The Eagles lost their grip on a finals spot, with a disappointing 32 point loss to Port Adelaide.
Such is the tightness of the competition, that a win could have lifted into the top four, but a third defeat in four home games now has West Coast having to fight their way back into the top eight.
The game itself was indicative of the Eagles recent form who have gone win-loss in their past five matches. The Power raced out of the blocks in the opening term to boot the first four goals, before the Eagles turned the match on its head during time on to take a quarter time lead.
West Coast continued on in the second quarter to kick the opening three, to make it seven goals on the trot and a 24 point lead. The Power are regarded as the best team at holding the ball in the first half, but they were beaten at their own game from deep in the opening term to deep in the second, as West Coast overturned a nasty early inside-50 deficit.
The Power had 12 of the first 13 inside-50’s, but by half-time the Eagles led the count 28-23, as they went on a 7.6 to 0.1 run. However, they were made to rue missed chances during their dominance and a late quarter fade out as the Power stole two goals through Paddy Ryder and Travis Boak just before the siren to reduce the Eagles lead to 11 points.
The two sides traded goals through much of the third quarter, before three goals to Port Adelaide had the visitors in front. A late Jetta goal levelled the scores, and with one quarter to play, the two sides couldn’t be split.
The Eagles had lost their previous five final quarters at Subiaco, and against one of the best finishing sides in the competition, it became apparent that they would lose a sixth, as Port Adelaide rammed on eight goals to three to run out comfortable winners.
The longer the second half went, the less likely it seemed that West Coast would be able to stick with the Power, as the Eagles struggled to break through their tight defence. The Power had 37 inside 50’s to 14 with the Eagles defence under immense pressure.
The dam wall eventually burst with Port Adelaide booting 14 of the final 20 goals in the game.
Paddy Ryder became the biggest influence in the game, as the Power also reversed an inferior clearance count. The Power had 26 clearances to 18 in the second half, but crucially won many of the centre bounces with Ollie Wines, Chad Wingard and Brad Ebert combining for 11 centre bounce takeaways.
West Coast couldn’t control the ball around the stoppages, with Ryder finishing with 39 hitouts against his West Coast counterparts, who could only manage 32 as a team. Ryder also had 17 disposals, laid six tackles and booted two important goals with Nathan Vardy – one of the Eagles best in recent weeks – unable to restrict his influence.
The big men ultimately told the story in the game.
Along with Ryder, Charlie Dixon equalled his best haul in a Port Adelaide jumper of five goals. Dixon was too strong for young Eagle defender Tom Barrass, winning a number of one-on-one contest that either set up goals for himself or scoring opportunities for teammates. Strangely, Jeremy McGovern started up forward despite the return of Scott Lycett but had minimal impact.
Justin Westhoff had 23 disposals, 7 marks and 2 goals as a roaming forward and Jackson Trengove also had 2 goals from 15 possessions and five marks as well as chipping in with 11 hit-outs and three clearances as support for Ryder.
Down back Tom Clurey had McGovern’s measure early, before switching onto Jack Darling, who was the Eagles most influential forward in the opening half. Darling and LeCras combined for six of West Coast’s seven first half goals, but both could only manage one each after half-time as the West Coast forward system fell apart.
McGovern soon moved to defence, while Drew Petrie had a forgettable day kicking only one goal form 10 disposals, which included five clangers. Petrie also gave away an untimely 50 downfield kick after he collected Matthew White, moments after giving away a tough holding-the-ball decision.
Scott Lycett drifted in and out of the game, but couldn’t stamp his authority in his first game back since consecutive reconstructions, first on an injured posterior cruiciate ligament and then on a dislocated shoulder.
The Eagles had very few winners in the game with only a handful able to hold their head up at the final siren. Liam Duggan continued his recent evolution in the game with another impressive performance at half-back although his usage continues to be an issue with his 22 possessions used at just 63% efficiency.
Brad Shepherd was also strong off half-back, keeping Port Adelaide’s star player, Robbie Gray, to just a handful of possessions in the first three quarters, before Gray broke free for a brace of goals in the final term to finish the day with three.
Mark Hutchings had a strong start in a tagging role on Jared Polec before fading out, Jack Darling was supreme in the opening half but found the going tough after the main break, while Luke Shuey was probably the Eagles best midfielder with 14 contested possessions, 7 clearances and five inside-50s from 21 disposals.
