AFL 28 days ago

Round 23 Preview: West Coast vs. Adelaide

  • Round 23 Preview: West Coast vs. Adelaide

West Coast and Adelaide meet in the final home and away game of the 2017 season and depending on other results in the round, there could be plenty on the line for both sides. The Crows are guaranteed a top two spot, but if the Giants defeat Geelong, they will still have top spot to reach for. A Cats victory means that Adelaide will be confirmed as the minor premiers before the game has started, regardless of the final result.

The machination for West Coast is a lot more complicated. The Eagles will know exactly what they need to do before the game starts, with results in the Collingwood/Melbourne clash and the Essendon/Fremantle game to shape their attitude. A Collingwood victory over the Demons, or an upset win by Fremantle means that a win will get the Eagles into the eight. However, if Melbourne and Essendon both win, then West Coast’s last chance will be to catch the Bombers by percentage – winning by roughly 40 points more than what Essendon do, which against one of the flag favourites is going to be no easy task.

The Eagles made it an 11th straight game where they have gone win-loss, when they were defeated by the Giants. West Coast were within a point at the final change, but again were outscored in the final term to lose by 21 points. That put West Coast back out of the top eight, leaving their finals hopes dependant on other results. Josh Kennedy again provided the lone forward spark, booting four of West Coast’s nine goals as Jack Darling and Josh Hill had no influence. Matthew Priddis turned back the clock to put in one of his best performances of the year, while Elliot Yeo also resembled his early season All-Australian form amassing 31 disposals across half-back.

The Crows went down to Sydney by three points, with many calling it a Grand Final preview. Adelaide hit the front by nine points midway through the final term, having dominated much of the half, but a controversial 50m penalty against Eddie Betts swung the momentum in the game. Sam Reid goaled from the resultant advantage, before Tom Papley kicked the match winner to give the Swans a memorable win. Rory Sloane bounced back to form to be easily the best player on the ground, while the Crouch brothers were again influential with their contested possession.

The Recent History

The two sides haven’t met since the corresponding round in 2016 when the Eagles upset Adelaide on their home turf. Adelaide went into the game sitting in 2nd position and would have secured the double chance and two games at home, but West Coast defied the odds to record a 29 point win.

That result reversed the earlier meeting between the two sides when Adelaide defeated West Coast at Subiaco Oval by the same margin. West Coast led by two goals at three quarter time, but the Crows piled on six goals in the final term, while keeping West Coast scoreless in a quarter at home for the first time in the clubs history to win by 29 points. Captain Taylor Walker was a major factor in the final quarter, as was Eddie Betts who finished the game with five goals. Rory Sloane – who missed the Round 23 encounter through suspension – had 29 possessions to be the Crows best, while Matthew Priddis also had 29 for West Coast.

That win to Adelaide made it three in five games for the Crows at the ground, supporting a strong record at the ground. Adelaide also claimed wins at the ground by 86 points in 2013 and 22 in 2010 and victory in this game would give Adelaide consecutive wins against West Coast at Subiaco for the first time ever.

The Line-Ups

Despite the loss to GWS, the Eagles made just the one change to the side, dropping Josh Hill for Mark LeCras, who has recovered from a hamstring injury. The Eagles teased home supporters by naming Jake Waterman – son of Eagles legend Chris – in the initial 25 man squad, but there will be no fairytale debut with Waterman ultimately named as an emergency.

Jack Darling naturally held his place, despite struggling against the Giants, while Nathan Vardy and Drew Petrie also held their spots despite being well beaten by ruckman Shane Mumford. Their task won’t get any easier as they come up against one of the best ruckmen in the lead, Sam Jacobs. Lewis Jetta also held his spot despite notching just 10 disposals in his return game from a calf injury and will be called upon to recover some of the explosive run that he was able to display in the weeks before his injury. Mark Hutchings had just 11 possessions, but holds his spot with an expected run with role on Rory Sloane anticipated.

The Crows made three changes, despite stating during the week that they wouldn’t rest players ahead of the finals. Taylor Walker (toe) and Daniel Talia (ankle) were both ruled out due to injury, while Hugh Greenwood was left out. Adelaide brought in Kyle Hartigan, Wayne Milera and Paul Seedsman, with Milera and Seedsman in particular to provide plenty of run on the lengthy Subiaco Oval.

The loss of bookends Walker and Talia will expose the depth of the Crows and place greater pressure on Josh Jenkins up forward and young defenders Jake Kelly, Jake Lever and the incoming Kyle Hartigan. Tom Lynch was one of the best in the loss to Sydney and will enjoy the long ground of Subiaco, with his ability to lead into space a key element in his game.

