They’re flying high: West Coast are a genuine premiership threat

Cameron Rose Columnist

By Cameron Rose, Cameron Rose is a Roar Expert

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    After a pre-season where they were universally written off as the team most likely to fall from the eight, after seven rounds of this season West Coast have emerged as the real deal, and most likely challenger to Richmond.

    This year, what’s proving more important than individual talent or even the system of each team is the cohesion which with the selected 22 operate on any given day, and the consistency of performance week to week.

    Right now, the Eagles have that cohesion. It’s clear the Tigers do. North are playing with it. Hawthorn are for the most part, just as they did in their premiership years under Alastair Clarkson.

    We know West Coast has weapons at either end of the ground, as they have done for years.

    Josh Kennedy isn’t getting a lot of the ball but is hitting the scoreboard as he works his way into the season. He’s only taken 11 marks in his four games, with only one of them contested, and those numbers will rise as his fitness increases and his timing gets better.

    Jack Darling has picked up the slack as he finds career-best form in his eighth season, on track to completely demolish a series of personal bests and potentially claim his first All Australian gong. There might only be one more confident footballer than Darling in the competition right now, and his first name is Nat.

    Mark LeCras has wound back the clock off the back of focus on his pressure game. He’s top five for tackles at West Coast, along with Jamie Cripps. Jake Waterman looks a find at a great size, Willie Rioli is doing the family name proud in his early days, and Liam ‘Flyin’ Ryan could be anything.

    Down back, Jeremy McGovern is doing his intercept mark thing as he always does, while Shannon Hurn is also winning the ball back from the opposition and then controlling matches with that lethal right boot.

    Jeremy McGovern

    (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

    Brad Sheppard is playing good footy, as is Tom Barrass on the last line, while Elliot Yeo helps out when required.

    The job of the defence is being made easier by the Eagles midfield not just winning the ball, but pressuring when they don’t have it.

    Poor sides or those down on confidence always make the mistake of collapsing on the ball carrier, too many players targeting them, and not coordinating their attack. It comes from individuals trying to impress, but it leads to a team losing their defensive structure.

    West Coast’s pressure between the arcs has been reminiscent of Richmond. The Eagles move in unison, with the right player going at the right time, and others in the vicinity closing off the exits of the ball carrier.

    Football is always about what happens next when the ball is in hand, and right now West Coast are predicting their opposition’s movement, clamping them, and not giving them an outlet. If they do happen to get the ball forward under all that pressure, it’s easy to read for McGovern and co.

    In terms of offensive ball movement, Andrew Gaff has been key. He’s a player that has often divided critics, with his prolific ball gathering unquestioned, but his impact on games is the question mark. This year, he has become more dangerous than ever before, and his team is the beneficiary.

    Jack Redden has lifted in the last two weeks, a timely run of form given Luke Shuey was out early against Port and will miss some football. Dom Sheed has become more inside after the retirement of Matt Priddis, while Chris Masten is back in favour. Mark Hutchings had a monster game against Port and gets a chance to cement his spot.

    Football is a team sport, and the best sides become more than the sum of their individual parts through a combination of belief, confidence and selflessness. It was certainly the case for the Western Bulldogs in 2016 and Richmond in 2017. The 2018 Eagles are shaping up the same way.

    Cameron Rose
    Cameron Rose

    Cameron Rose is a born and bred Melbournian, raised on a regime of AFL, cricket and horse racing. He likes people who agree with him but loves those that don't, for there's nothing better than a roaring debate. He tweets from @camtherose.

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    The Crowd Says (94)

    • Roar Guru

      May 8th 2018 @ 9:23am
      JamesH said | May 8th 2018 @ 9:23am | ! Report

      You’d think it was a contract year for Gaff, huh?

      Hats off to the Waegles because they’ve defied expectations (inlcluding mine), but it’s way too early to call them a flag threat. The only potential top-four side they’ve beaten is Geelong, and that was a tight-ish one in Perth. In fact, they have played 5 of their 7 games in Perth, including a 5-goal loss to the Swans. Outside of Perth they have thumped the Dogs and edged out Carlton.

      West Coast has GWS (A), Richmond (H), Hawthorn (A), Sydney (A) and Adelaide (A) in the next 7 games, plus a bye in the middle of that. If they can win a few of those then I’ll be sitting up and taking notice.

    • May 8th 2018 @ 9:28am
      johno said | May 8th 2018 @ 9:28am | ! Report

      They also have a very forgiving home run.

