West Coast and Port Adelaide meet in the Power’s first trip to the new stadium, with the two sides facing crucial early points in their season. The Eagles are one of the form teams in the competition, and currently have the best winning their past five games. The Power returned to the winners list with a comprehensive win over North Melbourne, after dropping consecutive games to Essendon and Geelong in the fortnight prior.
Sitting second on the ladder, the Eagles are about to embark on a crucial month which sees them play GWS (away), the reigning premiers at home and then a trip to Etihad Stadium to tackle the Hawks. Whether West Coast can be considered a genuine contender this season may be known, in four weeks time, but their position will be enhanced by at least securing wins at home.
Port Adelaide sit seventh, one of four teams to have four wins for the season. With a chasing pack of six on three wins, the Power will be looking to avoid dropping back amongst the pack, one third of the way through the season.
The Recent History
The Eagles recorded arguably the greatest win in their club history the last time these two sides met, with Luke Shuey’s after the siren winner knocking the Power out of the 2017 finals series. That victory made it four wins for West Coast from the past five meetings with the Powers only triumph coming last year in Round 16 at Subiaco Oval.
The Ealges and Power also met in Round 7 last year at Adelaide Oval, where the Eagles maintained a 100% winning record at the ground against Port Adelaide. In a match that closely resembled their meeting at the same ground a year earlier, the Eagles were able to build a five goal lead in the third quarter, before holding on against a surging Power side, who dominated most of the statistics in the game.
Strangely enough the past six meetings between the two sides has seen the away side victorious. The Eagles have won four times in South Australia against the Power, with Port Adelaide winning the past two occasions they have met in Perth. The last time the home side came out on top was Round 5, 2013 when the Power overturned a 38 point half-time deficit to defeat an inaccurate Eagles side by five points.
Both sides have made two changes, with injury affecting star players on both sides. The Eagles were forced to leave out Dom Sheed and Lewis Jetta amid growing concerns over the surface of the new Perth Stadium. Sheed has a sore foot and is expected to miss a fortnight, while Jetta continues to battle calf problems, having missed the Round 5 game against Carlton. In their place comes two fringe players in Mark Hutchings and Jackson Nelson. Nelson was dropped for the Derby last week after an underwhelming start to the season but gets a reprieve in defence in Jetta’s absence.
It was the same faces in the emergency list for West Coast with Fraser McInnes, Will Schofield and first-year player Brayden Ainsworth all named as there remain queries over a number of players who have been sore for a number of weeks. Luke Shuey, Josh Kennedy, Brad Sheppard, Nic Naitanui and Jake Waterman have all been expected to receive a rest, but continue to be named. The fourth player on the emergency list will excite West Coast fans; new recruit Brandon Ah Chee on the fringe of breaking in for his first game with the club after crossing from the Power.
The Power lost Chad Wingard to injury, with Tom Clurey also exiting from last week’s side. Paddy Ryder returns for his first game since injuring an achilles in the opening round with the timing perfect for West Coast’s in-form ruck duo of Nic Naitanui and Scott Lycett. However, the Power may still make a late change with an examination of the surface to determine if Ryder will take his place. The Power have named Jackson Trengove as one of their emergencies if the decision is made not to risk Ryder. Jaspar Pittard is the other inclusion, replacing Clurey in defence.
The Power also opted not to bring back either Sam Powell-Pepper or Tom Rockliff, despite both being available. Powell-Pepper has served the final week of his suspension, while Rockliff has recovered from injury, but the Power opted to play both through the SANFL before they made their way back into the senior line-up.
The Talking Points
Where Is Mark Hutchings At?
Hutchings returns for his third game of the season, but has yo-yoed out of the side for the past five weeks. An inclusion in Round 3 for the Cats, Hutchings was dropped for Round 4, recalled for the Round 5 game against Carlton, left out again for the Derby and made his way back into the line up for this clash with the Power.
Hutchings was a staple in the Eagles line up for much of 2017, but has found himself deep in the pecking order behind the new batch of Eagles players who have been given opportunities. Hutchings offered switched between half-forward and the midfield, but now the likes of Daniel Venables, Liam Ryan, Willie Rioli and Jake Waterman.
