When the West Coast Eagles triumphed in the high-stakes match against St Kilda last Thursday it did more than just secure them a place in the finals. It also gave the side a crack at a top-four finish.
The Eagles are plagued by injuries, and their chances of the finals double chance weren’t done any favours when Jeremy McGovern suffered a twinge to his hamstring against the Saints. Fortunately he won’t require surgery.
West Coast will be hoping the cavalry can return in time for finals action. The imminent returns of Elliot Yeo and Luke Shuey will be massive additions as the teams look to bolster their midfield to match the top sides.
Currently outside the top four looking in, it certainly would be handy to have that first-week insurance should they not be able to come out with a win. With Geelong having lost against Richmond, it has made their chances tougher.
When asked about how they’ll approach the final game of their season, coach Adam Simpson said, “We’ll go hard. But that’s secondary, we just want to play a good brand of footy”.
When you think of the main contenders, the current top four of Port Adelaide, Brisbane, Richmond and Geelong are always discussed.
But why can’t the West Coast Eagles challenge for the title?
Should West Coast get fully fit, they are one of the more complete sides in the competition. The top teams have great midfields, but you could argue West Coast’s midfielders and also key position players both up forward and in defence are of high quality.
Up front they’ve got firepower led by Josh Kennedy, Jack Darling and Liam Ryan. In the midfield we’ve already mentioned Shuey and Yeo, and to add to them you have an incredible rotation of quality midfielders in Andrew Gaff, Tim Kelly and Dom Sheed.
In defence there’s McGovern partnering Tom Barrass, the two having been great at intercepting and spoils. Throw in Liam Duggan and Brad Sheppard, who are also primarily defenders, and there’s versatility through the whole squad.
Adam Simpson after the St Kilda win commented, “I’ve always got faith in our players. It’s a squad mentality and everyone at our club knows that. We had guys playing in different roles and we work on that a little bit”.
The trump card for the Eagles is Nic Naitanui. As one of the top ruckman in the game, he does all the dirty work to allow his team great opportunities to get in good positions offensively. He is elite in centre bounce clearances and is one of the best in providing hit-outs to West Coast’s favour. If he can maintain his performance, he can be the driving force for the Eagles to go deep into the finals.
The West Coast Eagles are more than capable of making some noise in the finals. Adam Simpson has instilled a next-man-up mentality for the squad, and they have done well to cover for their many absences.
If the Eagles can do their best to go as far as possible, allowing more time for injuries to heal, they have the pieces to be a dark horse and win the lot.