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Rosey's 2015 AFL preview: West Coast

Expert
3rd March, 2015
66
3694 Reads

They say it’s hard to soar like an eagle when you’re surrounded by turkeys. This season, West Coast are likely to find out just how many of the latter are on their list.

The Eagles have already been dealt two defensive blows with the loss of 2014 best and fairest, and All-Australian squad nominee, key defender Eric Mackenzie, along with the retired hard-nut Beau Waters.

To read the rest of Cam’s series, go to our AFL preview series page

While they can no longer be considered part of their best 22 for 2015, let’s have a look at who might be:

B: J.Bennell M.Brown J.McGovern
HB: S.Hurn W.Schofield E.Yeo
C: M.Rosa M.Priddis A.Gaff
HF: C.Masten J.Darling S.Wellingham
F: M.LeCras J.Kennedy J.Cripps
Foll: N.Naitanui L.Shuey S.Selwood
Int: S.Lycett X.Ellis M.Hutchings D.Sheed
Em: B.Sheppard S.Butler T.Lamb

West Coast are actually well represented for tall players, so will be able to cover the loss of Mackenzie in a way that several other clubs would not.

Mitch Brown and Will Schofield will have to shoulder most of the defensive burden in the key posts, supported by Jamie Bennell on the small forwards. Schofield has shown that he can provide run at times, but the others are there for honesty rather than thrills.

Shannon Hurn will create drive with his lethal right boot, as he always does, but is still too susceptible to a hard tag if it comes his way. If he gets the ball with time and space in the forward half of the ground, a West Coast scoring shot is usually coming.

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Josh Kennedy is one of the premier key forwards in the competition, and will be relied upon once more to lead the attack.

However, there is a severe injury cloud over Jack Darling heading into the season, as 3AW’s Sam McClure tweeted last night:

“Massive concerns surrounding Jack Darling, with Eagles tight lipped. Experts very worried that his middle-foot pain hasn’t subsided.”

If Darling’s problems linger into the coming months, that will mean two of West Coast’s three most important key position players will have limited or no meaningful impact on the season.

Jeremy McGovern, a revelation as a strong marking player in the second half of last year, both forward and back, will have to bear more responsibility than a 13-game 22-year-old should be asked of. He will no doubt be used at both ends of the ground, depending on match-ups, and where the most pressing need for his services is.

Of the forwards, Mark LeCras is one of the classiest players in the game, and one of few Eagles to lay claim to that label. He’ll be looking to continue averaging two to three goals a game, but also lift his possession rate to above 20 per match, something that he’s never achieved across a season. The more he gets the ball, the better served his team is.

Jamie Cripps found his feet as an old-fashioned goal sneak last year, and will be asked to go to another level again if West Coast are going to make an unlikely charge into finals calculations.

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Along with some personnel problems up forward and down back, the limited nature of their midfield is another reason why the Eagles will be finding themselves in the bottom third of the ladder in 2015.

Matt Priddis is now a Brownlow medallist, even if on the night the man himself could hardly believe it. A more humble victor we’ve rarely seen. We know what we’re going to get from him – head over the pill tirelessly, first hands on it, and distribution to a nearby teammate.

Andrew Gaff, the best outside user and arguably most damaging on-baller at the club, found his most consistent level last year, and will still have more improvement to come entering his fifth season. His importance is amplified by being the only player of his type in the team.

The rest of the line-up, led by Scott Selwood, Matt Rosa, Chris Masten and possibly Mark Hutchings, are honest tradesman. Luke Shuey, while a good player, has underwhelmed in his career so far. Sharrod Wellingham never reached great heights at Collingwood, and has gone backwards at West Coast.

None of these guys break the lines with any regularity, or possess any wow factor. Elliot Yeo shows promises in the clinches, but is he going to be more of the same for a midfield that is already too blue-collar and workmanlike?

Nic Naitanui provides pizzazz and punch whenever he’s around the ball, but are we ever going to see more than cameo performances? With the retirement of Dean Cox, this is the year for him to own the ruck position and find more of the ball around the ground.

West Coast has decent players across the park, but not enough top-end quality to match the better sides. They were the only team not to defeat a top-eight side in 2014. Their home ground is too big for them, allowing better opposition teams to easily get on top by dominating the spread.

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Despite all of this, the Eagles finished ninth last year, but they don’t appear to have anything like the improvement in them that several sides below them will show. They are not a final-eight contender.

Predicted ladder spread: 12th – 16th

Predicted finish: 14th

Rosey’s ladder so far
14th – West Coast
15th – Carlton
16th – Melbourne
17th – Western Bulldogs
18th – St Kilda

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