The West Coast Eagles started their second Queensland tenure in style with a win over a combative Bombers team, in a result that will make it extremely tough for Essendon to play finals in 2020.
The Eagles got great contributions from Liam Ryan, and the ever-reliable Brad Sheppard in their 15-point win. The Bombers had plenty of the footy, but couldn’t capitalise on their inside 50 advantage with players a little too content to get the ball in without a real sense that they were kicking to advantage.
This was compounded by the aerial dominance of the Eagles, who had too many winners in marking contests all game.
So, West Coast wins in Queensland and shuts some mouths in the process, Essendon drops a must-win game and places themselves under enormous pressure going forward, and The Mongrel settles in for another Tuesday night special of the good, bad and ugly.
What a luxury to have a two-time Coleman Medallist out of the game, and you just throw Liam Ryan to the goal square. It’s almost embarrassing that this guy is so good that he usually plays the small forward role behind Darling and Kennedy, but he is capable, and very effective when he is thrown into the goal square.
Liam Ryan is a freak – a genuine freak. Some people see the game unfolding a fraction of a second before everyone else – Ryan is one of those. When I was looking at the matchups at the start of the game, and I saw Martin Gleeson lining up on him in the goal square, I (and most likely everyone else) thought it was going to be a mismatch. Whilst Gleeson is a reliable player, Ryan is way too quick off the mark and reads the ball so quickly that anything dropping short was always going to land in the forward’s arms.
Lo and behold, following Ryan’s third goal, Adam Saad was handed the reins and asked to stifle Ryan. He was doing an admirable job until the final seconds of the third quarter, in a moment we’ll cover a little bit below.
Ryan finished with four goals, missed one on the siren and could have had another had Lewis Jetta spotted him ten metres in the clear in the second quarter instead of throwing it on his boot and missing.
After writing all that, I haven’t even got to Ryan’s best moment in the game. That came in the third quarter out on the wing. He won a contested footy out there – a genuine contested footy with players all over the place, and he won it with desperation and commitment. It was that win that resulted in Jack Darling going long to the goal square and Tom Cole kicking his first goal in footy after 52 games and a lot of time in defence.
It was a wonderful moment for Ryan and the Eagles, and I’d hope that moment will be replayed as much as any of his own goals in this game. It was brilliant.
Oh, one more thing on Ryan – would you consider him an AA chance at all? I was thinking about it last week after he filled in so admirably for Kennedy, but after seven goals in two weeks and 17 for the year, could he be a sneaky chance? The next few weeks will be very interesting, particularly if Tom Papley and Dan Butler have quiet ones. I’d love to see him make it.
Okay, before I begin and incur the wrath of Bomber fans; there is good stuff for you guys coming, as well, and no I am not a salty Bulldogs supporter looking at sinking the boots into Jake Stringer.
But I want to single out the efforts of a bloke you may have heard of, because I am a firm believer that it takes a very good player to put the brakes on a very good player. His name is Brad Sheppard.
Now, before writing this, I went back and watched parts of this game again – Sheppard has Stringer for the whole game, save a couple of switches where there is no other option but to cover someone else. He absolutely destroyed Stringer in their match-up – a complete and utter devastation.
A couple of things became really clear when focusing on their encounter.
- Brad Sheppard ran off Stringer at every opportunity.
- Jake Stringer simply does not have the fitness base to play at the moment.
So often we talk about blokes who gut-run and do the hard stuff, the unseen stuff, the… I have to use the word… “underrated” stuff. Brad Sheppard did all that and more as he not only threw a wet blanket over Stringer, but he exposed the lack of chasing and inability to keep up with him of Stringer.
In the end, Sheppard walks off the park with 20 touches, hitting the target with 19 of them. He adds the scalp of Jake Stringer, who had just four handballs for the game and was a complete and utter liability to the Bombers in this game. He had zero impact, and the reason he had zero impact was wearing blue and gold.
And his name is Brad “F’n” Sheppard.
THE EMERGENCE OF KYLE LANGFORD
See, told ya there was some positives.
Kyle Langford’s last two weeks will have opened some eyes at Tullamarine (when they eventually get back there, I suppose). After a career-high 27 touches last week, he topped that with 29 this week, assuming the outside wingman role vacated by Zach Merrett’s move back onto the ball.
This is both a positive and negative for the Bombers, believe it or not. Here’s why.
