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Will the West Coast Eagles suffer a slip in 2013?

Robert White Roar Rookie

By Robert White, Robert White is a Roar Rookie

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    Initially projected as a premiership favourite, the notion the West Coast Eagles were on the edge of joining the AFL’s elite took a nosedive after just one round of football.

    Should we buy into the factors that suggest the Eagles are set for a surprise drop off in 2013, or are we simply overreacting?

    The Fremantle Dockers produced a 28-point upset win over cross-town rivals West Coast last Saturday and they did so in convincing fashion.

    The Eagles’ midfielders were outplayed by what now appears to be a finally healthy, and severely underrated, set of Docker ball winners – a huge concern for coach John Worsfold and his staff.

    The deficiencies of the West Coast midfield may have been completely overlooked heading into 2013.

    The West Coast midfield is primed with depth, youth and talent, but few of those qualities were on display against Fremantle.

    Daniel Kerr, Sharrod Wellingham and Matt Rosa were all absent due to injury and young guns Scott Selwood, Luke Shuey and Andrew Gaff were outshone by their Fremantle opponents.

    Matt Priddis was at his prolific best with 28 disposals, but was plagued by the often lacklustre disposal efficiency (38% against Fremantle) that has blighted his career thus far.

    Many consider West Coast’s midfield not far behind the game’s best, however the team is also simultaneously depending upon a ton of development from within.

    Priddis’ ball-winning ability makes him the engine room of the Eagles midfield, but he’s not the game changer they are missing. West Coast envision Shuey developing into that star role, but his performances in the past two derbies against a heavy Ryan Crowley tag may draw the attention of other clubs.

    West Coast will undoubtedly experience a boost when it reaches full health, but with a number of elite midfields already knocking about, will it be enough to guarantee a top-four spot?

    Even last year, when West Coast held an average of 22 hit-outs more than finals-bound opponents (and an average of seven more hit-outs to advantage), they still found themselves third behind Adelaide and Hawthorn in the clearances department, negating the advantage of the brilliant Dean Cox-Nic Naitanui ruck combination.

    Good opposition loaded up numbers around stoppages last season as a way to limit West Coast’s clearance opportunities and the lack of effectiveness around the ruck may be a result of the lack of midfield height.

    Against the likes of Michael Barlow, Nat Fyfe, David Mundy and Ryan Crowley – all at or around 190cm tall – the significantly smaller players from West Coast, all smaller than 185cm, are at a disadvantage when the ball is in the air.

    The loss to Fremantle is a continuation of West Coast’s average form away from their Perth fans last season. The Eagles were a poor team on the road in 2012, six of their eight losses came during away games – something that must improve this season.

    The only real advantage the team experienced away from home last year was in the ruck, yet they still managed to finish the season with a lower average score than their opponents.

    In comparison, Adelaide, a top four team last season and a club also primed for a slip if round one was anything to go by, was significantly better than their opponents outside of South Australian in just about every meaningful statistical category, including scoring four more goals on average than their home team opponents.

    In all likelihood the reaction to West Coast’s disappointing round one performance has been overblown, however this club may be a little further away from competing for a premiership than many pundits originally thought.

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    The Crowd Says (18)

    • Roar Guru

      March 27th 2013 @ 11:14am
      TomC said | March 27th 2013 @ 11:14am | ! Report

      I’m wary about reading too much into the result of the derby. Not sure it’s always a great indicator.

      But I have to admit I was a bit disappointed by many of the Eagles’ young midfielders on Saturday. Once the Dockers started to get on top it didn’t seem like anyone was there to stand up and turn the game. Priddis worked hard as always but he’s not all that damagin.

      JJ Kennedy was very impressive though.

      I can’t see Masten, Shuey, Selwood and Gaff having as little impact for the rest of the season as they did on Saturday night. I do wonder though if they’re quite ready to challenge for the flag.

      Interesting article.

    • March 27th 2013 @ 11:55am
      andrew said | March 27th 2013 @ 11:55am | ! Report

      No surprises here to me – I follow both WA teams with great interest and was amazed to see the lack of pregame positive press for Freo. In plain light last seasons they were more than a few notches above my beloved WC in all areas on field and will seriously challenge for the flag in 2013.