Hutchings profile doesn’t suit the new run-and-gun style of West Coast, but there still seems a place for him in the side, as suggested by coach Adam Simpson. Hutchings’ inclusion came about as they looked to tag one of the Geelong midfielders, and this may be the only way Hutchings holds his place in the 22 for the remainder of the season. More concerning for Hutchings is that he is out of contract at the end of 2018 and he could find himself squeezed out by the next generation of West Coast midfielders.
Can West Coast Get a Handle on Charlie Dixon?
The Eagles tall defenders have been the envy of the competition with Jeremy McGovern and Tom Barrass but Charlie Dixon has presented a challenge on more than one occasion for the Eagles backline. Dixon was almost unstoppable in the elimination final last year, collecting 23 disposals and seven marks, finishing with 3.6 If not for his own inaccuracy in front of goal, he may have dragged Port Adelaide beyond the first week of the finals.
Admittedly, he had Eric Mackenzie for the majority of the night for company, so the combination of McGovern and Barrass may do the job. Earlier, in Round 16, Dixon had his kicking boots when he registered five goals from 14 disposals as the Power came out 32 point winners.
Dixon had 22 possessions and three goals in the Round 7 clash, meaning that in three games between the two sides in 2017, Dixon had 59 possessions and kicked 11 goals. His possession tallies of 23 and 22 against West Coast are his personal best hauls and he presents a huge challenge for an Eagles side that he has enjoyed plenty of success against in recent times.
Should The Eagles Be Worried About McGovern?
Jeremy McGovern announced during the week that he had decided to leave contract discussions until the end of the year, which historically, doesn’t bode well for West Coast. McGovern is one of the most sought after free agents in 2018, with speculation rife that he would depart for Fremantle at the end of this season to join brother Mitch who was rumoured to be heading to the port club during last years trade period.
That never eventuated, with Mitch committing to the Crows for a further three years, but Jeremy remains on the radar of many clubs. Earlier this year it was reported that a Victorian club had offered McGovern a six year deal worth $1 million per season, while the Dockers have openly expressed their interest, with recent reports suggesting they had offered $7.5 million over six years.
Eagles management have stated they are comfortable with the decision McGovern has made regarding contract talks, but he remains their biggest commodity and the West Coast hierarchy will be doing everything they can to lock McGovern in at the club for the remainder of his career.
The player who needs a big game…?
Jackson Nelson. Nelson has had a poor season by his standards so far in 2018, but gets another chance to cement his spot as Lewis Jetta battles ongoing calf problems. Nelson has struggled to provide the drive from defence but would be considered firmly in the Eagles’ thoughts on their best 22.
It’s unfortunate for Nelson who had a blazing start to 2017 and looked to take his game to the next level. After such a strong start, Nelson battle injury problems for the remainder of the year, managing just eight games after round 5. Nelson has now been usurped in defence by the likes of Tom Cole and Liam Duggan, with another youngster, Francis Watson, also pushing hard for a spot in the senior line-up. Nelson got a recall, without demanding his spot back in the side, and must show his worth against a mobile Port forward line that will include the two Grays, Steven Motlop and Jake Neade.
The Eagles start slight favourites, purely on the basis that it is a home ground. Port Adelaide though seem set for another tilt at the flag and would feel confident after their away win against North Melbourne last week, as well as their success in Perth against West Coast last season (albiet at a different venue).
The key strength for the Power will be their running ability, so West Coast nullify this will go a long way to determining the result. West Coast have gone against the trend this season in trying to build their scoring chains from defence, so plenty will be expected from their defenders, especially if the Power start to control the middle. A large factor for the Power will be the availability of Paddy Ryder, and if the decision is made to keep him off the Perth Stadium surface, then West Coast will be in the box seat.
Games between the two teams have been notoriously close in recent times; seven of the eight meetings have been decided by 14 points or less, with the only ‘blowout’ being the 32 point win to Port Adelaide last year – and that came after scores were level at three quarter time, suggesting that this could be another tight contest.
West Coast by 7.
EAGLE TRIVIA: Adam Simpson will become the third coach at West coast to reach 100 games. @WCE_History