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The Roar


'Overblown hysteria': Harley Reid is a gun, but he won't stop the Eagles finishing last again

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22nd February, 2024

West Coast boom recruit Harley Reid is one of the most dynamic young players to head west since Chris Judd, but my feeling is that not even his prodigious talent will stop the Eagles from picking up another wooden spoon.

Most of the clever pundits regard Reid as a godly talent.

After two of the crappiest seasons in West Coast’s history, you cannot blame fans for being foolishly upbeat, hoping the number one draft pick is going to drag the cellar dwellers back into finals contention.

However, the overblown hysteria surrounding Reid’s arrival at the Eagles – his innocuous, everyday activities have been painstakingly documented in the state’s only daily paper – has masked the imperfections of the Eagles’ list.

The rest of West Coast’s latest batch of draftees, Archer Reid, Harvey Johnston, Clay Hall, Loch Rawlinson, and Coen Livingstone, have been made to feel feeble and superfluous compared to the Taylor Swift-like attention Reid has garnished.

Reid is a tantalising prospect. If scientists were going to clone the perfect footballer, the 18-year-old would not be far off. At 187cm and 87 kilos, he has strength, power, breathtaking speed, a thumping kick and loves a goal.

From the first bounce in round 1, you know the Bendigo Pioneers product will have the supreme confidence to hunt his own ball and impact games immediately.


Several top draft picks over the last few years have done exactly that.

Last season, North Melbourne young gun Harry Sheezel broke the record for most disposals in a debut VFL/AFL season picking up 556 touches.

Gold Coast’s Matt Rowell polled nine Brownlow votes in his first three games before tearing his PCL. In 2022, Collingwood’s Nick Daicos had arguably the best season ever by a first-year player.

If you believe the experts, Reid is better than all of them. That footballing idiom journalists’ keep well hidden in their kit bag – “once in a generational player” – has been liberally served up.

There have already been comparisons to three-time Norm Smith Medallist Dustin Martin before he has even played one game.

Reid could have a stellar year – rewrite record books – but the stark reality, in my opinion, is that West Coast will still finish on the bottom of the ladder this year and possibly next.


A glance at the teams that finished outside of the top eight, paints a more accurate picture of where West Coast are at.
North Melbourne finished on the same wins as the Eagles, but the Roos are bursting with young talent and just happen to have arguably the best coach in the last 25 years at the helm.

There also seems to be an unbridgeable gap between West Coast and Hawks, who finished just two places above the Eagles.

Let us not erase the fact that the Eagles finished the season with one of the lowest percentages in the history of the game and were pulverised most weeks.

The Eagles unearthed some exciting young players last season in Reuben Ginbey, Elijah Hewett, Noah Long and Campbell Chesser but struggled to keep their senior players on the park.

Tim Kelly had his most consistent year since arriving from Geelong and Oscar Allen is a genuine superstar of the game. The rest is bleak reading.

There is no denying West Coast have been uniquely cursed when it comes to injuries but the club simply does not have the depth to cover the walking wounded.

The reports out of the West Coast club are that Elliot Yeo is back to his bullocking best in the preseason. The 30-year-old is critical to the midfield structure because he can clear a path for Ginbey, Reid and Long.


Buy Yeo has a history of soft tissue injuries, which has restricted him to just 37 games since 2020.

Injury-prone teammate Liam Ryan has only done marginally better, averaging 13 games a year during the same period.
Intercept king Jeremy McGovern has only played 46 games in the last four seasons.

Harley Reid with Nic Naitanui after being selected by West Coast with pick one in the 2023 AFL draft.

Harley Reid with Nic Naitanui after being selected by West Coast with pick one in the 2023 AFL draft. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Several other key players like Dom Sheed and Tom Barrass have spent several weeks on the sidelines.

What would be more worrisome for coach Adam Simpson is the form of several star Eagles.

Last year, Andrew Gaff had his lowest possessions per game since 2013. After picking up a meagre six touches in the 84-point thumping to Brisbane, the veteran was jettisoned to the role of sub for the following game against Richmond.

I am not convinced the 31-year-old is even a certain starter in round one.


Much maligned forward Jack Darling had his least productive return since 2015, kicking only 26 goals. The most talked about trade bait over the last decade hardly gets a mention now at the bargaining table.

The Eagles also lost some serious grunt and experience with Shannon Hurn and Luke Shuey retiring.

West Coast did pick up some handy recruits in Tyler Brockman from the Hawks and ruckman Matt Flynn from GWS.

The lack of a quality ruckman is going to cause the Eagles the most pain, as Flynn was nothing more than an old-fashioned plodder at the Giants.

Big man Bailey Williams had some standout moments during the latter part of the year but the 23-year-old is still learning the trade.

The 2024 season is the start of a gruelling rebuild for West Coast. The massive cleanout of personnel seems to have gotten rid of the staleness that stunk up the club over the last few seasons.


The tide could be turning. Teams can turn it around very quickly. Just look at the Pies who finished 17th in 2021. But the Eagles just do not have the same cattle. The rise back to the top could take years.

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Reid will more than likely win the Rising Star award and may emulate Judd by picking up a Brownlow a few seasons from now.

If we focus on 2024 alone, he is just not going to be the one-year saviour that Eagles supporters so desperately crave.