AFL Round 19 – West Coast Eagles v Gold Coast Suns: Barracking for Football

I hope the Avenging Eagle doesn’t read this piece, or I’ll be competing with Shandy the Labrador for floor space.  I didn’t barrack for the Eagles on Saturday, I barracked for football.

There are teams that play attacking footy and generally lose like the Kangaroos.  There are teams that play ugly, scrapping footy and win like the Dockers.  There are teams that play attacking footy and generally win, and I envy/despise the Editors of the Almanac for their dumb luck (or persistence as they see it) in supporting them.

My Eagles are having a horror season with form and injuries, so we are neither playing attractive footy or winning.  This game was our faltering 11th versus the Suns’ emergent 14th – with only 5 largely meaningless games left to play in the season.

I dubbed it the “Who Cares Cup” and went along hoping to see some youthful brilliance and promise for the future – whatever colours they were wearing.  I hoped we’d win but I didn’t really care.

I’ve never seen a G Ablett master class in the flesh, so I looked forward to watching his skill and athleticism more than I cared how it would affect the result.  In his Cats days he was generally one among many, rather than a superstar when visiting Perth.  For Gold Coast he has looked disinterested in Perth games – as if overburdened by carrying the weight of the side.  Perhaps today I would see in person what I had seen on TV many times.

Gripes – Why do teams wear away strips that don’t remotely resemble their colours when there is no jumper clash?  On Friday night Geelong looked like Carlton and consequently played like them.  Today the Suns looked like the Crows away strip of mainly white with a blue yoke.  Where was the orange and gold?  They played in it here last year and there wasn’t a problem?  How do you build tradition and rivalry when teams turn up looking like Neville Nobody?

I hate afternoon games at Subi, because I can only see silhouettes against the setting sun after half time.  The big TV screens reflect the sun worse than the playing field does, and it’s just not a pleasant viewing experience.  Why Saturday afternoons in particular – when it clashes with the WAFL games and my weekly trial by golf course?  Fortunately our last 2 home games are at night so I will not automatically be in a bad mood before I get there.

The Game – Strange days indeed.  The Suns generally won the play, while we won the scoreboard.  In particular they generally dominated the first 20 minutes of quarters with their run and flair, while the Eagles won time on convincingly.  Our age, strength and cunning triumphed over their youth and exuberance.  Go figure.

Good Things:

Josh Kennedy.  Had 4 goals by half way through the second quarter and got 5 for the match.  He gave the promising Rory Thompson nightmares with his strength and agility.  Steven May did a sound job when shifted onto him.  Josh’s endurance and tackling all around the ground is amazing.  He spends nearly as much time in our back 50 as in the forward half.  It will be a travesty if he doesn’t win the Coleman Medal.  He is a cert for our B&F, with Priddis and Glass runners up.  If Gold Coast had him they’d have won today.  If Carlton still had him they’d be in the top 6.

Prestia, Bennell, Hall, Stanley and Sexton – The Suns run and creativity off half back and through the mid field was dazzling.  Their low, flat, raking field kicking was often breath taking.  They look like a Malcolm Blight coached team to me.  Let them run and play footy – he’ll teach them the defensive stuff later.  Prestia was best on ground to half time with 20 possessions, but ran out of steam like many of his team mates.  The enjoyment at watching their speed and skills was balanced against the sense that they were millionaires playing with someone else’s credit card.

Jarrod Harbrow – Speaking of using someone else’s money, wouldn’t the Bulldogs like to have him and Callum Ward back?  His run and creativity from the backline was great, but how about the AFL steal from rich clubs like Collingwood or Hawthorn the next time they want to build a franchise (Geelong gave generously at the door).

Scott Selwood – Speaking of G Ablett Jnr, was he out there?  27 possessions is generally a half – not a full game of footy for the little maestro.  In Crowley and Scott Selwood the WA teams have the 2 best defensive midfielders in the comp.  Selwood’s possession tally equalled Ablett’s, and it is only wayward disposal that stops Selwood Minor being an elite player himself.

