The Big Questions – 2024 West Coast Season Preview

West Coast supporters would have celebrated hard on the 31st of December, happy to leave behind the worst season in the club’s proud history.

They left 2023 with the wooden spoon, but the prize worth keeping was the acquisition of Harley Reid, who will be the pearl in the oyster of their rebuild.

They enter 2024 with the hope that this season will be a step forward, not a year where they stand still in the same place, waiting for something to happen. They waved goodbye to club legends, Nic Naitanui, Shannon Hurn, and captain, Luke Shuey, and are now absolutely focused on what’s to come – not what has gone before them.

This powerful club took a hit in 2023. It was foreign ground for most of their supporters. Having entered the competition as a team ready to genuinely compete, the Eagles have not endured a period of sustained mediocrity and they’ll be hell-bent on ensuring this is not the period they become familiar with it.

Can they arrest the issues that saw them perform so poorly in 2023? Will they commence their rise up the ladder sooner than expected? Or is this another year of pain for the blue and gold army?


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 2024, 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 contender. 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 2024.

We don’t do things by halves here, at The Mongrel Punt. 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 a minimum of 15 questions asked about the upcoming season, their coaches, their players, and their expectations. The answers are not glossed over. We dive deep on each and every one – some singular answers would normally be long enough for an entire column. The first five questions/answers are free for you to consume. The next 10-14 for each club are for our members, including a special appearance from Mrs Mongrel to throw her two cents in the mix.

Isn’t it a bit early for a season preview? Well, I suppose, but do you know how long it takes to write seven thousand words? That’s 18 x 7,000… gets out the calculator… that’s 126,000 words. The average novel is about 85,000 words, so buckle the hell up with these previews.

Also, if there are any issues that arise after the publication of the preview, they will be covered in standalone articles to act as additions to this preview.

You will not read a deeper season preview than this – I guarantee it. This is where we start the run to the new season and believe me – nobody does it better than The Mongrel.




Automatically, this results in a small leap up the ladder for the Eagles.

Let’s look at it a little further. Over the last couple of years, Elliot Yeo has been a shadow of what he once was. Unable to do the work necessary to re-establish himself in the midfield, his efforts off half-back in 2023 were solid without being… well, Yeo-Like. Missed 30 games over the past two seasons

Jeremy McGovern has gone from being the best defender in the league a few years back to being just another bloke who struggles staying out on the park. Missed 26 games over the past two seasons

Tom Barrass could be the best key defender in the league with a clean run at it. He has taken control of the back six without McGovern and is as good an interceptor as he is a spoiler. Missed 11 games over the past two seasons.

Liam Ryan is a matchwinner, but it is tough to win matches when you’re parked on the sidelines with soft tissue injuries. Has missed 25 games in the last two years.

They have missed Tom Cole so much in defence. Reliable and unsung, he has missed 33 games in the past two seasons.

And Dom Sheed has fallen off a cliff, health-wise, as well. He has missed 29 games across the last two seasons.

Keep in mind, we’re not talking about players sitting out an entire year with an ACL injury, or a terrible leg break. No, these are players that have sat out for a variety of different reasons at different times. Badly torn hamstrings, osteitis pubis, ankle injuries… the list goes on.

So, putting my fairy godmother outfit on (and it’s not even Saturday night… settle down, Mrs Mongrel), if I were to grant these players immunity from injury in 2024, what difference do they make?

Far out… it would be significant.

An angry and inspired Elliot Yeo… scratch that – a fit Elliot Yeo in the midfield would give the Eagles the type of weapon that would make Harley Reid and Reuben Ginbey smile as they learn the onball craft at the highest level. His intensity and attack on the ball (and opponent) would automatically give the Eagles more contested footy and a harder edge.

McGovern and Barrass working in tandem in defence for an entire season? Throw in Tom Cole to cover a mid-size forward. That changes the face of the West Coast defence that seemed to be held together by string and clag at points over the last couple of years.

Sheed back to his running best? What a luxury to give Tim Kelly some mature help.

