The Big Questions – West Coast 2023 Season Preview

West Coast are in a precarious place right now.

After a horrid run in 2022, many suggested it was time to have a bit of a cleanout and start afresh – it was obvious that with the ageing veterans, this team was not going to contend in 2023. They’d recover a little, but not enough.

Some view season 2023 as the year they see a light at the end of the tunnel. Others may think it could actually be a train.

Yes, here we are – Hurn and Shuey are going around again, and though they are getting some very good players back from injury, we see an Eagles team looking as though they will improve their ladder position. But to what end?

Currently, we have a Hawthorn team throwing players out because they are in their late 20s, and yet the Eagles are retaining players well into their 30s. One of these teams has the right idea – I guess we’ll soon find out which one it is.

It’s that time of year, already.

The break after Christmas and New Year is over. The holidays are finished for AFL players, and the hard stuff starts now. Yes, the teams had been training for well over a month prior to Christmas, but as we head into 2023, the ante is upped and the intensity increases.

This is where premierships are won and lost. This is where improvements are made and lists come together. New faces, new colours, old heads with renewed passion… so much feeds into the making of a club. And as the days tick down toward to the intra-club clashes, practice games, and eventually the real stuff, questions are raised about each team and how they’re going to perform in 2023.

We don’t do things by halves here, at The Mongrel. When we do a season preview, we go all out to make sure it is the best, most comprehensive coverage you’ll receive. We pride ourselves on it. If you are going to read one season preview for your team, or any team, this series provides it.

The way it works is as follows.

Each club has 15-18 questions asked about their 2023 season, their coaches, their players, and their expectations. The answers are not glossed over. We dive deep on each and every one. The first five are free for you to consume. The next 13 are for our members (including a “special” appearance from Mrs Mongrel to have her say).

You will not read a deeper season preview than this – I guarantee it.

And with that, let’s jump into The Big Questions regarding the West Coast Eagles



He is almost like the forgotten man when people talk about the excellent young talls of the competition… though I am positive that any West Coast fan reading this remembers both him and his potential quite fondly.

Allen was thrown all over the place in 2021. With Josh Kennedy and Jack Darling up forward, he was a luxury for Adam Simpson to deploy where he needed extra height. And that need was most pressing in defence, as Jeremy McGovern and Tom Barrass were both injured at points. Hell, he even spent some time as the relief ruckman.

As part of a 2022 season that went from bad to worse in some cases, Allen found himself unable to take the field at all, a nagging foot injury not worth risking in a season going nowhere.

It was a wise decision to keep him out.

As Allen sat out the year, West Coast flailed. Not only were they missing their young star-in-the-making, but also several veterans. It was a recipe for disaster.

But a new season, and a full recovery means that things could be about to change.

There was a time a couple of years back when the debate around Aaron Naughton versus Oscar Allen raged amongst the Mongrel team. Whilst this is no longer a realistic debate, given the past couple of seasons, a return to form, or expected form, could see the debate reignited. I am sure at least one of our West Coast-supporting writers would love to see this occur.

With Josh Kennedy now retired, there seems no question as to where Allen will be located in the new season. His work will be as the number two forward behind Jack Darling, or perhaps alongside him. How do we expect that work?

Both men are highly capable of working up the ground and doubling back toward goal. When you throw Jake Waterman into the mix as the third tall, you get the feeling that when West Coast are opposed to teams without overly-mobile defenders, they could cause a few issues. Allen’s overhead and contested marking were becoming a really strong facet of his game in 2021 (he was averaging 1.76 per game, which would have been good enough for top 20 in the league in 2022). If, as expected, he has improved his strength, this number could be in excess of two per contest in 2023. which would AT LEAST have him in the top ten in the game. This is not a flight of fancy – Allen without injury has the capacity to tear a game apart.

He is no longer a kid – he will be 24 at the start of the season. This is the year that Allen must stand up and stake his claim on the West Coast forward line. If he is able to do this, it will not be long until his output surpasses that of Darling, and he usurps the number one forward role.

Are my expectations for him high?

Hell yes, they are!

Are they too high?

No, not if we’re basing expectations on exposed form and expected growth.

Make no mistake – if the Eagles are to have a significant improvement in 2023, so much of it depends on this bloke going from great prospect to great player. He has the tools. He has the opportunity. Now, he just needs his body to cooperate and things will automatically look brighter out West.



Around this time last year, I was toying with putting together a list of players who wear their hearts on their sleeves. They are players who cannot help but demonstrate just how much they care – they cannot hide it.

I decided against it, because I couldn’t think of a catchy name for it. I thought the IGAS Club might fit. It stood for “I Give A Shit”. It was certainly a little better than the IGAF Club, which also crossed my mind.

Anyway, Elliot Yeo was the first name I thought of when I had that idea.

I have great admiration for Yeo. The way he works in the midfield and around the ground have often drawn praise from me. He reminds me of a terminator – part man, part machine, intent on winning the footy and every contest he engages in.

But some parts on the footy terminator required a service in 2022 – his recovery from osteitis pubis meant that we saw a player unable to do the work to get into the condition required. Kane Cornes – he of the well-thought-out and definitely not knee-jerk reactions – basically said he was fat.

Look, the truth was that Yeo was trying to do things he was once capable of in a body that simply would not allow him to… and it was frustrating the hell out of him!

Unfortunately, Yeo was not alone in dealing with injury. The Eagles also lost Luke Shuey and Dom Sheed, meaning that even a 75% fit version of Yeo was better than anything else.

But it was not good enough for Yeo. You could see the anger and frustration on his face when he couldn’t give that extra little bit to get his team over the line. It was foreign to him. His body had betrayed him.

