West Coast were built to win it all, and they will

Ryan Buckland Columnist

By Ryan Buckland, Ryan Buckland is a Roar Expert

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    “West Coast can’t win it because Nic Naitanui is missing.” Good luck with that. This common refrain of the offseason has become statement that reveals the speaker’s glaring lack of football knowledge.

    The Eagles are so much more than their superstar ruckman.

    If you’re only as good as your last game, then the negativity directed towards West Coast’s prospects makes a little sense.

    The team had been maligned all season, openly mocked for its inability to win games away from comfortable surroundings or familiar situations.

    West Coast entered Round 21 with a target on their back, with two road games and a Friday night encounter with the ladder-leading Hawks between them and the finish line. They ran the slate, beating the Giants away, Hawthorn at home and Adelaide away.

    The bye week was full of talk that West Coast could make a run from outside the top four, starting against a wounded Western Bulldogs in an elimination final and followed up by a chance at redemption against a fading Hawks, albeit at the MCG.

    Their guts were smeared over the Subiaco turf by the Western Bulldogs in Week 1.

    The show started with a scrappy goal to Liam Picken at the 12-minute mark of the first quarter, and ended with a 20-minute near-scoreless slog that was the physical embodiment of purgatory.

    West Coast’s last game was a neat encapsulation of every doubt that every pundit has posited since the team surged to premiership favouritism in 2015. The Eagles wilted under pressure; they couldn’t halt the Dogs’ momentum.

    Half of the team went missing; Jack Darling did Jack Darling things, Jamie Cripps and Josh Hill had 17 possessions and kicked one goal between them, Elliot Yeo and Sharrod Wellingham dug holes and refused to come out. The Eagles were missing their exemplar, Nic Naitanui, and they will never win anything without him.

    Tom Boyd Western Bulldogs AFL 2016

    I get it. I feel it too. Coming into the game I was the right kind of nervous. Knowing the Western Bulldogs had proverbial-ed the proverbial two weeks prior against a woeful Fremantle – on the same ground, no less – all that was needed was 75 per cent of the performance West Coast had put in against Adelaide in Round 23. It was a soul-mashing defeat.

    The Eagles, a team that spent the year flirting with the idea of being a contender, waited until their last game of the year to reach their most disappointing ebb. It wasn’t getting any better, either. Naitanui was gone for most of the year, second-choice ruckman Scott Lycett was facing a delayed start to the year, the core was continuing to age and for most of the list, 2015 looked like the year everything just sort of clicked. The 2016 additions, Lewis Jetta and Jack Redden, might have actively made things worse.

    Then this happened.

    Wait, not that one…

    Sam Mitchell was traded to West Coast, for the AFL equivalent of an expired tub of yoghurt, and everything changed.

    He joins a team at its demographic apex, on a deal designed with the long term in mind. Sure, West Coast are missing their champion ruckman, the one undisputed on-field leader that the opposition fear. But with Mitchell, the Eagles might have found the premiership piece that has eluded them in their now-decade-long pursuit for a fourth premiership.

    The Mitchell effect
    Sentiment towards former Hawk Mitchell has shifted in the past 12 months. The stocky playmaker has always been held in stupendous regard by the thinking football fan, but it seems his posthumous 2012 Brownlow Medal win has elevated him in the minds of football at large.

    In a league that grows more freakishly athletic by the year, Mitchell stands out for his non-athletic traits. That’s not to say he isn’t an outstanding athlete – anyone that can play AFL football, particularly at its current pace, past the age of 30 cannot be considered anything less.

    But he’s short. He’s slow. He has short arms. He has a joggers gait. He’s muscle-bound.

    Mitchell’s skills are renowned, his ability to find time and space – football’s currency – unparalleled in today’s congestion-heavy meta-game. He’s averaged 28 touches a game in every season bar one (ironically, his 2012 Brownlow season) since 2009, shifting between an inside and outside role for the Hawks. Mitchell has a unique ability to hit targets by hand and foot on both sides of his body, moving forward, backward or laterally and under pressure or with clear air in which to go to work.

