Previewing the Eagles and Dockers ahead of the 2013 AFL season

mastermind5991 Roar Guru

By mastermind5991, mastermind5991 is a Roar Guru

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    This is the latest in a series I will write leading into Friday’s AFL season opener between Adelaide and Essendon at AAMI Stadium, today examining the chances of the West Coast Eagles and Fremantle Dockers.

    West Coast Eagles

    2012 snapshot

    Last season: 5th (after regular season and after finals series)
    Best and fairest: Scott Selwood
    Leading goal-kicker: Jack Darling (53 goals)
    Most recent premiership: 2006

    I actually think the West Coast Eagles took a step backwards last year. In 2011, they rose from three years at the bottom to make the preliminary finals, losing to eventual premiers Geelong, who had regularly tormented them during their time at the bottom of the ladder.

    While they had another solid season last year, winning their first six matches of the season to sit on top of the ladder for the first time since 2007, the Eagles could only manage a fifth-placed finish at the end of the season.

    Two narrow losses to Brisbane (two points) and Collingwood (three) proved very costly. They lost one more match than they did in 2011.

    The Eagles though have gone strength to strength since the dark times of 2008-10, in the years which followed Chris Judd’s departure from the club and Ben Cousins’ drug controversies.

    Additionally, many of its premiership players from 2006 also left the club, or retired, leaving Beau Waters, Dean Cox, Darren Glass, Andrew Embley and Adam Selwood as the only premiership players remaining at the club today.

    But the young Eagles of today are starting to develop into a true premiership contender once again and I can’t see the Eagles dipping back down to the bottom for any extended period of time in the near future.

    Mark LeCras returns after a year out of the game due to a knee injury, and his presence up forward will be very valuable to the young forwards.

    Sharrod Wellingham comes to the club from Collingwood as a direct replacement for Quentin Lynch, who will take his place in the black and white this season.

    Expect Wellingham to also blossom for the Eagles this season now that he has returned home.

    There’s no excuse for this team not to perform this season, and I believe they have the squad to challenge for this year’s premiership.


    2012 snapshot

    Last season: 7th (regular season), 6th (after finals)
    Best and fairest: Ryan Crowley
    Leading goal-kicker: Matthew Pavlich (69 goals)
    Most recent premiership: None

    Fremantle were one of the success stories of the 2012 season, and their decision to dismiss Mark Harvey in favour of then-St Kilda coach Ross Lyon paid massive dividends.

    They made the finals for the second time in three seasons, and impressively ended the premiership defence of Geelong at the MCG in the first week of the finals, before going down to Adelaide in a very close semi-final.

    The Dockers have come a very long way since the dark times of 2008-9, when blowout losses were very frequent and the club lost to Adelaide by a whopping 117 points whilst only scoring 13 points for the entire match.

    However, most of the squad from the Mark Harvey era still remain at the club today, and the confidence of most players have risen due to the influence Ross Lyon has had on them.

    Matthew Pavlich only gets better as he gets older, and last season he booted almost 70 goals for the year.

    But the Dockers are too reliant on him for their goals and this could become a problem if he has to miss a match through injury or suspension.

    He led the Dockers by example last season; none more so than in the first round when he booted the match-winning goal against Geelong.

    The Dockers, despite their successful 2012, were very inconsistent.

    They won five of their first seven matches but then lost five of their next six, before storming home to win nine of their next ten before losing their semi-final to Adelaide.

    If the Dockers want to challenge for the top four, they must remain consistent all year and keep player injuries to a minimum.

    Plus, they have never made the finals in consecutive seasons so that will also be a challenge for this young squad.

    The club has not suffered any significant player losses over the off-season, though Greg Broughton was traded away to the Gold Coast Suns and Antoni Grover, who was there when the club was struggling earlier this century, retired after more than 200 matches for the Purple Haze.

    This squad is very capable of challenging for a top four place at the end of the season, they have the players and the coaching staff to do so. There’s no excuse for this team not to perform this season.