Scott Lycett and Brad Dalziell – The Eagles played a heap of young players to cover their injury gaps.  Lycett is starting to show awareness and agility at AFL level now that he has had a couple of seasons in the WAFL.  At 21 he looks a talent for a big man, and will fill Cox’s shoes sooner rather than later as Naitanui’s back-up.  Dalziell is more a journeyman rather than a youngster at 26 years of age.  After an early career as a fringe player at Brisbane, he has been the Eagles best find this year.  He is skilful and competitive so he makes every possession count, even though he is not particularly quick or strong.  He has been in our best half dozen most weeks in the last couple of months.

May, Day, Gorringe, Dixon and Thompson – The Gold Coast have got some real size and strength on their young list.   They were mostly beaten today, but last year were outmuscled and intimidated.  The improvement in their footy smarts and mobility was noticeable, and we all know that big blokes take more time to mature.  The Suns are a finals team in 2015 and Top 4 soon after.

The game was in the balance half way through the last quarter, but every time I expected the Suns to run over us their petrol gauge read empty.  It felt more like an exhibition game between the Eagles ‘try hards’ and the Suns ‘mug lairs’.  There was little of the pressure and intensity you see from top teams, and the patches of flowing football generally concluded in skill errors from both sides.  Full credit to the younger Eagles players for persisting and working hard, but only a couple matched the talent of the Suns’ higher draft picks.

I am sure that there are many good ‘family reasons’ for Harley Bennell, David Swallow, Jaeger O’Meara (poor today) or Brandon Matera (injured) to return home.  Not least so that my Eagles can gain some run and flair in our midfield.

To paraphrase MacArthur and Arnie “we’ll be back”.  Out with the old and in with the new.

And I have still never seen the Little Master give more than a cameo performance.  I think he suffers from Selwood aversion.

WEST COAST           4.0    10.1    15.6   20.10   (130)

GOLD COAST           3.3    7.7      11.8   17.11  (113)

GOALS
West Coast:
Kennedy 5, Hill 3, Schofield 2, Dalziell 2, Cox, Lycett, Cripps, Embley, Hutchings, Hams, Wellingham, Mackenzie
Gold Coast: Sexton 3, Bennell 2, Ablett 2, Bock 2, C. Brown 2, Hall 2, Dixon, Stanley, Swallow, Harbrow

BEST
West Coast:
Selwood, Kennedy, Cox, Wellingham, Dalziell, Darling
Gold Coast: Prestia, Bennell, Harbrow, Sexton, Ablett

Umpires: Farmer, Harris, Armstrong

Attendance: 32,140

My Votes: Scott Selwood (WCE) 3; Dion Prestia (GCS) 2; Josh Kennedy (WCE) 1.

 

Comments

  1. Kennedy hurts – he was a great kid who didn’t want to leave (but also didn’t want to stay if he was going to be the guy that cost us Judd).

    That said, I’m not sure people appreciate how big Judd was for us. We needed a win – any win – at that stage and his signature was a massive fillip for a club on its knees.

    Had Ratten’s game plan been more sophisticated than flog the arse out of Judd, we’d probably be getting a lot more out of him today.

    His final against Sydney a few years back is still the best example of one player dragging his team into a game.

  2. The revisionists will be out in force next year – I’m surprised they weren’t this year – saying Carlton should never have traded Judd for Kennedy. There are some very short memories in this game – Judd has been huge for Carlton.

    Same revisionists that said Ross Lyon held St.Kilda back, probably cost them a flag.

  3. Luke Reynolds says:

    Nice work Peter. Couldn’t agree more with you on the away/clash strips. The team still needs to be obviously recognisable as themselves. Don’t like the practice of club’s wearing mainly white when white normally isn’t one of their colours.

    Have to pull you up on your comment that the AFL has to steal from rich club’s like Hawthorn and Collingwood next time they want to build a franchise. The pies were very very generous to Gold Coast, giving them superstars like Josh Fraser and Danny Stanley.

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