    Plenty of players can impose themselves on a game with an act of strength, or speed, or agility. Mitchell does it with his skills, with such regularity that it has almost become predictable. Of course he’s going to execute a perfect box kick to set up Paul Puopolo with an inch of space. Of course he’s going to volley a third man up (RIP) tap 50 metres down the line down a teammate’s throat. Of course, he’s going to thread a handball between the waiting arms of three opponents.

    At 34, Mitchell comes in the top 20 AFL players in this year’s Roar AFL top 50. He is a phenom, a unique player able to set the play like a quarterback without an army of 400-pound men protecting him. Had Mitchell been moved to Brisbane, sentiment towards the Lions would improve. His joining the Eagles should inspire the same positivity, but off a higher base.

    Shaun Burgoyne Sam Mitchell AFL Hawthorn Hawks 2016

    The Eagles already have a Brownlow Medal-winning play-making dynamo: Matt Priddis. The veteran is all substance, with little flair or want for the spotlight, but has built himself an inside playmaking empire that few can match. Priddis won 16 contested possessions and generated 6.7 clearances for West Coast last season, both in the top five in the competition. He’s involved in five West Coast scores per game, while also executing 8.6 tackles – the most in the league by a regular player in 2016.

    Together, Priddis and Mitchell are set to form one of the most damaging, potent and unpredictable table-setting units in the game. It’s already been on show: West Coast’s first JLT Series game saw Mitchell and Priddis collect 28 and 27 touches in 88 minutes of heat-affected play, linking through the middle and fishing the ball out of congestion.

    I’m not sure the opposition will be able to consistently stop it once the season gets underway. Both have a clean handle and quick hands, can thread the ball by hand and have mean fake outs. It will lighten the inside load for Luke Shuey, who can instead focus on his power running out of stoppages rather than complementing Priddis as he has in the past three or four years. Andrew Gaff is free to roam. The Jack Redden experiment is put on hold for at least 12 months. The implications are immense.

    The peak is approaching
    Mitchell is the icing on a cake which has been baking for some time. As Ken and I discussed yesterday, West Coast’s current list was formed in the fires of the club’s illicit drugs crisis, with Chris Judd’s exit request the catalyst for a decade-long build just reaching its crescendo.

    Hawthorn are the league’s leading player recycler, a reputation they are putting to the test in 2017 and beyond. But lurking in the background is West Coast, who have done just as much to augment their list with bolt-on talent in recent years.

    The Eagles have been one of the most consistent buyers of established football talent on the AFL market in recent years. From 2012 to 2016, they traded for nine players and bought the services of one free agent, with 2014 the only year the team has hit up the draft exclusively.

    Best or fringe 22 players Jamie Cripps, Sharrod Wellingham, Elliot Yeo, Jonathon Giles, Lewis Jetta, Jack Redden, Sam Mitchell and Nathan Vardy all began their football careers at other teams. Xavier Ellis and Cale Morton have retired since joining. All bar Elliot were bought in to fix particular needs on the list – Yeo was a lump of clay when he left Brisbane – all with an eye to contention during the primes of the team’s home-grown draft talent.

    We are smack in the middle of that prime. Between 2007 and 2010, in the post-Chris Judd, post-illicit drugs era, West Coast finished third (but sold Judd for pick 3 and Josh Kennedy, 2005’s pick 4), 15th, 11th and 16th. Those years yielded Chris Masten, Kennedy, Nic Naitanui, Luke Shuey, Brad Shepherd, Andrew Gaff and Jack Darling, the core of West Coast’s team.

    The sum total of it all is the Eagles are currently the AFL’s most experienced and second oldest full list (excluding rookies) in the competition, rising up from seventh and 12th respectively in the first year of coach Adam Simpson’s reign. Their time is now.