And a fit Liam Ryan up forward would give the attack such a shot in the arm. It would no longer be Oscar Allen, Jack Darling, or… not much else. Ryan gives the dual impact of being great in the air and on the deck. If only he took his preparation seriously.

They’re a different kettle of fish when you factor in health, this Eagles team. But am I just playing wishful thinking, here? Or is there a chance that even two or three of the players listed return to full fitness and are able to make a significant contribution in 2024?

If that occurs, attending Eagles home games in 2024 becomes quite a different experience to the 2023.



Geez, given the reputation of the bloke and the way he played his Under-18s football, Adam Simpson must be biting his lip as he thinks about whether to throw the kid straight into the middle to see what he can accomplish.

I guess the sticking point is that Reid, as good as he is, will be competing against grown men with a half dozen years of experience, pre-seasons, and years in the gym. He is not going to do what he did last year against blokes who have been shrugging off tackles and crashing packs for a living.

So, do you protect him for a while, or throw him in with the sharks and hope he can swim pretty bloody well?

In 2022, North Melbourne threw their prodigy (now Port Adelaide’s prodigy). Jason Horne-Francis, straight into the midfield mix. JHF was willing to mix it up with the big boys, but he was, in reality, a man-child. He has a maturing body, but he was not strong enough (yet) to match it with the big boys of the AFL midfield. What we saw, as a result of that decision, was a young man becoming increasingly frustrated with things. By “things” I mean the club and those around him.

Sure, we’re talking about two very different players, with two very different mindsets, but it is worth considering that by throwing him into the middle right off the bat, we may see as much harm done, as good.

In contrast, Collingwood just flat out refused to put Nick Daicos into the action until he had 30 games to his name. Playing off half-back, the young star blossomed in the role and was able to move into the guts on his, and the club’s timeline.

Daicos was dominant in the middle in 2024, and although North may have made an error with JHF, they sure as hell learnt a lesson and used Harry Sheezel in a similar role to Daicos to start his career.

So, where do West Coast play Harley Reid to introduce him to the AFL?

The intraclub and practice games leading into 2024 suddenly become must-watch for Eagles fans. Not only will they get a great indication of how the team is travelling, but they will also get a glimpse of how Adam Simpson is looking to use the biggest asset the club has unveiled since they drafted a big, dreadlocked bloke with the second pick back in 2008.

With Naitanui, the pathway was clear. He was a ruckman – what else was he gonna do? With Reid, the ball is well and truly in Adam Simpson’s court. Immediate impact, or the long game?

Big questions, indeed.



I like Matt Flynn. For those unfamiliar with his work, before the emergence of Kieren Briggs at GWS, I was of the belief that he would become their number one ruck, eventually replacing the mammoth, and often-absent Brayden Preuss. However, Briggs threw a spanner into the works and it left Flynn looking for a new home with more opportunities.

And a solid young ruck with an enormous upside was right up West Coast’s alley.

The Eagles asked a lot of Bailey Williams over the last couple of seasons. Working as a backup to Nic Naitanui, he could have been perfect for the role. However, with Nic Nat’s injuries and limited minutes, it meant that Williams was doing some pretty heavy lifting.

In truth, I wasn’t sure he was up to the task, and in 2022, he wasn’t.

He played 17 games that season, thrown to the wolves in a way, and averaged just 9.2 disposals and 17 hit outs per contest. He was a Clayton’s ruckman – the ruck you had when you really didn’t have a ruckman. Showing my age, there – apologies.

However, in 2023, he really stepped up his game, and what resulted was a young man starting to own the ruck role. His averages leapt, going +3.6 in disposals and +10.1 hit outs per game. The big, and most impressive jump came in the form of his clearance work, where Williams went from 2.6 per game in 2022, to 4.2 in 2023. He demonstrated how effective he could be in the ruck against Port Adelaide, returning 17 disposals, 37 hit outs and 13 clearances in Round Six.

Hmmm… maybe he was going to be a ruckman after all?

How these two combine in 2024 will tell a bit of a story about both guys? From the outside looking in, both would appear to have claims on the number one ruck role, and both will be keen to continue the battle, regardless of who gets the initial nod.

