in their All-Australian teams, but I get the feeling in about 10 weeks, there he’ll be, sitting right at Centre Half Back again.

Where he belongs, I suppose.

 

DOM SHEED

I feel a little strange getting to him just now. I mean, he had 36 touches at 81% efficiency, ran as hard as any bloke on the ground, kicked an amazing goal (two for the game) and had six clearances, and I’ve finally decided to talk about him?

Well, sometimes the blokes in other positions deserve a bit of a wrap – the mids seem to get it all the time.

He had 14 contested touches, to lead his team from the front, and his decision making was excellent in this game. When you look at what he provided as that running mid, and compare it to Shiel or Zach Merrett, the latter of who started like a train, you’d take Sheed every time.

A four quarter performer in this game, his clean hands and ability to choose the right option saw him involved in scores nine times, including a direct goal assist. His ten-disposal second quarter was a huge part in the Eagles pulling away to a match-winning lead, and when he plays like this, he eases the burden on Luke Shuey and Andrew Gaff to collect 30+ touches and carry the midfield.

I know a few people fancied Sheed as a Brownlow smokey before the season began, and while he is probably not the greatest chance of taking Charlie home this season, there can now no doubt around his place in the best Eagles team this season. At 28.1 touches per game, he has taken his game to a new level. He is +5.3 in disposals from last year’s totals, and looks to be ready to move into high gear as the Eagles start their back half campaign to reign once more.

 

MASON REDMAN

Forget that little back heel kick for a moment… although I do think he’ll get a suspension for it. Kicking is a shitty act.

Anyway, much to like about his game if you’re a Bombers fan. His 22 disposals were nowhere near the game-high for his team, but his ability to read the play, run and carry where required and work up and down the ground were impressive facets.

In a game where very few Bombers showed anything, Redman was one whose efforts were high for the whole match. He did not waver when the score got messy, and I reckon without him, it would’ve been a lot messier.

 Jaidyn Stephenson may be the story of the moment, but the AFL’s relationship with gambling is the real story. Click here for The Mongrel’s take

Jaidyn Stephenson may be the story of the moment, but the AFL’s relationship with gambling is the real story. Click here for The Mongrel’s take

 

THE BAD

 

AN UNNECESSARY REPORT

As soon as you saw Matt Guelfi going off in an ambulan… taxi, the drums started beating a little louder for Jeremy McGovern.

Geez, I hope that Michael Christian demonstrates some common sense on this one, and that Steven Hocking doesn’t override his decision.

Obviously I think there is very little in this incident. It was in play, as Guelfi was in the act of disposing of the ball. It was in the side with a push, designed to impact the disposal, and Guelfi was off-balance as a result of trying to get the possession away. Yet here we are, wondering if McGovern is going to cop it because Guelfi got hurt?

Well, you know what? People are inevitably going to get hurt in this game. It’s a contact sport, and if the AFL, or Optus Stadium chooses to have boundary lines and fences in such close proximity, once in a while, players and fences are going to make each other’s acquaintances.

Then there is the issue of some dude plonked down on a chair in the line of fire Guelfi had to deal with en route to his date with the fence.

For mine, McGovern made a legitimate play on the man about to dispose of the ball. I don’t want to hear all this “duty of care” stuff bandied around as though it is the first time you’ve heard the phrase and are trying to sound impressive. McGovern’s duty was to try to impact the disposal, which is what he did. If he’s going to cop a whack for an incident that is very much part of the game, then Bellchambers should get a bigger whack for his head-high hit of Luke Shuey.

I’m sure some Bozo will dole out the “potential to cause injury” line at some stage. Mate, any push, bump or tackle has the potential to cause serious injury. McGovern’s push on Matt Guelfi, whilst unfortunate for Guelfi, was part of the game. I wouldn’t have even paid a free kick against him.

If he goes for this it is another example of typical AFL knee-jerk reaction. 

 

BAD KICKING IS… YOU KNOW THE REST

You knew this one was coming. This should have been a 10+ goal victory. Easily.

Josh Kennedy was the main culprit, kicking 3.5 and shanking a couple of others, but Liam Ryan made the relatively simple look incredibly complicated on a couple of occasions, and both Oscar Allen and Mark Hutchings seemed to flat out refuse to score a goal.

The Eagles did this one easy, but against an opposition of higher quality those kinds of misses have a habit of coming back to bite.

Interestingly, West Coast could have really used a percentage boost if they want a top two finish. The three teams above them have very healthy percentages, and taking opportunities such as tonight will be paramount is they are going to get that sought-after home final.

 Look! Mongrel Punt Stubby Holders. Buy one and be cooler than all your friends! It also helps the site out.

Look! Mongrel Punt Stubby Holders. Buy one and be cooler than all your friends! It also helps the site out.

