The Roar
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North Melbourne are gutsy but not in Eagles' league

Expert
19th September, 2015
51
4974 Reads

West Coast’s 11 wins in Perth this season have come at a phenomenal average margin of 63 points.

Never in the club’s very successful 29-year history have they been so dominant at home.

Those are intimidating figures for North Melbourne who have been ‘rewarded’ for beating Sydney on the road in yesterday’s semi-final with a long trip west to the Subiaco slaughterhouse next weekend.

Last year, North Melbourne were somewhat flattered by their preliminary final appearance before receiving a reminder of where they really stood with a 12-goal flogging from Sydney.

Yesterday they exacted some revenge by dispatching the undermanned and off-colour Swans.

In 2014, the Kangaroos had been merely making up the numbers, with little chance of challenging for the flag.

Unfortunately, for all their endeavor and resilience, North find themselves in the same situation this year.

Professional sporting results, of course, can never be predicted with 100 per cent certainty, as we saw yesterday when minnows Japan somehow defeated the Springboks in the Rugby World Cup.

But it will be an extraordinary result if the Kangaroos manage to knock off West Coast and earn their first grand final berth since they won the flag in 1999.

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The only visiting team to beat the Eagles in Perth this year is Hawthorn, who edged them out by 14 points in Round 19.

West Coast looked switched off that day and rectified that poor performance in resounding fashion by obliterating Hawthorn last week in the first round of the finals.

That they did so without reigning Brownlow medalist Matt Priddis, tipped to return this week, shows what a well-rounded and deep team West Coast have become.

It’s hard not to be impressed by the Eagles’ offense. The second-highest scoring team of the regular season, after the Hawks, they have a seemingly endless array of avenues to goal.

They have arguably the best front six in the league – Josh Kennedy’s power and consistency complemented by the versatility of marking option Jack Darling, and goal-hungry yet defensive-minded smaller players like Mark LeCras, Josh Hill and Jamie Cripps.

Making them even more potent and difficult to contain is the goalscoring input of players who spend a lot of time through the middle of the ground in Luke Shuey, Nic Naitanui and Elliot Yeo.

West Coast’s disposal still is not in the elite bracket, statistically, but they have addressed what in recent seasons had been a major hindrance – foot speed.

The Eagles became easybeats at home because the length of the ground exposed their lack of pace.

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Now, they routinely exploit the ground’s dimensions, overwhelming visiting sides with their run and carry.

Do the ‘Roos have the athleticism to go with them? Like North’s prospects of a victory, it seems unlikely.