The AFL has shocked the nation by announcing that they are going to apologise for Perth being over 2700 kilometres from Melbourne.
The 2018 premiers will not get a chance to defend their title after being bundled out in Week 2 of the finals by 20 points at the hands of Geelong at the MCG on Friday night.
West Coast were jumped early by the Cats, and although they lead by a small margin during the third quarter, Geelong’s momentum saw the Cats record a sizeable win.
The Eagles fielded a vastly superior team to the one that won the 2018 premiership. With the exception of the late withdrawal of Willie Rioli, all the players who were in the team in the club’s final game were better players than those they replaced from last year’s grand final.
The problem therefore has to be in the vagaries of the day – on-field injuries, fumbles, clangers et cetera – and/or the mindset of the players. Two events leading up to the finals would have dented their confidence and caused a loss of focus. Each event would have impacted every player differently, but both would have been on their minds as they prepared for the semi-final.
The first was the shock loss masterminded by Hawthorn’s doyen of coaches, Alastair Clarkson, in the last round. Although the Hawks still fell short of making the eight, the result robbed the Eagles of the double chance and possibly increased the pressure they felt entering the finals.
The second event was much more telling as it happened much closer to the game and disturbed the team plan. The last-minute suspension of Willie Rioli would have impacted on every player and given them something to deal with in their own mind.
Only a mental reset is needed for the Eagles during the offseason; they have the talent to match the top teams and a proven coach.
A slight question mark may hang over Josh Kennedy, who drew level with Daniel Kerr on the West Coast Eagles all-time games-played list in 15th place.
The other three Eagles who are ranked in the top 32 game players of all time at the club, Chris Masten, Luke Shuey and Brad Sheppard (who is still one of the most underrated players in the league), all did so at the expense of a ‘Chris’. Masten equalled Chris Lewis in 17th place, Shuey equalled Chris Mainwaring in 22nd place and Sheppard passed Chris Waterman to gain outright 32nd place.
It was great to see Nic Naitanui back from injury and climbing up the list to equal Sam Butler in 35th place.
For Geelong, although Tom Hawkins’s four goals saw him equal Chris Grant in 46th place on the AFL all-time goal kickers list, the one-week holiday handed to him for his misdemeanour will make it harder for Geelong to beat Richmond next week and will be a distraction for his teammates.
Cameron Guthrie, back in the team and close to best man on the ground, took his game total for the Cats to 160, the same as Peter Hardiman