On the back of a couple of disappointing seasons the media have all but written off the West Coast Eagles for 2022.
Based on what’s been pumped out by the media over the past six months, you could be forgiven for thinking West Coast were in the market for a geriatrician to add to their staff inventory.
Sure, a few of their ageing stars are near the end, but there’s more than enough talent pushing up from underneath to ensure they remain in contention in 2022 even with a few injuries to some of their older gladiators.
Back in 2014 there was the same collection of doomsayers babbling about West Coast’s future when Adam Simpson arrived and they finished ninth. Yet 12 months later they found themselves in a grand final after losing Dean Cox and Darren Glass in the previous year.
Yes, they were humbled by Hawthorn to the tune of eight goals, but they were to establish themselves as premiership contenders for the next five seasons, which of course included a premiership in 2018.
If we’re to believe the doomsayers, even with Nic Naitanui, Josh Kennedy, Luke Shuey, Andrew Gaff, Shannon Hurn and Jeremy McGovern playing on in 2022, West Coast will still struggle. This very fragile argument is based on the assumption that if one or more of these players were to become injured, there would be no replacements available to plug the gap.
Bad news, doomsayers: the only player who this applies to is Naitanui, but there are a couple of young bucks pushing up who show promise in that role too.
So do they have replacements for the oldies mentioned above? For Josh Kennedy they have Oscar Allen packed and ready to go. For Luke Shuey, step up Luke Edwards, Sam Petrevski-Seton, Jack Petruccelle, Jamaine Jones, Xavier O’Neill, Greg Clark and Connor West.
In the case of Andrew Gaff – as is the case for Luke Shuey and Shannon Hurn – the Eagles have Josh Rotham, Luke Foley, Liam Duggan, Alex Witherden, Tom Cole and Jackson Nelson. Jeremy McGovern has Harry Edwards as his understudy.
Just on the midfielders, we also need to factor in Jack Redden, Elliot Yeo and Dom Sheed.
All clubs have ageing players on their lists who are close to the end of their careers. West Coast have always managed this inevitable scenario as well as, if not better than, most other sides. With transition comes opportunity, and with the exception of Josh Kennedy all of the senior players mentioned above became the players they are today due to this transition process.
So no, I don’t share the view that West Coast are finished in 2022. With their best list, or close to it, they are still a quality side that should finish in the top eight in 2022.
Beyond 2022 the Eagles will do what they do best, and that is regenerate their list to ensure they remain competitive in future years. If you reflect on West Coast’s finals history over the past 35 years, their efforts and success in regenerating their lists have been exemplary.