Adam Simpson refused to suggest that personnel played a part, but considering the performance the week before, questions would be raised about team selection. Veterans Mark LeCras, Matthew Priddis and Shannon Hurn were brought back into the side at the expense of Jack Redden, who produced one of his best performances for West Coast against the Bulldogs and runners Chris Masten (who has had his own consistency issues) and Tom Cole.
Against a Port side that pressed hard when they had the ball up forward and rebounded quickly from defence, the Eagles looked cumbersome and ran out of the legs towards the end. While LeCras was able to end a four-game goalless streak, Priddis had just 19 disposals (at 47% efficiency) and five clearances with the Eagles still seemingly confused as to how to best fit Priddis and Mitchell in the side.
Mitchell had 26 disposals, but laid just one tackle and had just the one clearance with the two players seeming countering each other. Hurn had 14 disposals, but looked slow against the rotating half-forwards of Sam Gray, Travis Boak and Matthew White who was playing game 150.
While the loss was a bitter blow for West Coast, the finals cause isn’t loss with a generous draw giving West Coast the chance to stake a claim for a high finishing position. Following this weeks derby, the Eagles play Collingwood (away), Brisbane (home), St.Kilda (away) and Carlton (home), with four of the next five opponents sitting in the bottom 7.
The Eagles though can’t afford to drop too many more games and need to find a way to play their best football for four quarters.
Match Details Sunday 9 July 2017
Port Adelaide 4.0 6.2 10.8 18.12 (120)
West Coast 4.4 7.7 10.8 13.10 (88)
Subiaco Oval Attendance: 36,766
Goals: PTA Dixon 5, R Gray 3, Trengove, Westhoff, Ryder 2, Hartlett, Wines, Wingard, Boak.
WCE Darling, LeCras 4, Jetta 2, Cripps, Petrie, Vardy.
EAGLE EYE VOTES
Round 16 Season Total
5 Brad Sheppard 29 Luke Shuey
4 Liam Duggan 25 Elliot Yeo
3 Eric Mackenzie 21 Andrew Gaff
2 Jack Darling 18 Sam Mitchell
1 Mark Hutchings 17 Jeremy McGovern
ROUND 17 FORECAST
The Eagles will have some interesting selection decisions heading into the 46th Western Derby.
East Perth had the bye meaning that many fringe players didn’t have the opportunity to impress West Coast selectors, but there will still be a number who will be in contention. Jackson Nelson was fit last week and could have considered himself unlucky not to make it back into the team, having impressed during the season, despite a couple of niggling injuries.
Jack Redden was another player unlucky not to be selected last week, after an impressive performance against the Bulldogs. Luke Partington was the travelling emergency for the Bulldog clash and would still be on the minds of the match committee (as well as many Eagles fans).
The big inclusion though is likely to be Josh Kennedy who is all but certain to return against Fremantle. This means that there will most likely be a change up of structure across the Eagles line-up.
West Coast arguably went in too tall against Port Adelaide, and with Kennedy returning, Darling, Petrie, Lycett and Vardy can’t all play. Vardy seems certain to be included on the back of his strong season in carrying the ruck, while Darling is also likely to remain after a strong fortnight. That leaves either Petrie or Lycett as the omitted player, with the other to provide relief in the ruck.
The Eagles also have an issue down back, with McGovern, Mackenzie and Barrass seemingly too tall for a Dockers line-up who operate with a number of mid-sized players. Barrass has struggled at times in 2017, and was no match for Dixon and could be the player left out, with McGovern to return to his permanent position down back. McGovern should partner Eric Mackenzie who is starting to find his club champion form of 2014. Will Schofield may be considered as a more mobile third tall, although he would most likely have gone to Cameron McCarthy who will be unavailable through suspension.
The response by Adam Simpson toward a number of veterans will be the most intriguing aspect of the Eagles side. Sharrod Wellingham, Matthew Priddis and Shannon Hurn were all below their best, while Josh Hill remains on the outer.
Mark LeCras probably did enough with four goals in his return from a hip injury, but had little influence after half-time and had only three contested possessions and two tackles and would want to show more appetite for the contest if he wants to remain the side for the rest of the year.