The West Coast Eagles are coming off a very disappointing season. After making the finals six seasons in a row, the Eagles finished in ninth position with just ten wins and their first loss to crosstown rivals Fremantle since 2015.
The West Coast Eagles finished ninth on the ladder in season 2021. They won six of their opening nine games of the season. After 13 games they had won eight and lost five games.
In their last nine games of the season, they won just two games, which were in Round 18 and 19 against the Crows and the Saints. During the same time period they lost seven out of nine games, of which they lost four by at least 38 points, which means that they may need to rebuild.
The Eagles only had four players that featured in all 22 games in season 2021. Those four players were: Dom Sheed, Nic Naitanui, Tom Cole and Jack Darling. At the other spectrum, they only had three debutants and two players who came from other teams in the trade period, which were Alex Witherden from the Lions and Zac Langdon from the Giants.
Their list needs to be refreshed.
To be eligible for selection, it’s essential that each player selected featured in at least five games in season 2021. Here are the five players and an honourable mention selected, which the Eagles could least afford to lose based on their performances this year.
Honourable mention: Shannon Hurn
Hurn averaged the most metres gained of any Eagles player in season 2021 with an average of 465.40 metres gained per game. He had the third highest average disposal efficiency with an average of 87.75 per cent efficiency per game.
5. Jack Darling
Darling featured in all 22 games in season 2021. He was the Eagles’ leading goal kicker by one goal as he finished with 42 for the season, which was one more goal than Josh Kennedy. To go with that, Darling averaged the most contested marks of any Eagles player with an average of exactly two contested marks per game. He was a pivotal part of the Eagles structure, as he played centre half forward.
If he hit the scoreboard more, he may well have been a more valuable player for the team.
4. Jeremy McGovern
McGovern averaged the fourth most contested marks of any Eagles player, with an average of 1.67 marks per game in 15 games. He averaged the most intercepts of any Eagles player, with an average of 7.47 per game. When he did get possession of the ball, he used it well, with an average disposal efficiency percentage of 84.94 per cent per game. He was a key part of the manner in which the Eagles team played.
3. Dom Sheed
Sheed polled the most Brownlow votes of any Eagles player, accumulating 13 votes and finished second in the Eagles’ best and fairest. He averaged the fourth most contested possessions of any Eagles player with an average of 10.45 per game. He averaged the fourth most metres gained of any West Coast player, with an average of 388.32 per game.
2. Jack Redden
Redden finished fourth in the Eagles’ best and fairest for season 2021. That’s despite the fact that he only featured in 18 games, one of which he was subbed off due to injury. He had an extremely consistent season; he averaged the third most disposals on average of any Eagles player per game and also worked hard defensively as he averaged the third most tackles of West Coast player per game.
1. Nic Naitanui
Naitanui was obviously the player that they could least afford to lose as the only other experienced No.1 ruckman was Nathan Vardy, who retired at the end of 2021. Being selected in the AFL All Australian team on the interchange bench showed what a valuable player Naitanui was for the Eagles.
He averaged the second most contested possessions per game and he averaged the most clearances of any Eagles player. He is a player who the Eagles couldn’t do without in season 2021.