Some people have argued that Langford should be played in the guts and that he could be the answer to the Bombers’ inside mid deficiency. Wrong. He’s not the answer to that; he is just another question.
As we’ve seen over the past couple of weeks, Langford plays his best footy on the outside. He can drift forward, has lovely hands and a big tank (as evidenced by his ten last quarter touches), but when played on the inside, what has he produced? The Bombers are stacked with players who want to play on the outside – Shiel, Merrett, McGrath, Heppell… they’re all at their best when allowed room to move. They have no inside mid that relishes getting his hands dirty. Some of them can, and some of them have had to, but it comes naturally to none.
Maybe Darcy Parish? But even he has been played elsewhere this season as Worsfold and Rutten search for someone to fill the role. Tonight, and last round as well, demonstrated that they should be looking somewhere other than in Langford’s direction. He’s found where he fits in this Essendon team.
Now, the Bombers just need to find someone who fits their most desperate need. We’ll look at that below.
I touched on the contested marking in the opener – the Eagles molested the Bombers in the air tonight (cue Phil Collins) and none were more impressive than Jack Darling.
Used as both the deep forward target and the ‘Get Out Of Jail’ target at half back on occasion, Darling was superb in dragging down four contested grabs for the evening. Whilst the conditions did not appear as slippery as they were the last time the Eagles were stationed in Queensland, seeing Darling clunking marks must have brought a satisfied smile to the face of Adam Simpson.
The Eagles have memories of games in Queensland earlier in the year that aren’t so great, and Jack Darling’s five contested grabs in as many games from Round 2-6 was something of huge concern.
Well, the concern has now passed. Darling clunked four contested grabs in this game and was well supported by Oscar Allen, Brendon Ah Chee, Tom Barrass and Bailey Williams, all of whom had two contested marks as well.
The Eagles finished up 17-5 winners in a contested mark battle that was pivotal to the result, and could be an area that they can really hurt teams if the conditions continue to improve in Queensland.
And if conditions don’t get any better, as long as Darling is providing the one percenters like the tape to set up Bailey Williams’ goal, then all may be well, anyway.
NIC NAT V DRAPER
Am I the only one that really enjoyed the old bull and the young bull going head-to-head in this game?
On the whole, the points go to Nic Nat, as you’d expect, but Draper had some moments in this one, and I really enjoyed that he wanted to take the fight to Naitanui.
Have you ever wrestled with someone for 30 seconds? I mean really tried with everything you’ve got to take someone to ground and get the better of them? It’s not bloody easy, and the tactic of Draper to have a bit of a wrestle with Nic Nat may not have been a bad one. Naitanui is a bloke that has demonstrated he is fine with mixing it up at points, but given his limited tank, I would much rather he spend energy trying to fight with the opposition ruck than win a clearance and propel the Eagles forward.
Draper has been very good for the Bombers this season and whilst he lowered his colours slightly to Naitanui, there was plenty to like about his effort and the fact that he played like he actually gave a shit.
THE OLD FELLA
I hope Shannon Hurn doesn’t mind me calling him that, but I am using the name as endearingly as possible.
This was the best I’ve seen Hurn look for the Eagles in a while. It’s been a season of change for Hurn – at times his judgment hasn’t been quite a good as it has been, or his positioning has been off. In a couple of games he looked slow and with the captaincy passing down to Luke Shuey, we all became aware that the man who should have been All-Australian captain at some point over 2018-19 was entering the twilight of his career.
But he ain’t done just yet.
Emulating the output of Brad Sheppard, Hurn picked up 20 touches with one one missing the mark for the game. He was strong over the footy, took some big contact from a charging Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti at one stage, and added five intercepts to his totals.
Hurn is a luxury for West Coast at the moment. He is surrounded by absolute quality and only has to step to the fore when desperately needed. They don’t require him to have ten intercepts, gain 500 metres or lock down a dangerous forward anymore. They just require him to be ready to plug holes, and in this game, Hurn was the… errr, master hole-plugger.
Sounds like a good job, huh?
THE IN-BETWEEN GOOD AND BAD
Look, I loved the hustle of Dylan Shiel. His work rate is enormous and he busts an absolute gut to get involved, stay involved and get to the next contest to get involved again. That kind of gut-running is the sort of thing that few players can muster.