    Change it up
    West Coast rose in 2015 on the back of coach Simpson’s novel man-zone defence scheme, that saw loose defensive one-on-one assignments and 18-man accountability. It was coined the ‘Weagles Web’ in reference to the way in which West Coast would position its defenders across the ground to force a high kick, before closing in on the ball once a long kick was forced.

    Teams cottoned on to it last year, and the Eagles’ Defensive Efficiency Rating dropped from +17.5 to +14.1, with a raw score of 76.3 compared to 71.5. The team leaked an extra two marks inside 50, and an extra 5.6 inside 50 entries, per game. They were still a top-six defence, but the web wasn’t the fearsome tactical advantage it proved to be in 2015.

    West Coast Eagles 2016 AFL

    That looks set to get worse this season, given the rise of the Western Bulldogs and the AFL’s inimitable drive to follow the leader.

    Dogs coach Luke Beveridge’s system is built to beat the aerial zones, and the JLT Series showed more teams are going to try and pinch elements of it – particularly moving the ball forward by hand rather than foot. It will require an adjustment at West Coast; presumably the focus of the web structure will shift to stopping ground balls as well as intercept marks.

    West Coast’s midfield could also be expected to move the ball by hand a little more frequently in 2017. The Eagles had the second highest kick-to-handball ratio in the league in 2016, and were around 30 per cent more kick happy than the Western Bulldogs.

    In attack, the Eagles would also be expecting, or demanding, a more even contribution from its forward line. Josh Kennedy is one of the best two or three key forwards in the game (depending on where you rate Gold Coast’s Tom Lynch and whether you consider Lance Franklin a key forward), but can he kick 80-plus goals for a third straight year? History says it will be a challenge: Matthew Lloyd was the last player to do it in 1999-2001.

    It will up the onus on Jack Darling to provide more of his own drive, rather than acting as a flanker for Kennedy. Darling’s best goal kicking year (53) came in 2012, when Mark LeCras was out with an ACL tear and Kennedy missed much of the season. He likely won’t get close to that, but a repeat of his 2016 form (44 goals) with more marks and more disposals would fit the bill.

    Josh J Kennedy West Coast Eagles AFL 2016

    The injection of Mitchell, and return of Dom Sheed from a near-season long injury in 2016, should see LeCras play much closer to goal this season. At his best, LeCras was one of the best mid-sized forwards in the game, but his gradual creeping up the ground over the past few years has meant his influence on the scoreboard has waned. That should change this season.

    Jamie Cripps and Josh Hill are a unique small-forward pairing, but rely on being fed the ball more than any other in the league. They kicked 52 goals and had 24 touches per game between them last year, which is about one and a half good players.

    There’s unlikely to be many changes throughout the year. Yeo, Sheed and Chris Masten tend to rotate through the final half forward spot, but play predominately on the ball, leaving a resting ruckman to fill the sixth forward line post. It’s proven an effective mix, and should be well fed by a Mitchell-Priddis-led clearance-winning midfield.

    A powder puff away schedule
    The biggest knock on West Coast over their recent run has been an inability to win against top-eight opponents away from home. That should have been blown out of the water in those final few rounds of 2016, but reputations are sticky.

    Fortunately for the Eagles, their slate of away opponents has gone from difficult to manageable. Last season, West Coast played Hawthorn, Sydney, Geelong, the Western Bulldogs, Greater Western Sydney and Adelaide away from home, going 2-4 with a percentage of 80 (it was 0-4 and a percentage of 65 in their first four).

    The only finals team the Eagles avoided travelling to was North Melbourne. This year, they face the Roos, Hawks, Dogs and Giants – North are a top-eight team in name only, and no one is beating GWS at home so it’s mostly a wash. Instead, West Coast host a range of their toughest opponents, including two of them (Sydney in Round 4 and the Western Bulldogs in Round 8) who travel to Perth on six-day breaks. No fixture is easy, but West Coast have been treated kindly by AFL House this season.

