THROUGH four games this young season, the West Coast Eagles have impressed a helluva lot of people. A lot of ‘experts’ were predicting the Eagles to fall out of the top-8 race this season, with Brownlow medalists Matt Priddis and Sam Mitchell retiring in the offseason. After hardly putting a foot wrong in the first month of 2018, it seems like a lot of people are going to end up with egg on their face.
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EVEN I had my doubts about what the Eagles could produce with the loss of a few key guys, but make no mistake they have fast changed my mind. The Coasters are sitting at 3-1 through the opening four rounds with impressive showings against the Geelong Cats and Gold Coast Suns in the last fortnight. What is impressing people the most is the way West Coast is attacking, leading the league in points scored so far at over 110 a game. The most impressive part is that they have managed to do so without 2x Coleman medalist Josh Kennedy roaming the forward 50 in their first three matches.
THE man affectionately known as ‘JK’ made his return from injury last week and managed to shake off the rust kicking 5.3 and making life miserable for Gold Coast defenders. In his early absence, Jack Darling has been a large key to West Coast’s early success. Darling is off to his best start ever with 12 goals already, the most he has kicked in the first month of a new season as he becomes a force in front of the big sticks.
Image from heraldsun.com.au
WITH Darling and a healthy Kennedy up forward the Eagles’ tall attack is quickly becoming the most intimidating group in the league. Excitement machine Liam Ryan was an able contributor with seven goals through three games before a serious ankle injury. He isn’t the only rookie having an impact with Jake Waterman and Willie Riolo developing into serious players as well. Throw in the likes of Mark Lecras who is off to an awesome start and a resting ruckman in the form of Lycett or Natanui and there aren’t many ways that you can stop all of the Eagles weapons.
IT’S probably too early to tell just how good the teams that West Coast has faced are. Sydney and Geelong are likely to vie for a top-4 spot, but the Suns and Bulldogs could both be bottom of the table candidates. The next two weeks against Carlton and Fremantle might not tell us too much about the Eagles credentials, but the month after that definitely will.
AS it stands right now they find themselves second on the table and during rounds 7-10 they face the other four teams that occupy a top-5 spot (Port Adelaide – 5th, Greater Western Sydney – 1st, Richmond and Hawthorn). Of those four teams, both the Tigers and the Giants are making scoring hard for their opponents, with Richmond giving up just under 80 points a game and GWS allowing a slight tick over 70 (second best in the league).
Image from soperth.com.au
ALL things considered, the Eagles are off to a fantastic start turning a lot of people into believers. If they can maintain their potent point scoring there’s no reason why they can’t build on their finals appearance from a year ago and push up the table. Getting youngsters Liam Ryan and Daniel Venables back in the last month of the season will be a bonus and if they can keep a relatively clean bill of health there are no limits to what they can achieve in 2018.
THE difference between good and great teams is winning the games they are meant to win. If West Coast can take care of business in the next two matches then they will be in a box seat for (possibly) a top-4 berth once the home and away season is done and dusted. There’s still a long way to go and of course, injuries will take their toll as they do every year. The way it’s looking right now though, these dominant high scoring Eagles are here to stay.
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