Despite the Swans kicking away in the first term, West Coast were aided by two goals in the final minute of the first term, resulting in a deficit of just two points at the first break. However, it was an Eagle onslaught from there as the Swans managed three more goals for the game and an inspired West Coast midfield was brought to life – without their Norm Smith captain – and appeared unburdened by the past few games in their Gold Coast hub.
FIVE IMPORTANT PLAYS
In the third term, Tom Barrass started a West Coast transition when he took a screamer, sitting on the shoulders of Jordan Dawson. The ball made its way to the wing where Yeo, Duggan and Waterman combined. It was Waterman who executed the kick into the hands of Jack Darling inside 50, who then kicked his second of the afternoon. This started a string of six consecutive West Coast goals as they took the game away from the Swans.
West Coast’s first goal of the final term to Oscar Allen was a combination of switching the play and a series of short, sharp kicks in classic Eagles style. When Allen kicked his second goal, it was on the end of perfect passes by Jamie Cripps to Liam Ryan and eventually finishing with Allen. As the game wore on, and in this scenario, Josh Kennedy was able to draw the defence, allowing for a free run at the footy for Allen.
Each team found their skill execution improving as the game wore on, the first term resulting in some misguided handballs. Even from the likes of Andrew Gaff committed errors, resulting in Sydney’s first goal of the game to George Hewett. It was the Eagles’ early inside 50 entries that saw them fall behind and none summed it up more than Shannon Hurn, who won a 50m penalty from a kick in, got to his mark and immediately sped away toward an unprepared forward line. The Eagles forwards had no idea and weren’t ready for the kick. Instead, they were forced to watch as Aliir Aliir marked uncontested as three Swans teammates surrounded him. It was not Hurn’s finest moment.
Jake Waterman’s chase down tackle on Sydney speedster, Justin McInerney was a brilliant piece of defensive forward play. Always in hot pursuit, even as McInerney tried to get off his tail with a sidestep, Waterman hunted him like a cheetah bearing down on an antelope. While the resulting kick didn’t go anywhere really, the Eagles held onto a lot more of the possession, and soon after, Oscar Allen secured his third goal.
Isaac Heeney, playing in the midfield, evaded a few Eagles including Naitanui, darting into the centre square and finding enough room to put it lace out for Tom Papley to mark 45m out, straight in front. It was this quick play for the Swans that caught West Coast off guard that broke the Eagles momentum briefly as Papley slotted the goal to break a streak of six Eagles goals in a row. It wasn’t a bad kick, either – clearing the fence despite the launch coming from outside 50.
FIVE IMPORTANT PLAYERS
Nic Nat was all over the Swans’ rucks, or what passed for the Swans’ rucks, from the first bounce when he met Aliir Aliir. In the beginning, it was his vertical leap and precision taps to advantage that created some quick West Coast clearances. Aliir sometimes elected not to compete, instead becoming a potential crumber to the Eagle’s taps. Naitanui got his own clearances and could’ve kicked a goal in the third term had the ball not shaved Josh Kennedy’s beard. In the ruck, he had 39 hitouts, comprehensively beating Aliir Aliir and Hayden McLean.
After a miserable performance last weekend against Port Adelaide where he registered five disposals and one behind, Darling inserted himself into the contest from the very beginning with two touches within the first minute and got on the board a couple of minutes before the half time siren. He ended up with two goals for the day and helped out with a few tackles and inside 50 deliveries, inspiring the Eagles to a win. A step in the right direction.
West Coast may have found a new forward target with Oscar Allen, ending the clash with a game-high three goals as he was involved in eight scores among his 11 disposals. Allen was utilized forward where he took strong marks out in front as other targets were used as decoys for Allen to get clear. Allen spent some time in the ruck for seven hitouts and while not a great tally, was more than any Sydney ruck through the game.
Another Eagle who had a down week last weekend, Yeo brought a lot of life and a fair but of mongrel into the game through the midfield, racking up 21 disposals with 12 coming in the contest. He continually pressured the Swans which resulted in winning the ball and he gained enough traction to send the ball forward on multiple occasions, helping create scoring opportunities.
Dom Sheed was everywhere he needed to be as he covered most edges of the Metricon Stadium surface on his way to 24 disposals with 14 contested touches. Sheed stepped up massively in the second half with 15 disposals, helping to fill the void left by the absence of Luke Shuey across the third and fourth quarters, and igniting the West Coast offence. He won plenty of ball at stoppages, sending the Sherrin inside 50 just as many times as he rebounded it (five apiece).