    Oh champion, my champion
    The macro settings are all right for West Coast: an experienced, familiar core, strong key position stocks, a kind fixture, a competition that looks as even as it has for some time. The addition of Sam Mitchell would appear to be the win-now move to put the team over the edge.

    But what do West Coast do about their ruck situation?

    Nic Naitanui will be out until at least Round 17, according to the latest report (from December), if he is able to return at all. Scott Lycett dislocated his shoulder in a WAFL trial match over the weekend, and looks set to miss the first half of the season at the very best.

    West Coast picked up Jonathon Giles from Essendon for practically nothing (they swapped their pick 54 for pick 57 and Giles from Essendon), gave up slightly more for Nathan Vardy from Geelong (pick 68), and bought the services of exhumed corpse Drew Petrie for nothing. It is a horror show compared to the two-pronged attack of Naitanui and Lycett.

    Lycett and Giles formed a solid pairing in the games Naitanui missed last season, but with Lycett’s availability pending the Eagles have a decision to make. Talk seems to be Giles will be sidelined for the new pairing of Vardy and Petrie in Round 1. With Priddis and Mitchell roving the packs, Petrie could ruck full-time and the Eagles will still scoop up and dish out the lion’s share of ground balls.

    Well might they, because Naitanui or no Naitanui, West Coast’s time is now.

    Ryan Buckland
    Ryan Buckland

    As an economist, Ryan seeks to fix the world's economic troubles one graph at a time. As a sports fan, he's always looking one or two layers beneath the surface to search for meaning, on and off the field. You can follow Ryan here.

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    The Crowd Says (64)

    • Roar Guru

      March 15th 2017 @ 8:09am
      AdelaideDocker said | March 15th 2017 @ 8:09am | ! Report

      Now that is a great article.

      Should we be expecting any form of ladder predictions from Mr Buckland in the next 9 days….? I’ll give puppy-dog eyes if need be.

      • Columnist

        March 15th 2017 @ 8:42am
        Ryan Buckland said | March 15th 2017 @ 8:42am | ! Report

        I think this is it for me until next Wednesday’s mega column, which will have a ladder (gulp…). We’ll see, could be back on Friday with a shorter piece.

        • Editor

          March 15th 2017 @ 10:36am
          Josh Elliott said | March 15th 2017 @ 10:36am | ! Report

          It scares me to think how large something must be for you to consider it a mega-column, Ryan.

          • Columnist

            March 15th 2017 @ 10:39am
            Ryan Buckland said | March 15th 2017 @ 10:39am | ! Report

            This one’s 2,500 which is only a couple of hundred words longer than usual these days. When I first started it was 4,000+ every time. Yet the guys still say looooong every time haha. Next week will be longer than this, but I wouldn’t think it’ll approach 4,000. I’ve only got a handful of those big ones in me a year nowadays.

      • Roar Guru

        March 15th 2017 @ 11:31am
        Dalgety Carrington said | March 15th 2017 @ 11:31am | ! Report

        Gee-zus…

    • March 15th 2017 @ 8:25am
      Bobby said | March 15th 2017 @ 8:25am | ! Report

      Unfortunately, interstate teams have to be 10% better to win it all as they ALWAYS have to play the GF away. However, this may well be neutralised for the eagles if they are good enough, given the likelihood of running into Sydney or GWS in the big one.

      A West Coast v GWS grand final… how uninspiring (yes I’m a Victorian)

      • March 15th 2017 @ 8:30am
        AR said | March 15th 2017 @ 8:30am | ! Report

        Bobby, you must have been born after 2004/05/06.

      • March 15th 2017 @ 8:46am
        Reservoir Animal said | March 15th 2017 @ 8:46am | ! Report

        “Unfortunately, interstate teams have to be 10% better to win it all as they ALWAYS have to play the GF away.”