The Talking Points

Will not making finals be seen as a major disappointment?

The Eagles are definitely not out of the finals race, but a lot has to go right for them to see September action. West Coast will rue the fact that they lost five games by eight points or less and lost six games where they either led or were level in the final quarter. Astoundingly, the Eagles have led in 60% of games this season, the second best in the competition, which does show what they could have been capable of 2017.

However, for one of the teams that were predicted as being a real premiership threat at the start of the season, to not make finals will go be seen as falling well short of expectations. A possible ninth finish has seen West Coast already change their short term planning of the club, with the retirement of Matthew Priddis and the futures of several others to be scrutinised intensely over the off-season.

Does Mark Hutchings go to Rory Sloane?

This is a straight forward yes. Sloane missed the game between the two sides last year and it has been proven to be a successful move against the Crows this season. Adelaide have been questioned over their midfield depth and the Crows losses in 2017 have generally been due to Sloane being well held.

The Crows midfielder started the season in blazing form and was considered a Brownlow fancy before clubs started to put the clamp on him. West Coast would be derelict to not follow suit, and Hutchings possesses a similar body shape that is suited to following Sloane. While Hutchings has enjoyed success in tagging over the past couple of seasons, they have generally been loose-checking jobs with Hutchings encouraged to get the ball himself. However, with so much potentially on the line in this game, expect Hutchings to play a full lockdown role on the Crows prime midfielder.

Can History Repeat Itself (2)?

It didn’t against the Giants, but West Coast still find themselves in a similar position to last year when they played the Crows in the final round to ensure they made finals. And like last year, the Crows were sitting in the top two, although they can’t possibly drop down this time around if they lose.

West Coast recorded an upset 29 point win in 2016 and will be desperate to repeat the dose, particularly if the Magpies can do West Coast a massive favour and topple the Demons 24 hours earlier.

The Key Stat

On paper the Eagles and Crows possess two of the most potent forward lines in the competition, but while Adelaide have been the best scoring side of 2017, West Coast have struggled. The Eagles have topped 100 points just twice since Round 2 with their reliance on full forward Josh Kennedy becoming a concern.

Part of the issue for West Coast though has been their inability to get the ball inside-50 with the loss of Nic Naitanui and, to a lesser extent, Scott Lycett diminishing their ability to win centre clearances and gain meterage from the middle of the ground. As a result, West Coast have had to start their forward chains from the back half which has impacted negatively on their inside 50 count. The Eagles have recorded some alarming inside 50 differentials in 2017, but their efficiency at scoring once they get the ball into their forward arc has been the reason they have scraped through in some games.

The Eagles have won the inside-50 count just eight times in 2017 and that trend is likely to continue as they come up against the number one side for inside-50 differentials in Adelaide. The Crows average nine more inside-50’s than their opposition, and considering their strong forward prowess, and if they manage a similar advantage against West Coast, the Eagles will find it hard to contain Adelaide from posting a winning score.

It’s A Big Week For….

Josh Kennedy.  The Eagles won’t openly put individual honours ahead of team success, and Kennedy himself would rather the side make the finals. But Kennedy also has a chance to create rare history in winning the Coleman Medal for a third consecutive year and be the first player to do so since Gary Ablett from 1993 to 1995.

Kennedy has a four goal advantage heading into Round 23 making him a short-priced favourite to claim the award, but Joe Daniher and Lance Franklin will both be in hot pursuit. Kennedy has gotten a boost with Daniel Talia ruled out for the Crows, but with Essendon and Sydney both expected to record straight forward wins, Daniher and Franklin will both have big chances to pile on the goals.

Like West Coast, Kennedy will go into the game aware of how many goals he needs to claim the award, and may get a little help from teammates particularly if final result of the game is decided heading into the final term.

 

The Result?

Both teams will be aware of results at other grounds which may have a large bearing on the outcome of the game. It is likely that West Coast could enter the game with a lot more on the line and ultimately determine the attitude of the game. Adelaide will be keen to win, but if top spot is already sewn up then they will have their eye on the first week of finals.

There is plenty of emotional attachment for West Coast as well, with the final ever game at Subiaco, after 31 seasons at the ground, as well as potentially the last ever games for stalwarts Matthew Priddis and Mark LeCras, as well as champion midfielder Sam Mitchell. Mentally, West Coast may just be more switched on come bouncedown.

West Coast by 22 points.

 

EAGLE TRIVIA: The Round 23 clash against Adelaide will be the Eagles 327th and final game at Subiaco Oval. West Coast have so far won 221, lost 103 and drawn once.  (@WCE_History)

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