FIVE IMPORTANT DECISIONS
Could a few punches being thrown jeopardise and add to the Eagles suspension troubles this season? Hayden McLean took a strong mark above his head just to outside the goal square when a scuffle broke out. Jack Redden threw a punch toward a Sydney player’s chest during the ordeal which immediately saw McLean at the top of the square, kicking his first of the game. The low-impact punch was certainly intentional so it’ll be interesting to see which way the MRO swings given they aren’t all that inclined to be a) accepting of closed fists, and b) unpredictable.
My guess is there is no case to answer as he didn’t really connect. I mean, they don’t send you to prison for attempted murder, do they? Hmmmm…
It’s understandable that a player needs to make an opportunity to get that ball out when tackled, however I’m not sure Will Hayward could have released the footy given he found himself half-tackled before even picking up the ball. The Swan got pinned then get pumped into the ground to the point that it could’ve been dangerous. Hayward flipped around to sway the umpire that he was trying and unable to get the ball out, but the umpire adjudged the tackler, Jack Darling a free kick. It was close to the Eagles goal and Darling converted, but with a tougher interpretation being implemented this round, you have to wonder if it would have been called last week?
A couple of minutes into the third quarter, Nic Naitanui was penalised for throwing the ball as he was tackled. The Swans’ Josh Kennedy took advantage through heavy traffic that probably wasn’t warranted to be taken, or even given as he was quickly wrapped up himself and possession turned over once more. It was a case of Kennedy taking off, not realising a free was being paid, holding up just a fraction, and the umpire yelling advantage and as Kennedy was in a vulnerable position. It was one of those instances where an advantage call really wasn’t an advantage at all.
Umpires have been getting in the way of a few plays this weekend already, and today a goal umpire was sandwiched between Nic Naitanui and Aliir Aliir on the goal line. A credit to the goal umpire who still managed to make the call of Jake Lloyd getting a touch to the ball on the line, which was confirmed by the ARC.
Expanding upon the topic of the ARC, I’ve never seen the spikes on the edge used before to judge whether the ball hit the post but it’s a good tool if it works. It appeared to do just that here according to the person in charge of the ARC. A goal would’ve really completed a nice day out for Jamie Cripps, but that little spike in sound meant it wasn’t to be. This passage also highlighted West Coast’s dominance at this stage, with Cripps’ shot coming on the end of some great Naitanui to Gaff ruck work in the middle
FIVE IMPORTANT OUTTAKES
Sydney weren’t afraid to look for leading targets in the first quarter which allowed them to get out to a 16-point lead, which they held until the late stages of the first 20 minutes of gameplay. The Swans weren’t interested in long kicks towards goal from 50m, instead sizing up their options immediately and looking for short targets. It continued to work as West Coast’s tall backline stood still, seemingly unable to read the Swans’ structure and various entries. West Coast on the other hand, early on, were doing the opposite and going high and long. The Eagles defence would eventually work out the Swans’ short game and once they and the midfield tightened up, the momentum shift was evident.
Nic Naitanui is back to his best with this game and it should only continue as they come up against the Crows next weekend before heading back home where he’ll be cheered on by a strong West Australian crowd. He never slowed, continually following up his own ruck work on the ground, if he didn’t collect it himself first. It resulted in Aliir Aliir reverting to becoming a rover himself, not going compete in ruck contests.
Such was the dominance of Nic Nat, you could see Eagles mids not breaking stride as he paid the ball into their path time and time again. Without a true ruckman, the Swans will need to solve that problem before facing Toby Nankervis and the Tigers next weekend, considering Hayden McLean got the first hitout for Sydney in the eighth minute of the second quarter.
West Coast could’ve iced the game in the third term but four inside 50s resulted in four behinds, with Josh Kennedy’s miss from 15m out the worst of them. This allowed Sydney to stay in the contest. Even with five minutes to go and 34 points down, Sydney were still going hard and looking to play on quickly, but by this stage the Eagles had the game comfortably in hand.
Even with Luke Shuey out of the game in the second quarter with an injured hamstring, the West Coast midfield stood up and spread the ball around. The top two disposal-getters on the day were Swans however it was evident that the Eagles midfield were keen to attest for their dismal form in previous weeks. Dom Sheed, Brad Sheppard and Elliot Yeo each had 21 touches or more with Tim Kelly and Andrew Gaff breathing life into the game through certain moments too, their craftiness on show. Gaff had to fight through some pretty decent tagging attention from Ryan Clarke, but as often happens with Gaff the longer the game went, the better he got.
A focus on the West Coast Eagles young stars who led the charge back into the contest is below