Flynn is 26 – he is primed and ready to make his mark as the number one man. Williams is about to turn 24. He is still improving.

I love what the Eagles have done here. They have secured two players for the one role, which gives them both cover, and competition for the spot. A lot of it may come down to which of the two can adapt best and head forward as a marking target. At this stage of their careers, it has not really been their strong suits. Flynn’s best return has been two goals (three times). Williams has never managed multiple goals.

Who gets the nod?

Let’s see these blokes go at it in the intraclub games, first. These West Coast scrimmages are going to make some great viewing this year.



Liam Ryan is no stranger to sharing small-forward duties in this West Coast team. Hell, when both he and Willie Rioli were running around together, they made for a brilliant one-two punch.

It is for that reason, and that Ryan plays a hell of a lot taller than he is, that this tandem has a high chance of success… if Ryan is able to get healthy.

Brockman was a bit of a standout in the preseason a couple of years ago at Hawthorn. I remember watching him in one of the practice games and thinking ‘hmmm, he is playing himself into the Round One team’.

Lo and behold, there he was, front and centre as the season began,

Brockman’s move to West Coast garnered little fanfare. He is coming off a 15-game season where he was serviceable, but unable to really have a big impact on games. He is quick, agile, and has a good goal sense, but he was unable to translate that to scoreboard impact, going goalless in seven of those 15 outings.

That cannot be repeated in 2024. New team or not, a small forward averaging under a goal per game doesn’t remain a small forward for long.

Looking at team dynamics, and the way Ryan plays the game, there is a chance that Brockman could genuinely be the number one small forward at West Coast. That is not a shot at Ryan – he is more than a small forward; he is a high flying highlight machine. But Brockman is a more traditional little bloke. He is a front-and-centre type of player who is not going to be leaping with the big blokes too often. Ryan is a big bloke in a little bloke’s body.

West Coast’s forward set up, assuming all are fit and ready to go, houses Oscar Allen, Jack Darling, Jamie Cripps, Ryan Maric, and Liam Ryan as the core. It leaves plenty of room for Brockman to establish himself in this team and make himself an integral part of the Eagles’ forward line going forward.

But he has to pick up that scoring average. West Coast were dead-last in scoring last season. They were a full 229 points in arrears of North Melbourne. Ryan and Brockman, working together, have a great shot at rectifying this.



In the worst-performing team of the season, he was roughly 25 goals off the pace, so you’re looking at a player who is up against it.

Sorry, but my answer to this question is no, he cannot win it. But that does not mean we don’t see him continue to rise up the goalkicking ladder, does it?

What people have failed to mention in a lot of the mainstream media, 2023 was largely Oscar Allen’s reintroduction to AFL life after sitting out the entire 2022 season. That he was able to register 53 goals in the lowest-scoring team in the game is a brilliant effort and indicative of just how good he can be as both he and this team start their climb.

In our little Mongrel Family, two of our writers have had an ongoing discussion about the merits of their respective team key forwards. Our man, Daniel Jon Kershaw is an Eagles man, and he has contended that Allen is the better forward when it comes to him and Aaron Naughton. Our resident Dogs tragic, Alex ‘Doc’ Docherty is, as you’d expect, firmly in the opposite camp.

After Allen’s injury swung the momentum toward Doc, Kershaw was smiling in 2023, as Allen grabbed that momentum back and shook it like a Christmas present when you’re trying to uncover what’s inside.

So much comes back to the list being healthy. If that happens, more opportunities inside 50 are created. When that happens, the number one forward stops nibbling at the crumbs and starts feasting on what is presented to him. And after a stellar 2023, Oscar Allen is sitting at the head of the table in the Eagles’ forward line, waiting to see what’s going to be dished up.

No Coleman, but 60+ in 2024 is a reality. And a successful start to his reign as co-captain.

Go well, Medium-Sized O.


This concludes the free section of our preview. Not bad, huh? The next two-thirds are for our members. You can join, y’know?


As mentioned above, the first five questions are free – the next 10-12 are for our members. I believe my work is worth twenty-five cents per day. If you don’t, that’s fine. You’re welcome to join and keep reading