        Interstate teams have an easier time making the Grand Final since they play 10-11 games every year at a fortressed home ground. This is particularly the case for the Eagles, whose Subiaco opponents have just travelled a distance they wouldn’t usually travel and usually lack match readiness as a result.

        The MCG may not be the ideal place for West Coast to play in a Grand Final. But the number of soft wins that geography gifts the Eagles more than balances this.

        • March 15th 2017 @ 9:26am
          Don Freo said | March 15th 2017 @ 9:26am | ! Report

          Thise teams do it once. WC and Freo do it 10 times.

          Victorian teams get at least 15 games in their home state…most get more.

          Did you really think that was an argument?

          • March 15th 2017 @ 9:44am
            Reservoir Animal said | March 15th 2017 @ 9:44am | ! Report

            WC and Freo are physically conditioned for it because their coach knows it’s necessary. Because Victorian teams get so few opportunities to cross the Nullarbor, it’s difficult for coaches to adequately prepare the players for what it takes to win there because for 21 weeks of the year their minds are elsewhere. The violence of the fans in WA (particularly Freo fans) doesn’t help either.

            • March 15th 2017 @ 10:17am
              Bobby said | March 15th 2017 @ 10:17am | ! Report

              All victorians are sooks. It is what binds us. No one can deny it is easier for a Victorian team to win the big one, given that it is played in Victoria, yet we try to deny it anyway.

              • March 15th 2017 @ 10:52am
                Reservoir Animal said | March 15th 2017 @ 10:52am | ! Report

                I didn’t necessarily deny that it is easier for a Victorian team to WIN A GF. I was just pointing out that it is easier for non-Victorian sides (and Geelong) to MAKE A GF given the distinct home-ground advantage they have during the season.

                I am no Hawthorn fan but in 2015 they travelled to Perth three times in the lead-up to their GF win, winning twice. And in their prelim they were virtually being assaulted by Freo fans. For them, just reaching that GF was a major achievement given that Freo and West Coast are more seasoned travelling teams yet both are so incapable of winning finals away from their fortress.

        • March 15th 2017 @ 10:39am
          Enough already said | March 15th 2017 @ 10:39am | ! Report

          So a fortressed home ground is a distinct advantage, but playing the GF at someone else’s home ground shouldn’t make a difference?
          Travelling across the country once results in a team being forgiven for not being match ready, but the teams that do it every other week shouldn’t suffer any affects from it?
          Seems legit.

          • Roar Guru

            March 15th 2017 @ 11:41am
            Cat said | March 15th 2017 @ 11:41am | ! Report

            Eleven home games at a home fortress for any decent team should translate to at least 9 wins right off the bat. The certainly makes getting to finals easier.

            A team that ‘travels every other week’ by necessity should be better at doing so versus a team that travels that distance only once or twice a season. Practice makes perfect after all.

            Is a GF played in Victoria a disadvantage to interstate sides? Yes. How much is it a disadvantage is highly debatable. Unlike H&A crowds, which are highly partisan, GF crowds are largely corporate types who don’t actually barrack for any side. It is a far more neutral crowd.

            FYI: the MCG is not a home ground for all Victorian sides. For example, including the GF both the Bulldogs and Sydney Swans played 4 games at the MCG. Making their ‘familiarity’ at the ground exactly equal.

            • March 15th 2017 @ 12:16pm
              Enough already said | March 15th 2017 @ 12:16pm | ! Report

              So straight off the bat home ground advantage means games should be won 9 out of 11 times, so about 82%. But then the disadvantage of playing a GF at someone else’s home ground suddenly becomes highly debatable? If home games are so much easier to win, wouldn’t a GF at home make it easier too?

              Understand the MCG isn’t everyones home ground, but when the Hawks did their hat trick, the combination of Sydney, Freo and WCE had played a total of 9 (I think) games at the G, versus Hawthorns 50ish over the same period. No advantage there?

              If travel from WA every other week is so easy to overcome, surely travelling to WA once or twice a year should be nothing. A once/twice a year trip to Perth should hardly be the sookfest that we currently get from the Victorians.