      • March 27th 2013 @ 1:51pm
        Mighty Mitch said | March 27th 2013 @ 1:51pm | ! Report

        Agreed. I think this is less about WC and more about where Freo are going to be.

        • March 27th 2013 @ 5:04pm
          Nathan of Perth said | March 27th 2013 @ 5:04pm | ! Report

          Derby XXXIX will be played in Melbourne, perhaps? Ay, ayyyyy?

          • March 28th 2013 @ 10:33am
            Matt F said | March 28th 2013 @ 10:33am | ! Report

            Why would they play an all-WA elimination final in Melbourne? 😉

    • March 27th 2013 @ 2:40pm
      johno said | March 27th 2013 @ 2:40pm | ! Report

      Not sure where the pace is going to come from for West Coast. They were shown up by Hill, Walters and D Pearce on the weekend. Something I think a lot of other clubs will look to exploit with quick balls forward breaking the West Coast defensive structures.

      WC have a tough end to the season and they will want as many wins on the board as they can get before they finish with Essendon, Geelong, Collingwood and Adelaide.

      • March 27th 2013 @ 3:41pm
        Nathan of Perth said | March 27th 2013 @ 3:41pm | ! Report

        Of course, the defensive structures largely held until Mackenzie went down.

        Why we ran with Ash Smith instead of Jacob Brennan I haven’t the foggiest. Almost assuredly cost us two goals at the selection table right there.

        I have grave fears about our Flag ambitions at the moment, with the injury toll as it stands. However, that doesn’t translate into “will be a slider”. I think people need to remember that, as with Hawthorn last year, a seemingly poor win-loss record often just reflects which opponents have already been faced. If we end up 0-2, well, losses against Fremantle and Hawthorn do not into slides translate. Any top team is capable of knocking over any other top team at this stage. And Fremantle are a very, very dangerous side this year, and it was their home game.

    • March 27th 2013 @ 4:44pm
      Richo said | March 27th 2013 @ 4:44pm | ! Report

      Too early to make judgements based on Round 1 result. Hawthorn were 2-3 after 5 rounds then only lost one more game for the home and away season.

      In contrast Essendon were flying high (quite literally as it turns out) but then lost their last 8 matches. Good coaches prime their team to perform at their best in September not in March.

    • March 27th 2013 @ 4:45pm
      Lroy said | March 27th 2013 @ 4:45pm | ! Report

      Well IM a WCE supporter, and the one thing that worried me last year, was our poor record against the other top sides.

      We lost 2/3 against Collingwood, got spanked by the Bombers, Crows and Swans and the Hawks beat us quite comfortably in the last game of the season.

      WCE have a good side across the board, but do not have that X factor midfield the top sides have. Really think they need to gamble on someone like Jake Brennan, kids quick, tackles like a demon , has good skills. To me his inclusion should be a no brainer by now.

      But, if he comes in, a high profile name is going to have to go out… thats the rub.

      • March 27th 2013 @ 5:03pm
        Nathan of Perth said | March 27th 2013 @ 5:03pm | ! Report

        The Bombers one doesn’t bother me so much, we were at the nadir of our injuries and Essendon at the zenith of their form, and we gave Collingwood a pasting at Subi and could have shocked them in Melbourne if not for some momentum changing goof-ups (looking at you Embley and Lynch).

        Hawthorn was not too bad, they shocked us for a quarter but we performed strongly for the rest of the game and they did go on to contest the GF and arguably choked on it.

        But the Swans and the Adelaide games were worries, BIG worries. This year, no matter the opposition or injury toll, we cannot accept such a result again.

        Agree on Brennan, a lot of time for that kid.

        • March 31st 2013 @ 11:41pm
          Rosso said | March 31st 2013 @ 11:41pm | ! Report

          Brennan may be the key in the middle… Gee he’s quick…

    • March 27th 2013 @ 4:49pm
      Gerard Klomp said | March 27th 2013 @ 4:49pm | ! Report

      Yes the Eagles will be there on the Last Saturday in September, With Naitanui Back and Kerr and Wellingham all fit and playing the Eagles will be back. I though Jason Cripps played very well on Saturday. All with Priddis and Josh Kennedy. Go the Mighty Eagles. from Mystery Man.

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