    There will be two Western Derbies this season, in the season opening round and in round 16. The two Derbies were split last season with the Eagles winning the first Derby by 48 points, and the Dockers the second by 65.

    Judging by both teams’ improvement last year, it’s very hard to predict a first round winner, because one team must lose its’ season opening match.

    Next, I will preview the seasons of Essendon and Richmond.

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    The Crowd Says (6)

    • Roar Pro

      March 17th 2013 @ 8:38am
      aggregated drupe said | March 17th 2013 @ 8:38am | ! Report

      West Coast will get 4th Fremantle will be out of the eight

      • March 17th 2013 @ 12:23pm
        Balthazar said | March 17th 2013 @ 12:23pm | ! Report

        Errr, no. Freo has had sufficient time to get used to Ross’ game plan (it took a year for the Saints to do so too). They are now less reliant on Pav – disagree with the writer here – as shown by their demolition of North Melbourne to finish 7th when Pav didn’t play. While Pav played a blinder in the Geelong game, Freo now has far more avenues to goal (as also seen by them going down to Adelaide by less than 2 goals when Pav could barely stand). For me, aside from Mayne improving greatly, the reason is the introduction of Michael Walters in the last few game of 2012; he gave a much better balance to the forward line. Look for Walters to truly establish himself this year, Fyfe to make up for being out for most of last year and Mundy and Barlow to improve as they have finally put their injuries behind them. Hill will be interesting to watch. He has the talent to be a star and I am keen to see whether the addition of D Pearce means that he finally gets more freedom from being tagged.

    • March 17th 2013 @ 1:20pm
      Adrian said | March 17th 2013 @ 1:20pm | ! Report

      the eagles never got thier best side on the ground last year if they do this year th top 4 is a given and from there who knows they must be the most dangers side in the AFL with large forward line add the class of LeCras and the addition of wellingham all defences will be tested from oppisition the midfield will be feed by the greatest ruck duo in the AFL history a back half which is now better than solid if all stay fit and the depth isnt tested will be very hard to beat
      Freo look great they seem to have top class all over the ground and know how to win I think coach Lyon has just walked into a taleted side he is a good coach but dont think he is the diffrence and Harvey would have had success aswell Freo will be in the top 8 again if injuries dont hamper them Pav is the best player in the west and not far off the best in the comp they have speed and skill just need to get physical with top sides I think this is where they are just behind the top 3 or 4 sides
      My prodiction for Derby is WCE by 21

      • March 17th 2013 @ 1:40pm
        Nathan of Perth said | March 17th 2013 @ 1:40pm | ! Report

        I remember at least one game last year where we had *zero* starting 22 forwards on the ground – they were ALL injured or suspended. Had to scavenge the backline to make good the losses. Our depth of AFL quality players is phenomenal but no team can cover that many absentees.

        As for this season, both of these teams can challenge deep. Particularly with the non-Victorian teams continuing to rise, this will be a season of flux and changing of the guards, I suspect. Either way. should be a fascinating year!

    • March 20th 2013 @ 1:49pm
      johno said | March 20th 2013 @ 1:49pm | ! Report

      You talk about the reliance on Matty P but do not mention the fact that now Freo have Chris Mayne, Walters, Ballantyne and Mellington all with a few years under their belt and ready to support and fire. On top of this our mid fielders regularly add goals – Mundy, Barlow, De Boer, Hill and Fyfe are consistent goal scorers.

      am not sure about Wellingham being a direct replacement for Lynch. Lynch was a physical presence up front for WC, while pinch hitting in the ruck if needed. Wellingham will most likely play off half back or wing. WC have Darling, Kennedy and Le Cras scoring options, with Cox and Natanui to add some more height.

      Freo by 4 goals in Derby 1.

    • March 25th 2013 @ 11:57am
      johno said | March 25th 2013 @ 11:57am | ! Report

      Damn – out by 4 points 🙂

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