Time for a change at West Coast
West Coast Eagles midfielder Chris Masten smothers a kick from Geelong's Andrew Mackie (Photo: Daniel Carson/AFL Media).
With the Essendon saga remaining front and square in most of the news relating to the AFL in 2013, many of the on-field issues have been pushed into the background.
These would be topics constantly discussed and often in the headlines in any normal AFL season, but as we know 2013 hasn’t been that sort of year.
One of those matters would have to be the demise of the West Coast Eagles as a genuine premiership contender, which was touted at the start of the season.
Although Melbourne has been dreadfully embarrassing, they were not seen as a chance to play finals this year, the Eagles however were seen as certainties to make the eight and in fact this columnist among many tipped them to win their fourth flag.
They had risen from wooden spooners in 2010 to preliminary finalists in 2011 and then last year made the semi final stage, but this was seen as an excellent effort as they were stricken by long term injuries to key players, Josh Kennedy, Mark LeCras and Andrew Embley.
With those stars back and another year of development under their belt for emerging trio, Jack Darling, Andrew Gaff and Nick Natianui, West Coast looked hard to beat especially at their fortress Subiaco Oval.
However, the home ground has become a graveyard as the Eagles have defeated two bottom six teams, the Bulldogs and Gold Coast and thanks to a Naitanui goal after the siren just pipped North Melbourne, who had dominated John Worsfold’s team for most of the game.
West Coast has again had a bad run with injury. Naitanui has missed half the season, Daniel Kerr’s ageing body keeps letting him down, reliable defender, Shannon Hurn suffered a season ending ankle injury and Mark LeCras and Luke Shuey have also missed several matches.
It appeared West Coast had the depth to cover these absences, but that hasn’t been the case and their midfield has been exposed as lacking pace and outside run, with their best player in that area, Andrew Gaff actually not improving in 2013.
After an excellent 2012, opposition teams have been tagging him and he has struggled to cope with that.
They had high hopes for Sharrod Wellingham, who was recruited from Collingwood to help fill that role with Gaff, but a trampoline accident in the pre season, which damaged his ankle, saw him sidelined until the last third of the season.
He has been good since coming in, but too late to make a significant difference and get them into the finals.
The Eagles game plan seems to be one dimensional and easy to close down with a lack of a plan B, C or D if they get into trouble. Obviously the buck stops with the coach, John Worsfold.
He is the favourite of favourite sons with this footy club. He is a dual premiership captain, but he’s had 12 years at the helm and to me the Eagles’ performances have had a feeling of staleness about them, yet the club in recent times has been close to re-signing Woosha for another two years.
However, West Coast have been nothing short of embarrassing over the past fortnight and those efforts could justify the need to change the coach and make a fresh start and begin a new era at this proud football team.
Looking at Worsforld’s body language in Friday night’s drubbing at the hands of Collingwood and his cryptic post match comments, maybe he has finally had enough.
For someone revered so much at West Coast, it would be best if he made the decision himself, unlike Kevin Sheedy back in 2007 at Essendon.
Worsfold may have thought after the win over the Bombers that the Eagles could end the season well as players started to come back, but that was a false dawn as they kicked their lowest ever scores at Subiaco and then the MCG.
There is talent on this list, way too much actually not to be in the finals, but injuries aside, the players look like they need a fresh voice and it would be a good job to take considering the resources that football club has at it’s disposal.
Worsfold has managed to get his team into the finals nine times in 12 years and won the 2006 flag, which is an excellent record.
He should walk away very proud of what he’s done and can walk away knowing he’s been a major contributor to another successful era like the 90s when he was a player and walking away now looks like a good option.
Dan Lonergan is one Australia's most respected and versatile commentators. In more than 16 years on ABC Grandstand he has covered AFL footy (including four Grand Finals), cricket, tennis, and three Olympic Games, including London 2012 where he commentated 16 sports.