If I have one expectation on the Eagles in 2023, it is that they will be uncompromising in the contest, and the leader in that regard will be Yeo – it has to be him… he knows no other way.

We have heard so much about two-way mids in the league. Really, I talk about them all the time. Players like George Hewett, Jarryd Lyons, Clayton Oliver, Touk Miller, and Jack Steele… Elliot Yeo’s name belongs up there with those guys and if he gets his legs under him this preseason, what I hope to see is the terminator remind the league that there is a man in blue and gold that is capable of setting the standard when it comes to winning the footy, and making sure his opponent has a horrible time attempting to do the same.



I’d like to say yes – I really would, but the realist in me knows that so much needs to go right in order for that to occur.

The Jeremy McGovern of 2018/2019 seems a far cry from the version we saw in 2020/21, and I reckon conditioning plays a huge part in it. You see, after 2018, Gov got paid, baby! And he got paid in a big way. Some articles had him listed as the highest-paid player in the competition, and supporters may argue that he bloody-well earned it!

To put it bluntly, there is no flag without Jeremy McGovern taking a risk, leaving Jordan de Seagully, and taking that big intercept clunk in the dying stages of the 2018 decider.

As great as that moment was, and as much as it meant to the club, he hasn’t really earned that salary over the last couple of seasons, and he needs to get his working boots on again.

When “on”, there is nobody better at the zone-off/intercept game than Gov. Hell, even in the early stages of 2022, we saw him working hard to hold the West Coast defence together. And then, the injuries came.

Prior to that, however, there were instances where Gov started to look visibly frustrated with the way things were playing out around him. His body language intimated that he would rather be somewhere else, and when you start seeing things like that… good things usually don’t follow.

In this case, they definitely did not follow.

Gov played ten games in 2022. He has missed significant time in each of the last three seasons. He needs a game where he plays close to 20 games – the Eagles need him to do exactly that as well.

In the intro to this article, I wrote about how premierships were won at this time of year – the Eagles obviously are not going to contend in 2023. However, I also mentioned that this is where lists come together and part of that is old heads returning with renewed passion.

Seeing Jeremy McGovern in great shape to start the season would be a West Coast fan’s dream. He is no longer a spring chicken – he forms part of the 30+ group at West Coast – and needs to give himself every opportunity to succeed. Fitness is the key to that.

Does he have one last AA season in him?

Look, it could happen, but it starts and ends with his ability to stay on the park. If he gets in great shape, it is not out of the question, at all. If he doesn’t… well, he had a great run through 2016-2019, huh?



Speed… and it was something sorely lacking in 2022.

Actually, the Eagles were lacking quite a bit, but speed from the back fifty was a pretty glaring weakness. Blokes like Shannon Hurn, Jeremy McGovern, Alex Witherden, Tom Cole, Liam Duggan, and Tom Barrass are all good to excellent defenders, but in terms of leg speed… well, I wouldn’t be plonked my hard-earned dollars on them to be outrunning people as they move the footy outside 50 – with the exception of Duggan.

The Eagles moved Jamaine Jones to defence to add some spark in the back half of 2022, and Josh Rotham won the AFL Grand Final Sprint in 2021, but someone like Hunt has serious pace to burn coming out of defence and will happily tuck the footy under his arm and take the defence on. He is also great at changing direction – which is where he differentiates from Rotham, who is really quick in a straight line.

So, why was Hunt surplus to needs at Melbourne if he provides such a weapon?

Good question – this is why they pay me the average bucks!

A lot of it comes down to opportunity. At Melbourne, he was competing for a spot with proven commodities – Angus Brayshaw, Michael Hibberd, Trent Rivers, and Tom Sparrow were all having moments and were highly capable at the feet of May, Lever, and Petty. Hunt was just fourth in line for three spots too often.

At West Coast, he offers something very few can match. His closest competition would likely be Jones, but another bloke, as we will explore below, could, and should start to really press his case, as well.



Okey doke… buckle up for this one.

Will they miss a fit forward with mercurial skills, who can impact a game both with his creativity or physicality?

Hell yes, they’d miss him!

However, we are not talking about 2018 Willie Rioli, are we? We’re talking about the Willie Rioli who returned from suspension (due to his own stupidity) and proceeded to go through the motions in 2022, playing 13 games, looking out of shape, and injuring his hamstring in Round Seven – seriously, did you not see this coming? I can remember thinking ‘Rioli doesn’t look in the best shape.’

Two months off, and he returned, kicked six goals in four weeks before the death of his father rocked him, and he spent a few weeks on the sidelines as a result. He returned to the side in Round 20, played three of the last four games and did okay without doing much of anything special. He basically meandered around the field to end the year and his tenure at West Coast.

You won’t miss that.

Of course, should he start taking his footy seriously, and not just like it’s an easy gig in the family business, he could produce the type of form at Port Adelaide that makes West Coast fans sigh heavily. This is a bloke that can change a game. He is blessed with more talent in one leg than most have in their entire body, and through silliness and lack of preparation, he has squandered it for the majority of his time in the game.

When you look at a player like that, see what he has to work with, see him get suspended, and then witness him check back in and play half-hearted footy… it’s heartbreaking. Yes, I am sure you’d prefer to see him have a revelation that footy isn’t forever whilst wearing an Eagles jumper. He is the sort of player that can go a long way to accelerating a rebuild, but if he is going to do that now, it will be wearing Port colours. I wish him all the luck in the world, and hope the penny has finally dropped.


This ends the free component of the article. The next five or so thousand words are for our members. Want to join us?



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