Time for a change at West Coast

Dan Lonergan Columnist

By Dan Lonergan, Dan Lonergan is a Roar Expert

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    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
    Dan Lonergan

    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.

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    The Crowd Says (29)

    • August 27th 2013 @ 2:53am
      Black Serenade said | August 27th 2013 @ 2:53am | ! Report

      I couldn’t agree with you more, Dan. As an Eagles fan, this season has been disgusting, despite the injuries. However, as much as I love Woosha, I still hold him responsible for our demise during/after the Ben Cousins fiasco. That should never have been allowed to happen. It cost us the services of Chris Judd and although Josh Kennedy is now a superstar and Chris Masten has had two good seasons, more premierships should’ve been had after 2006. Then the demise in 2008 to wooden spooners in 2010 and now another unacceptable season. Terribly disappointing, but I’ll still hold hope, especially if they can somehow lure Paul Roos as coach. Scott Burns had had his apprenticeship, but I still have my doubts with him as coach for what the Eagles need right now.

    • August 27th 2013 @ 8:08am
      Franko said | August 27th 2013 @ 8:08am | ! Report

      John Longmire, Chris Scott, Mick Malthouse, Mark Thompson, Alastair Clarkson, John Worsfold, Paul Roos, Mark Williams – These are the premiership coaches currently in the AFL system. How many are available to coach WCE next year?
      ou get rid of Woosha, but who can you bring in?

      • August 27th 2013 @ 9:58pm
        Jax said | August 27th 2013 @ 9:58pm | ! Report


    • August 27th 2013 @ 9:44am
      Chaos said | August 27th 2013 @ 9:44am | ! Report

      Disclaimer Eagles Fan:

      John Worsfold has always lacked a decent plan B. In the 05-06 glory days he used Hunter and occasionally Wirra as a swingman but generally played man to man and expected the midfield greats Cox, Judd, Kerr & Cousins to dominate the clearances. It helped he had people likes Stenglein and Jones to block for the superstars. He never played a lose man back (or rarely). This game style only got broken down by Sydney’s precise kicking and marking style which didn’t allow plan A to work. Even then Sydney/Eagles games where a flip of the coin.

      In the recent revival 11-12 the Eagles played a full zone defense and pressured teams into turning the ball over in the Eagles forward line. Also the ruck domiance due of Cox/Nic Nat ensured plenty of clearances for the likes of Gaff/Shuey/Kerr and co… Whilst this resulted in allot of inside 50’s the forward line was congested and it could be difficult to score. The better teams (Hawks/Geelong/Pies) sustained the pressure, eventually won the ball in defense or got a TO and the Eagles where prone to a quick fast break down the other end. Bombing the ball long into Cox/JK/Darling/Nic Nat with no decent forward crumber also allowed a quick release.

      This year the pressure in the zone wasn’t there. Teams have continually slayed the Eagles on the counter attack. The intensity of players seemed missing in the preseason and the Eagles have looked cooked in the second half of games and haven’t been able to run them out. Injuries aside (trampolines!) the gameplan has been shot and Worsfold/Burns/Teague/Longmuir have been unable to create a plan B.

      It’s time for a change. I think Worsfold has been a brilliant servant of the club, but I think his time is up. It will be interesting when the outside review of the club is finished what the Eagles Board decide to do next year. A broom will go through the football department whatever happens.

    • Roar Guru

      August 27th 2013 @ 10:56am
      Steve J said | August 27th 2013 @ 10:56am | ! Report

      A month or two back I called for a re-build at the Eagles and was met with howls of derision from eagles fans

      The Eagles have a lot of senior players at the end of their careers – already Selwood and Nickoski are gone, I think Embley will follow this year and it appears as if Kerr is out of favour playing in the WAFL.

      Cos and Glass will hand around for another year or two at most but it is also guys like Sam Butler who’s 9 years at West Coast have seen him play 100 odd games. He has been unlucky with injury and generally gets out on the park for 12-14 games a season. I am not sure he still has what it takes.

      I think West Coast needs to get a new coach, Worsfold was untried when started coaching the Eagles so there should be no fear in getting someone fresh in.

      They also need to get a big bodied John Kennedy (Swans) type mid fielder to help the little blokes like Priddis, Masten, Selwood. Right now they are not quick enough and don’t have the physical presence required.

    • August 27th 2013 @ 11:01am
      Jermayn said | August 27th 2013 @ 11:01am | ! Report

      Worsfold is only one half of the problem… The other half comes down to recruiting and development. WCE have picked up to many of the same-same in players Sheppard, Smith, Brennan, Wilson, Cripps, Newman, Dick, Hams etc are all solid flankers and have yet to take the next step up when they should have been recruiting midfielders who could run and carry. This years draft and trading period is vital for their premiership chances in the next 2-4 years.

      It was interesting watching ‘on the couch’ last night and I agreed that Worsfold would step aside if he did not have the passion left.

    • August 27th 2013 @ 11:28am
      GazzaW said | August 27th 2013 @ 11:28am | ! Report

      The Eagles recruiting has had some problems they have constantly recruited smaller lighter midfielders I think they think that they will outrun and outlast the opposition.
      They didn’t replace like for like a bigbody midfielder like Judd gets relaced by masten A Embley a big body hasn’t being replaced.
      When Priddis gets tired they can’t get the ball out.
      they need a couple of bigger mids to force the ball out and get it going forward.
      Smaller lighter players are good in theory but with the modern scragging scrums we get these days.
      they can’t break out of a pack to break a line.

      • Roar Guru

        August 27th 2013 @ 11:47am
        Steve J said | August 27th 2013 @ 11:47am | ! Report

        the loss of Brad Ebert hurt them more than they thought it would.

        189cm / 88kg would have made him the biggest midfielder they had

        • August 27th 2013 @ 12:59pm
          Jermayn said | August 27th 2013 @ 12:59pm | ! Report

          WCE used to be on the hardest teams to deal with in the trade period but we were weak when dealing with Port with Ebert especially when they traded a higher pick for Renouf who is a spud and surpless.

        • August 27th 2013 @ 1:11pm
          Franko said | August 27th 2013 @ 1:11pm | ! Report

          To be fair taking Ebert was a silly choice, he was always going to come home. They could have taken local lad Harry Taylor. That is not really wooshers fault, that is the recruiters.

          A bit like GC taking the Matera boy.

          • August 27th 2013 @ 8:50pm
            Jax said | August 27th 2013 @ 8:50pm | ! Report

            Matera could not be taken by WC because GCS drafted him one year before he was eligible for the draft as part of AFL concessions granted to them.

            • Roar Guru

              August 28th 2013 @ 11:15am
              Steve J said | August 28th 2013 @ 11:15am | ! Report

              Matera was not eligible as Father Son anyway being Wally’s kid

          • August 27th 2013 @ 10:04pm
            Jax said | August 27th 2013 @ 10:04pm | ! Report

            WC have an incredible record when it comes to retaining players not from WA. The only two that WC wanted to keep but lost were Judd & Ebert, not a bad record in 25 years. Other players have gone home but none of them did anything of note. Ebert was always going to be difficult to keep I agree

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