              Look, every team has its different pros/cons, but to say its easier for the interstate teams because they have a ‘fortress’, and that travel causes more problems for Vic teams because they don’t do much of it vs it shouldn’t be an issue for interstaters as they should be used to it is just weak.

              • March 15th 2017 @ 12:33pm
                Reservoir Animal said | March 15th 2017 @ 12:33pm | ! Report

                I think it’s just that the non-Victorian whinging about the Grand Final venue is an invalid argument unless all surrounding facts are taken into account. It would be nice if all 18 teams flew an equal amount of kms each year but that won’t happen in our lifetimes so we just have to accept that.

                The fact is that ever since the Malthouse era, a key requirement to being a West Coast player is having the physical ability to travel interstate and still play your best football. West Coast make sure their list is full of good travellers and go about their business from there. Sometimes this focus wins them Grand Finals and other times they get totally outclassed.

                Victorian teams don’t pick their list on who travels to Perth well because they see more value in prioritising other things. And the fact that- unlike the Perth team- most Victorian teams only get a few games a year where their supporters monopolise the crowd is a fact the Perth teams often refuse to admit.

              • Roar Guru

                March 15th 2017 @ 1:08pm
                Cat said | March 15th 2017 @ 1:08pm | ! Report

                Great job straw manning that, you’ve completely and utterly misquoted everything I said.

                First off what makes up home ground advantage? It is travel or lack of? Is it ground dimensions? Is it a parochial crowd? Certainly all are a part of it. However, IMO at least 80% of it is crowd based. A team can train for different ground dimensions (and failure to do so is just poor coaching). A team can make adjustments and allowances to mitigate the effects of travel. There is nothing a team can do about parochial crowd though.
                The GF is the least parochial crowd, by far, played at the MCG every year. Therefore, common sense says the GF provides the least ‘home ground advantage’.

                I never once said overcoming traveling is easy. Imagine the difference between a businessman who flys overseas fortnightly versus a person who flys once a year for holidays. Common sense says the guy who more frequently flys will have been tools and tactics to mitigate the effects/issues of traveling. Neither one enjoys it, but the fortnightly flyer won’t stress about it, because he does it so frequently.

              • March 15th 2017 @ 8:09pm
                Andrew Browne said | March 15th 2017 @ 8:09pm | ! Report

                Least parochial? Tell that to the umpires at last year’s GF.

        • March 15th 2017 @ 4:36pm
          Darryl Nettleton said | March 15th 2017 @ 4:36pm | ! Report

          I think the home ground fortress idea cuts both ways. If West coast have a fortress for 10 or 11 times a season. All the travel they have to do counter balances that out. Btw there is no greater fortress than skill Stadium

          • Roar Guru

            March 15th 2017 @ 5:19pm
            Cat said | March 15th 2017 @ 5:19pm | ! Report

            Never said Kardinia park shouldn’t be included. However, keep in mind every interstate side gets 11 home games at their ground, Geelong is only allowed 7 or 8.

            Interstate sides get, on average, every other game against clubs, such as Hawthorn and Collingwood, on their home pitch. Geelong is required to play ‘home’ at Collingwood and Hawthorn’s home grounds.

      • March 26th 2017 @ 6:39pm
        johnny xerox said | March 26th 2017 @ 6:39pm | ! Report

        umm, its a national game?..maybe time to move the GF around the country, seperate the privileged from their sense of entitlement.. ((;

    • Columnist

      March 15th 2017 @ 8:31am
      Ryan Buckland said | March 15th 2017 @ 8:31am | ! Report

      Just for the record, the headline is a touch misleading. West Coast aren’t my premiership pick.

      • March 15th 2017 @ 8:33am
        Bobby said | March 15th 2017 @ 8:33am | ! Report

        Your premiership pick wouldn’t be the Giants by any chance Ryan? You’ve been pretty quiet on them

      • March 15th 2017 @ 8:39am
        I hate pies said | March 15th 2017 @ 8:39am | ! Report

        It sure reads that way.

