The St Kilda Saints finished tenth on the ladder in season 2021.
West Coast have overcome the early loss of star goalsneak Liam Ryan and a marking masterclass from Max King to post an eight-point AFL victory over St Kilda at Optus Stadium.
Ryan lasted just 18 minutes of Saturday’s match before pinging his left hamstring while celebrating a goal.
His absence was a big early blow, and King’s career-best six-goal haul kept the Saints in the match throughout the day.
King snared a whopping eight contested marks, taking Eagles defender Harry Edwards to the cleaners.
The Saints spearhead booted three goals alone in the final quarter to close the margin to seven points with two-and-a-half minutes remaining.
But grand final hero Dom Sheed again stepped up in the big moment, nailing a goal on the run from 40 metres to seal the 14.10 (94) to 13.8 (86) win in front of 43,657 fans.
Sheed finished with 32 disposals, seven clearances and two goals in a standout display, while Tim Kelly (26 disposals, four score assists, one goal) was influential when West Coast made their move in the second term.
The result improved West Coast’s record to 10-8, while St Kilda dropped to 8-10 and facing a major battle to secure a finals berth.
“It was a great display from a young forward,” St Kilda coach Brett Ratten said of King.
“We know he has talent. He still has work to do. That was a snapshot of what he’s capable of.
“He’s still growing, learning what he’s capable of. Sometimes you need confidence. Hopefully that’s a real breakout game for him.”
Ryan will undergo scans to determine the extent of his hamstring injury.
“It’s not terrible, but it sounds like it might just be your standard hamstring,” Eagles coach Adam Simpson said.
“Until we get the scans we’re just guessing.”
West Coast led by 28 points at halftime and 25 at the final change, and the damage would have been more if it wasn’t for King.
The 21-year-old saved his best for the final term, booting three goals from three powerful marks to give West Coast an almighty fright.
But West Coast held tough, with Sheed’s goal on the run giving the home side enough breathing space to see out the win.
Saints midfielder Zac Jones ran hard all day and finished with 32 disposals and seven clearances, while Dan Butler was influential with two goals from 20 possessions.
Eagles forward Jack Darling bounced back to form with three goals, Elliot Yeo was a strong body in the midfield with 24 disposals and nine clearances, while 150-game milestone man Jeremy McGovern was solid in defence and performed an important back-up role in the ruck.