Even West Coast fans reading this would have to acknowledge that he was most likely the hardest runner on the park in this game – maybe not in terms of overall distance covered, but in terms of repeat efforts and running at top pace to make things happen for the Bombers.
But there comes an issue with that – the bloke is completely stuffed every time he gets his mitts on the footy, and some of his turnovers in this one were incredibly costly.
The Bombers were all set to go inside 50 on the break early in the second quarter, and they were doing it with Shiel leading the way. He was going flat-chat through the middle when he drew an opponent, offered a handball over the top to Will Snelling and…
… cocked it up. He missed Snelling, the ball was all of a sudden in dispute, and the Eagles came in to ensure no score eventuated.
He had another one later in the second – just completely missed a teammate and this time, instead of the ball being in dispute, it went directly to an opponent and the Eagles were let off the hook again.
Overall, he played well. He stood under it, took his lumps when he had to and worked harder than anyone else on the ground. It may seem as though I am targeting a couple of moments in a 32-disposal game – and I am. I just feel as though he runs himself into the ground and then can’t execute.
And let’s not talk about that set shot… ewwww.
So yeah, he was good, but there were plenty of bad parts as well. He’s the first bloke ever to get his own category in the middle of the review. Something for the CV, I guess.
UMMM…. REMEMBER THE PROTECTED ZONE?
So I’ll allow the video clip below to tell the story, but players have been pinged for far less obvious infractions than the one committed by both Tom Cole and Jack Redden immediately after Zach Merrett marked the footy in the last quarter.
Essendon were desperate for a goal and though Merrett would hit Irving Mosquito inside 50 with his kick, anyway, the correct decision would have brought Merrett to about 35 metres out with little angle to speak of. Check it out for yourself below.
Look, I hate this stupid “protected zone” rule as much as anyone, but what I hate even more is umpires picking and choosing when an infringement is called and when it is let go. Shane Mumford was called for one a few nights ago that was nowhere near as blatant as the one above – neither Redden or Cole deviate in any way to exit the area, and the result is a more difficult shot for goal for Mosquito.
It may not have made a difference – I doubt it would have, personally, but if you’re going to have a shitty rule, at least ensure you enforce it fairly.
A SAAD MOMENT
How important was that last goal in the third quarter?
With the seconds ticking down, Adam Saad took a mark just outside defensive 50. Now, we all know what Adam likes to do, and he does it instinctively. He gets the ball, he turns, and he goes. Usually, it pays dividends for the Bombers, but tonight it sent them into three quarter time with an extra six goals on added to their deficit.
As Saad took the mark, Tom Cole zeroes in on him. Players, despite coming across as complete knobs at times, aren’t dumb. They’re well-drilled and know the game inside out. Even with time running down, everyone on the park knew that Saad would want to get and go. He got, alright… he got nailed in a tackle after taking a step, turned the footy over and Tim Kelly hit the wide open Liam Ryan as he streaked into the open goal.
As Ryan turned to celebrate with his teammates, the siren sounded and what should have been a 15-point three quarter time lead to the Eagles stretched to a 21-point lead (great maths, I know).
So, I suppose the big question is – did Saad go?
I reckon he did – only slightly, but there was no question he took a step to go and was gobbled up as a result.
Was it the moment that cost the Bombers?
No, they had plenty of other moments that cost them, but an error of this magnitude at this point of the game… it’s hard to look past it.
ANOTHER BLURRY GOAL REVIEW
This is becoming standard. May as well record it on your Nokia and play it back, hoping to see something in the grainy footage to indicate whether a ball is touched or not.
This will cost a team a finals berth – it may have already with the St Kilda v Melbourne result last week having such a tight margin and the goal line footage there looking like someone smeared Vaseline on the lens.
This needs a major overhaul.
So, with four weeks left until finals, the West Coast Eagles now have the situation where their captain, and best big-game player, Luke Shuey is sidelined with a hamstring injury.
Whilst what they were stating had merit, I hated the “Captain Hindsight” bullshit from Jordan Lewis and company on commentary about whether Shuey should have played in the last quarter. If he was tested and passed fit, the Eagles still had a game to win, and given the amount of footy players like Merrett and Shiel were winning, having him out there made sense.
Of course, knowing then what we know now, he would have been sitting on the bench, cheering his team on and looking forward to the Western Bulldogs on Sunday, but as it stands, he will sit out for a while, get himself right and hopefully be back in time for a finals tilt.