      • March 15th 2017 @ 9:47am
        GoSwans said | March 15th 2017 @ 9:47am | ! Report

        Minor Premiers on percentage given that draw?

    • March 15th 2017 @ 8:38am
      I hate pies said | March 15th 2017 @ 8:38am | ! Report

      You touched on The Eagles main issue but didn’t really hit the nail on the head; their bottom six. When the tough get going they go missing. I’d through Darling into this bucket too. For mine he’s one of the most overrated flat track bullies in the league.
      This is why the Eagles can’t win when they travel, and why they can’t win the flag.

      • Columnist

        March 15th 2017 @ 10:32am
        Cameron Rose said | March 15th 2017 @ 10:32am | ! Report

        Darling’s record home vs away is actually reasonably similar. A bit of a drop-off, but would only mirror his teams performance. However, his record in finals is extremely poor, and we know he’s had those really bad moments.

      • March 15th 2017 @ 1:47pm
        Scott said | March 15th 2017 @ 1:47pm | ! Report

        It’s true they have gone missing in big games but I think that is all confidence. I actually think West Coast have the most talented bottom 6 in the league, along with gws. In fact they have talent to about 25. The problem has always been the midfield, which Mitchell and a fit Sheed fix. Darling has actually only played a real shocker once and that was on the biggest stage of all. He wasn’t that bad against the dogs but made the highlight reel again for a stuff up. That dropped mark in the GF will haunt him for ever but he is still only a kid and as a KPP, shouldn’t hit his peak till next year

      • March 15th 2017 @ 4:13pm
        Batman said | March 15th 2017 @ 4:13pm | ! Report

        Did you not read that the Eagles won against GWS & Adelaide away?
        Did you not read that the schedule was unfair in that the Eagles mostly played the better teams away and the bottom teams at home?
        Are you not aware that Darling was the 14th highest goal kicker last year with 44 goals, not bad along side the No. 1 goal kicker.
        Are you not suppose to beat weaker teams by a big margin, is it ok for your team to “bully” weak teams?

      • March 15th 2017 @ 10:22pm
        Scott said | March 15th 2017 @ 10:22pm | ! Report

        Just found another interesting stat comparing Darlings career to some of the best forwards of this millennium. After 6 seasons Jonothon Brown had played in 15 finals averaging 1.66 goals a game, Tom Hawkins had played in 10 finals averaging 1.2 goals a game, Jack Darling has played in 9 finals at 1.77 goals per game. Not to mention that the majority of finals Brown and Hawkins played in (as forwards) their team won, whereas the majority of finals Darling has played in the Eagles have lost. I’ll say it again, he played a shocking GF and became the face of the Eagles pitiful display, but he is still a kid and still a good player.

    • March 15th 2017 @ 8:48am
      Vince Massara said | March 15th 2017 @ 8:48am | ! Report

      West Coast are an aging list and they are primed to take it all this year too, their home ground advantage is always a good thing, and adding Mitchell is by far the best pick up of the year. He will make their whole midfield play better.

    • March 15th 2017 @ 8:59am
      Rob said | March 15th 2017 @ 8:59am | ! Report

      Living in perth i hear eagles eagles eagles all the time so will admit i didnt read most of this long winded love letter to one of the lamest franchises in the world.

      I dont know where the eagles will finish but it wont be premiers – they are streets behind the 2 sydney teams for starters.

      However this is most likley the last chance they will get to dream for a bit – they are about to be overtaken by the likes of Melbourne and St Kilda.

      And EVERYONE in the west knows that.

      • March 15th 2017 @ 11:23am
        Joe B said | March 15th 2017 @ 11:23am | ! Report

        You should pop into the Swan Valley over the weekend and grab yourself a couple bottles of whine…. don’t want you running out.

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