2017 Round 16 Preview
West Coast vs Port Adelaide
Subiaco Oval 09 July 2017
It seems like a broken record in recent weeks, but the Eagles are presented with another top-eight shaping game. West Coast host the Power, eager to maintain touch with the top four. Port Adelaide sit on the same number of wins, but are ahead in fifth with a healthier percentage. The Power could jump into the double chance positions with a win over the Eagles, following Richmonds capitulation to St.Kilda. Remarkably West Coast could also find themselves inside the top four, if other results go their way.
A win to either side will create some breathing space on the chasing pack, while a loss could have devastating effects. West Coast could slide out of the top eight, a position they wouldn't want to be in with just seven rounds remaining. The Eagles though could have a serious dash at the top four with a favourable run to come as they play four of the bottom five teams , after this weeks clash with Port Adelaide.
West Coast will tackle Fremantle in an away derby, before coming up against Collingwood (away), Brisbane (home), St.Kilda (away) and Carlton (home). The Eagles will start favourites in all games, and a 14-6 record before the last two games against GWS and Adelaide would set up West Coast for a legitimate premiership tilt.
The Eagles secured a vital win against the reigning premiers in Melbourne, in what was surely a confidence booster for many of the younger brigade. Without a cast of senior players, the likes of Liam Duggan, Tom Barrass, Dom Sheed, Malcolm Karpany, Nathan Vardy, Jeremy McGovern and Tom Cole all played a part in the win.
The win though continued a roller-coaster patch through the middle part of the season. West Coast have gone W-L-W-L in their past four games, although the two losses were both by three points and could have easily made it a four game winning streak. Andrew Gaff had 42 disposals against the Bulldogs, a career best tally, while Jack Darling produced his best game of the season.
Port Adelaide dropped another game at home in what was a disappointing result against Richmond. Like West Coast, the Power have gone at 50% over their last four games, with the Richmond result and an insipid performance against Essendon offset by comfortable – albeit expected – wins against Collingwood and Brisbane.
The Power have been criticised this season for not recording a win against a fellow top eight side, casting doubts from the external football community as to whether they are legitimate premiership contenders. Part of the Power’s inconsistency has been down to the inconsistent performances of individual players. Robbie Gray was well held against the Tigers, a week after a match winning five goal performance against Collingwood. Chad Wingard has only recently returned to senior ranks from injury, while Jaspar Pittard was recently dropped for poor form.
The Recent History
West Coast and Port Adelaide met earlier this season in Round 7, with the Eagles holding on for a vital 10 point win. The Power dominated all facets of the game, but paid for inaccurate kicking and a ten minute burst at the start of the second half when West Coast slammed on five goals to build a match-winning lead. The win made it three in a row for the Eagles, all at Adelaide Oval, against a side that is historically the clubs worst.
The Eagles have recorded just 12 wins from 29 matches between the two clubs at a poor 41% winning record. The Eagles record at home is not much better with 6 wins from 13 at 46% with the Eagles having not beaten Port Adelaide at Subiaco since 2011. Admittedly the clubs have met only the once in that time, with the Power recording a 14 point win in 2014.
Adam Simpson admitted that it would be hard to change a winning combination after the win over the Bulldogs, but with a cavalcade of stars returning, the Eagles have made four changes. Sam Butler couldn’t be considered, ruled out with a hamstring injury, while Chris Masten, Tom Cole and Jack Redden have been dropped. Redden in particular could consider himself unlucky after a solid performance against the Bulldogs, but falls back in the pecking order with the return of Matt Priddis.
Alongside Priddis, captain Shannon Hurn, goalsneak Mark LeCras and ruckman Scott Lycett return to the line-up. One player who hasn’t returned is full-forward Josh Kennedy, despite the Eagles vice-captain declaring himself a certain starter at the beginning of the week. Josh Hill and Jackson Nelson were two others who were available for selection but havent’ made the cut.
The Power made two changes to the side that lost to Richmond by 13 points, with defender Jack Hombsch returning and Joe Atley given an AFL debut. Jake Neade was omitted, while Matthew Broadbent couldn’t be considered due to an ankle injury, in a blow for the visitors.
Port Adelaide generally run with three talls up forward with Charlie Dixon, Justin Westhoff and Jackson Trengove meaning that Jeremy McGovern will most likely play in defence. McGovern has started forward in the past few weeks, with the absence of Josh Kennedy, but with Scott Lycett’s return could see the ruckman split his time between the ruck and the forward line allowing McGovern to return to his customary defensive position.