Still, with Elliot Yeo not in the side, the Eagles will need something special from Jack Redden, Tim Kelly and Dom Sheed over the next little while as they fight for a top four position.
WHY ISN’T ANTHONY MCDONALD-TIPUNGWUTI IN THE “GOOD” SECTION?
Because I am putting him here.
I liked his game – a four quarter effort from him, which is important as I recon he goes missing for too long at times. However, the zero tackles is a worry. Part of the appeal of Walla is his forward pressure and though he provided and aerial target, that aspect was missing from his game in this one.
WHO SHOULD THE BOMBERS TARGET IN THE OFF-SEASON TO FILL THE GLARING NEED?
Ollie Wines would be perfect, but who knows what’s up with him? Gab Rossi has been hinting that Carlton are going all in for him so the Bombers would want to make an attractive pitch.
Perhaps a look at Will Brodie at Gold Coast could be in order. He’s a strong kid with huge upside, but is on the outer under Stuart Dew. He would be relatively cheap, but might take a year or two to become what the Bombers need right now.
WHAT DOES JACK REDDEN’S RETURN MEAN TO THE EAGLES?
It offers familiarity and stability. It also offers a player who can step up in big games and deliver.
Redden was only behind Steele Sidebottom in the 2018 Gary Ayres Medal race as the best player in finals, if I remember correctly. He can play outside or cover a loss on the inside where required, and unless Elliot Yeo is back for the Dogs clash on Sunday, I reckon that may be asked of him.
SHOULD A DEFENSIVE FORWARD PLAY ON JORDAN RIDLEY?
Just for the first quarter.
Ridley has been making a habit of picking up a bunch of intercept marks in the first quarter of games. He reads the ball well whilst everyone is settling into the rhythm of the contest and before you know it, the bloke has three intercept marks before the quarter time siren.
Such was the case this evening.
If you’re going to do that, lock down hard on him early and then loosen the reins as the game continues. You can thank me later.
IS LIAM DUGGAN THE MOST IMPROVED PLAYER IN THE GAME?
He’d have to be close.
I’m not going to delve into stats – they can be misleading (particularly if you’re a GWS forward, apparently) but in terms of impact, Duggan’s output has eased the strain on the West Coast defence over the last six or seven weeks.
It would not surprise me to see his 17 touches at 94% pick up a coaches vote or two in the wash up of this one.
WHAT IS JOE DANIHER WORTH?
A first rounder and George Hewett to play inside. Would you take it, Bomber fans? Maybe a pick swap thrown in.
He’s a restricted free agent after this season, and now that you’re showcasing his talent again (and his poor goal kicking) offers will come and if the Bombers play hard ball and match whatever offer comes his way, a trade is the only way he leaves.
Of course… maybe you don’t match it and… do you get a compensation pick? I hate this system…
Shame to see Andy McGrath go down with that ankle injury. He has really been turning it on over the last month or so and I was looking forward to watching him a little more in the run home.
Nice hip and shoulder by Luke Shuey that knocked McGrath off-balance when he twisted that ankle. I reckon that hit was missed by many.
Not really sure why Zach Merrett was pinged for the great tackle he laid on Andrew Gaff in the third quarter… too hard for the umpire?
Heard the commentators lamenting players dropping at the knees, or leaning into tackles to draw free kicks. The incident they focused on was when Josh Rotham leaned into the AMT tackle in the second quarter. I thought it was very close to being the same as Will Snelling doing it to earn a free kick in the first quarter, but whatever…
Jetta as a forward… had his opportunities, but I long to see that run from half back, the 45 kick and the goal as a result. Maybe they’re easing him back in before swinging him back.
And what happens if Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti miskicks his shot at goal whilst Joe Daniher is sitting on the fence? I mean, I know Joe had the utmost confidence in Walla to kick the goal, but sitting on the fence as he kicks it? Yeah, I know it gave a lot of people some content about him “being on the fence” in regard to relocating, but had Walla shanked it, Daniher was in no position to contest. Ended well, but could have been a shocker.
And that’ll do me, guys. The Eagles get the Dogs on Sunday night, which should be another ripper, whilst the Bombers will have no easy time against the Cats. If this one wasn’t do-or-die, that one will be.
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