      Out of the 7 remaining games at Subi the only one they’d start second favourites would be Richmond. And frankly if I am the Tigers then I am resting a few players for that match – who needs to travel and risk injury on the supposedly harder Optus surface.

      Freo may test them, but the remaining games against St Kilda, Bulldogs, Melbourne, Essendon and the travel poor GWS should be shoe ins.

      Tehy will go to the MCG only once more to play Collingwood. West Coast will make finals no doubt, but will they make an impact away from the Craypot? I doubt it given they scraped home on the MCG against a poor Carlton by 10 points

      • May 8th 2018 @ 9:41am
        Matto said | May 8th 2018 @ 9:41am | ! Report

        Freo may test them? Haven’t for years.
        If wce finish top two they don’t leave WA until the GF. Where they could play the likes of Geelong, Sydney, Adelaide, who have all had their own troubles there. Richmond would be the only worry, unfortunately.

      • Roar Guru

        May 8th 2018 @ 11:20am
        JamesH said | May 8th 2018 @ 11:20am | ! Report

        Yes but winning easy matches doesn’t make a team a flag threat. If they have a poor run in the matches I listed then it shows that they’re still a step behind other supposed contenders.

        If they play Richmond in the GF at the MCG then it will be a monumental challenge. I think they would also struggle against Geelong and Hawthorn there. Happy to be proven wrong though, since I’ve got no skin in the game.

      • Roar Rookie

        May 8th 2018 @ 11:56am
        Mattician6x6 said | May 8th 2018 @ 11:56am | ! Report

        29 scoring shots suggests otherwise, final score did not reflect wce dominance much like hawks v Geelong the final score was not reflective if hawks dominance.

        • May 8th 2018 @ 12:56pm
          johno said | May 8th 2018 @ 12:56pm | ! Report

          Losing Walters to a knee injury in the first didn’t help Freo either. Lets face it WC just beat Carlton and Freo despite both teams being bottom 4 last season. Not exactly glowing references

          West Coast at home v Freo is never a given.

          • Roar Rookie

            May 8th 2018 @ 1:06pm
            Mattician6x6 said | May 8th 2018 @ 1:06pm | ! Report

            Of course freo is never a given, in regards to Carlton wce kicked 10.19, let’s be truthful in fact they did dominate that game.

    • May 8th 2018 @ 9:35am
      Green said | May 8th 2018 @ 9:35am | ! Report

      Eagles need a few scalps before flag claims can be thrown around. A Geelong without a bench does not count. Having said that, their favourable draw to start the year off will be a critical momentum builder and should help them get into the 8.

    • Columnist

      May 8th 2018 @ 9:45am
      Ryan Buckland said | May 8th 2018 @ 9:45am | ! Report

      I’m already hyped for Round 9: West Coast v Richmond at Perth Stadium. I’m going with my 4.5 year old daughter who’d been bugging me for a year and a bit to go to a game. Now I’m going to have to tell her not every game is going to be like this one haha.

      • Columnist

        May 8th 2018 @ 10:54am
        Cameron Rose said | May 8th 2018 @ 10:54am | ! Report

        I was originally planning to go over for it, but I’m going to be out of the country unfortunately. The timings are going to be ugly for me, but I’ll be watching!

        • Columnist

          May 8th 2018 @ 11:53am
          Ryan Buckland said | May 8th 2018 @ 11:53am | ! Report

          It’s alright you can come over for a prelim in September 😉

          • Columnist

            May 8th 2018 @ 3:32pm
            Cameron Rose said | May 8th 2018 @ 3:32pm | ! Report

            Haha, we only play at the MCG in September. Didn’t you get the memo?

    • May 8th 2018 @ 9:46am
      Andrew Browne said | May 8th 2018 @ 9:46am | ! Report

      As a West Coast fan who lives in Melbourne, it has been great to see them win 2 games here this season. I am not convinced of their finals pedigree yet though. Will need to see them win a few more against other final bound teams. Port was a good start. GWS this week away and Tigers at home and then.. Maybe.

      • May 9th 2018 @ 5:34pm
        Mr X said | May 9th 2018 @ 5:34pm | ! Report

        Eagles look good I think but they haven’t really beaten many top sides but not has richmond

    • May 8th 2018 @ 9:47am
      Birdman said | May 8th 2018 @ 9:47am | ! Report

      Def. in the frame but a flag seems a bit beyond them with their poor form at the G – having said that, I had them just missing finals so their early form is pretty surprising which on reflection it shouldn’t be.

      I’ve lost count of the number of seasons when I thought they should be in the hunt and they don’t show up and vice versa.

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