The Talking Points
Can Mark LeCras find form?
The veteran Eagle sits third on the all-time Eagles goalkicking list, but has struggled in 2017. LeCras has missed the past two games with a hip complaint, and didn’t manage a goal in his previous four games. In fact, the last time Le Cras kicked a major was in the Eagles Round 7 win against Port Adelaide, when LeCras booted four.
There was discussion that LeCras would return via the WAFL, with his form having been questioned by commentators and fans alike over the past 18 months. It appears that the hip problem that has sidelined him the past fortnight has bothered him for some time, but having been inserted directly into the Eagles side for this important clash against Port Adelaide, it is time for LeCras to recapture his best form.
Have West Coast gone in to tall?
Scott Lycett returns to the Eagles line-up, but neither Nathan Vardy or Drew Petrie deserved to be dropped meaning that West Coast are essentially going in with three ruckmen. The centre square duties are likely to be shared by all three, although Vardy may still take the number one mantle. Petrie could play permanently out of the square with Kennedy still absent, while Lycett is still building match fitness and may only take a number of centre bounces.
The inclusion of Lycett means, that McGovern will shift back into defence, but the Eagles have also held onto Eric Mackenzie and Tom Barrass. Add Jack Darling and a third of the side would be considered tall. The Eagles though have shown a liking to play tall, even on the expanses of Subiaco, and while they will be able to match the Power forward line, they will also be looking to stretch the Power defence.
Will West Coast pay for an overlooked draft selection?
Sam Powell-Pepper has been a revelation in his first year in senior football, with the solidly built 18 year old a part of a revitalized Power midfield group. Powell-Pepper was selected with the 18th pick of the National Draft, with both the young West Australian overlooked by both Fremantle and West Coast.
The Eagles in particular have been questioned over the non-selection of Powell-Pepper, instead choosing Victorian Daniel Venables with their first selection, number 13 overall. Venables was selected after recently having foot surgery and spent his first season at the club in rehabilitation. Recently Venables has played some games with East Perth as he builds for an AFL debut.
However, with Powell-Pepper one of the AFL Rising Star favourites, many still wonder if the Eagles have missed a future star of the competition. After a slight dip mid-season, Powell-Pepper has returned to his early season form in the past three weeks. With contested ball set to be a major factor in this game, Powell-Pepper could have a say in the outcome of this game.
The Key Stat
The two sides sit at opposite ends of the spectrum regarding centre bounce clearances, which can be largely attributed to the ruck stocks of each side. The Power have won 48% of their centre clearances, the best in the competition, while the Eagles have won 41%, the second worst in the competition.
Paddy Ryder has been one of the dominant ruckmen in the competition and has been a major driver behind the Power’s rise in 2017. Ryder averages 34 hit-outs per game – the sixth best in the competition – and the likes of Ollie Wines, rookie Sam Powell-Pepper, Brad Ebert and Chad Wingard have benefitted. With Scott Lycett returning, the Eagles will be hoping to improve their first ball possession.
It’s A Big Week For….
Scott Lycett. The Eagles have brought back one of their leading ruckmen, which could prove decisive in the run home. West Coast has used a patched up ruck division so far this season, which has led to a serious disadvantage in some games. Lycett has had several weeks at WAFL level to recover match fitness, and was dominant last week recording a WAFL record 67 hit-outs to go with 21 disposals, XX marks and a goal.
His first opponent won’t be a walkover, with Paddy Ryder in All-Australian contention. The Power ruckman has had many standout performances in 2017, his first season back from a CAS-imposed suspension. Lycett will have Nathan Vardy and Drew Petrie for support and may spend more time as a permanent forward than competing at the centre clearances. Whatever his role, the Eagles will be hoping for an immediate impact.
Both teams know there is plenty on the line with the two sides still chasing credibility in the premiership race. The Eagles have dropped two of their past three games at home, and will want to make sure there are no further slip ups at Subiaco if they are wanting to ensure finals action.
The Power have beaten the teams they are meant to so far in 2017 and would be desperate for a scalp to enhance their premiership credentials. However, the Power defence could struggle to contain the Eagles forward line, while up the other end there has been too much reliance on Charlie Dixon.
The midfield battle could go a long way to determining the result, with both teams efficient from forward half control. The Eagles have improved this area in recent weeks, and will be boosted further by the return of Scott Lycett.
West Coast by 26.
EAGLE TRIVIA: West Coast have never beaten Port Adelaide four times in a row in the clubs history. (@WCE_History)