 

THE UGLY

 

ORAZIO FANTASIA

The most significant contribution Fantasia had in this game was having a close up of the back of his arm appear on TV to show just what happened to him last week at the hands (fingers) of Ben Stratton.

Did he have PTSD this week, or something? Did he really not want Basil Zempilas to fuck his name up again on commentary? Or was he beaten so badly by Brad Sheppard that he flat out refused to do the little things that matter so much?

Fantastic had six disposals for the game, with just one of them coming inside forward 50. That’s a bit of a shame, as he was playing as the Bombers’ deepest forward for a large portion of the game.

So, when you’re being beaten to the ball, what do you do in order to impact the contest? Someone may want to give Orazio the answer because he seemed to be drawing complete blanks in this one. He laid one tackle for the game.

One.

And that came at half back as he was moved away from the forward line because his efforts there were so putrid that they were embarrassing. This is a bloke who can turn a game on its head in minutes. He’s a match winner with sublime skills and great goal sense, but tonight he was deplorable.

There are going to be several moments in the review where Fantastia would like to leave the room. I wonder if there was something up with him, as the efforts this week were not what we’ve come to expect. I lauded Brad Sheppard above, but once he got on top of Fantasia, the Essendon forward refused to fight his way back.

It was a passive effort from Fantasia – second to the ball and unwilling to do the hard stuff. If there is nothing wrong with him, he should be ashamed of this game.

 

 As the AFL bounces from controversy to controversy, The Mongrel looks at the problems and tries to provide some answers

As the AFL bounces from controversy to controversy, The Mongrel looks at the problems and tries to provide some answers

 

QUICK BITS

Really loved the first half of Jamie Cripps. He has been working into form over the last month or so, and his efforts before half time were a big reason the Eagles were able to gain the ascendancy.

I would’ve had Essendon players as best on ground at quarter time, if pressed to choose. Zach Merrett looked like a man on a mission, and Dyson Heppell was right amongst it as well.

Mason Redman looks like Rocky Dennis from Mask…. there, I said it!

Great to see another Cameron in the league, and two goals for the game was a nice way to replace Willie Rioli. Of course, replacing Willie Rioli takes more than just a couple of snags, and I hope at some point, even with Rioli in the side, we see some more of Jarrod Cameron.

One of those games for Luke Shuey – I felt as though he was under pressure every time he went near the ball in this one. That usual run and carry was missing, as the Bombers attacked his body every time he gained possession, and you can see that reflected in his metres gained on the night.

Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti… well, he kicked a goal. That’s about all he did. Another absolute stinker for him, with six touches to his name. It seems as though he very rarely has a middle of the road kind of game. He is either really good, or completely atrocious. The gap between his best and worst is probably the biggest in the AFL, and that sort of inconsistency must be frustrating for a coach.

I like the players where you know what you’re gonna get. Week in and week out, there are blokes who give the effort. Tippa wasn’t one of those blokes in this game, and sadly, he hasn’t been one of those blokes on several occasions this season. He has had seven disposals or less in five games this season. Unacceptable.

I liked Petruccelle’s front and centre work in this one. He probably should’ve ended up with at least one other, as three of his shots at goal were all very similar.

I see the AFL website lists Michael Hurley as one of the Bombers’ best? Not sure you can have him in there given the amount of ball Josh Kennedy was able to get his hands on. Yeah, the Essendon midfield leaked so heavily, allowing West Coast easy delivery to JK, but Hurley was unable to win many one-on-ones, zone off, or take a contested grab for the game. He was beaten, and though I would never question his heart, having him in the best is probably overrating his performance.

David Zaharakis hd 24 touches, huh? I just remember a couple of his handballs being so poorly delivered that it set up a teammate completely. The worst of them came in the third quarter, when his handball to Mason Redman was so putrid that Redman was immediately caught as he had to stop and pick up the ball at his feet. After half time, Zaharakis looked like he phoned it in.

Dylan Shiel kicked a goal. No, I am not kidding. He now has three for the season at 16% accuracy. If there was one player I would not want to be kicking at goal for my life, it would be him. His handball straight to Shannon Hurn which resulted in a goal to Jarrod Cameron was pretty damn poor as well.

Nice return from Jack Redden in game 200. He had 13 score involvements, and I really would have liked him to hit the scoreboard in his milestone game.

And that’ll about do me for tonight. Nice win by the Eagles, but I am waiting for them to truly put a team to the sword, and they haven’t done it yet. They have the Hawks at the MCG next week, and something tells me Hawthorn is ripe for the picking.

The Bombers… well, they get to welcome the Giants to Marvel stadium on a Thursday night again. If they lose this one, it’s season over, for mine.

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