Round 1 – Eagles v Bulldogs: Hot, Hot, Hot

I normally sit down to write my match reports as soon as I get home from the game.  Before the meedja has infected rational thought, and I become another slave to fashion.

It was bloody hot at Subiaco on Sunday afternoon.  The Perth temperature maxed out at 34 degrees at 4pm, just as we arrived at Subiaco for the 4.40 bounce down.  Puno Ruc’e (bloody hot according to the Croatian Avenging Eagle).

Why are we playing in the late afternoon in early autumn in Perth?  Surely they should all be night games in perpetually parched Perth until May.  The humidity is up and this is weather for frying footballers, and blinding fans like us who get to blink into the setting western sun for half a game.

What’s that you say?  Footy is a made for TV game these days to ensure Emperor Nero gets his $2million bonus for the rights to telecast the empire in flames.  Red Hot.

Anyway the heat is my excuse for adjourning to the Eagle brother-in-law’s back deck for a few post-game ales that greatly diminished my appetite for the keyboard when I got home.

So rather than give a blow-by-blow of a game that was more a procession than a contest, here are my take-home messages from Sunday.

The Eagles had a full list save for my patron Saint Beau of the holy Waters.  New coach Simpson pretty much selected the tallest lineup he could find.  The Eagles have 4 ruckmen in Naitanui, Cox, Sinclair and Lycett that would pretty much walk into half the AFL sides.  And Lycett is languishing in the WAFL. They are all pretty mobile so one always played forward; one was often being rotated through the bench; and Naitanui frequently ruck-roved to the others tapwork.

The best combination is still to be decided.  We got more of the clearances when Naitanui rucked and then helped bullock it out with handball.  My guess is that this will prove Option 1.  Cox is much lighter and fitter than last year, but he relies on bodywork and smarts these days more than the athleticism of yesteryear.

Cox or Sinclair will play forward a lot, with Kennedy roaming around the 50 metre zone more as a contesting CHF.  Darling clunked a couple of strong marks that he was dropping last year, and he kicked 4 thanks to a deadly boot.  He is more of an Aaron Hamill 3rd big man than the Wayne Carey re-run he aspires to be, and Simpson is rotating him through the midfield to use his strength and teach him how find the ball on the ground and in a contest.

On a day where nearly all the Eagles contributed – the only 2 shockers were from our most consistent players of 2013 – Josh Kennedy and Chris Masten.  Kennedy had a day to forget.  He had one touch to nearly half time, when Wellingham hit him lace out on the lead 25 metres out directly in front.  It was one of those classic “if it was a watermelon he’d have drowned” moments.  But he won’t have many more games like that.

The Eagles had 60 inside 50’s for the game, to the Bulldogs 37.  So despite our big men struggling up forward it was just a matter of when and how.  LeCras had his best game for a couple of years with 5 goals, mostly roving spillages from marking contests.  There is still an opening for another small forward as Jamie Cripps is limited.  Opportunity beckons for Josh Hill if he could ever get the smarts and consistency to match his sporadic talents.

With no injuries our midfield now has the depth to make up for its average talent levels.  Priddis and Scott Selwood are still workhorses inside, with poor disposal skills.  Wellingham and Gaff got better as the game went, and both looked to have improved their kicking skills on last year.  Rosa and Shuey are back from injury plagued 2013 seasons, and Rosa was BOG with 34 touches.  Both are penetrating kicks and we got running goals from the midfield for the first time since the Judd/Cousins heyday.  Shuey is my man to watch for 2014.  Since unjustly missing out to “Don King” Dustin Heppell for the Rising Star a few years back, Shuey has been a serial ‘gunnabee’.  He looks stronger and (hopefully smarter) this year, and has all the attributes to be an A Grade midfielder if he gets it all together.  Nowhere near as prolific as Rosa in gaining possessions on Sunday, but there were some scything kicks and running goals from those he did gather.  A volleyed goal from a marking spillage 15 metres out in the third quarter was better than any Wayne Rooney effort on the weekend.  Ange Postecoglou should have him earmarked for Rio.  One to watch.

The defence was rarely challenged, but looks our strong suit alongside the rucks.  Glass and Mackenzie are as good a key defenders as are going around in the AFL.  EMac as my nephews call him played his 100th game on Saturday, and the only good thing to come out of 2013 was his dropping of a dour defensive method because we had nothing more to lose.  His running off and offensive rebound creates the occasional turnover, but we are now less predictable in defence.  Glass is Glass.  Unbeatable one on one.

Oppositions sat on Shannon Hurn last year because he was our only rebounding option.  He was good on Saturday because he now has 3 accomplices who are similarly capable.  I have dubbed Xavier Ellis “Luke Hodge Lite” (henceforth LHL) for his left foot drives, and the way he pokes out his elbows and his bum when he runs.  We are happy to have a defender with 80% of the Great Man’s skill and presence.  Brisbane must have been having a Dodgey Brothers “everything must go” sale with all the talent that has walked off their lot in the off season.  Local boy returned, Elliott Yeo, looks a solid player with a good hoof.

The surprise packet was Demons discard Jamie Bennell who looked to play like a spendthrift millionaire when he was over East.  Pre-game my thoughts were that Simpson had picked him for his pace to run with Dahlhaus.  But his fierce tackling and attack on the ball made me think that Coach Simpson has been feeding him the same raw meat that Ross Lyon used to transform Clancee Pearce and Michael Walters.  Bennell’s performance on Saturday secured his spot in the lineup for at least the next month.

A lot of last season’s poor performance by the Eagles was conveniently blamed on injuries, but I wrote from Round 2 that they had lost the plot long before they lost the players.  Woosha seemed stuck in a 1990’s timewarp, and the players quickly got sick of following Lord Raglan when he ordered them to charge the guns on horseback.

There were obvious signs of Hawthorn in the way Simpson is trying to get us to play.  Last year we over-committed to the contest and then had no-one outside when the ball was loose.  On Sunday we only had one or two at the contest and still beat the Bullies 160/125 at their strong suit of contested possessions.  When we gained possession there was much more of a purposeful chain of handballs to men outside who had time and space to kick purposefully.  There was much less of the first possession ‘hoof it forward to the big blokes’ of last year under Woosha.

The game was vaguely enjoyable because of the Eagles dominance after the shambles of 2013.  But it was not really compelling due to the heat, and because the Bulldogs never really had any periods when they threatened to make it a contest.  They held us for the first 20 minutes of the game, before we got late goals to kick 2 clear.  The second and third quarters were one-sided.  By the last quarter all the players from both sides were exhausted, and it was an 8 goals (Eagles) to 6 goals (Bulldogs) exhibition game with none of the contested footy of the first 3 quarters.

Eagles 21.8 (134) – Christians 11.3 (69).  The punters would have wanted their money back at the Colloseum.  The Christians lacked teeth, height and strength.

Dale Morris was brilliant in containing Kennedy.  The rest were triers and plodders.  How come other clubs can buy Trent West, Hamish Macintosh, David Hale, Ben Mcevoy etc etc – but Minson still runs around like Goliath in the Valley of the Midgets.  Crameri is a third string tall, not a marking player to build an attack around.

The coach is good.  The players are willing.  The recruiting and drafting are diabolical.  Add 2 good talls and the Bullies would be around the 8-10 zone.  Without them its 12-15 yet again, and the sad thing is that it’s not for want of trying in the box and on the park.  The Bulldogs oven isn’t hot enough to get the bread to rise –making flatbreads when they need hi-tops.

The Avenging Eagle and I picked our way carefully down Roberts Road opposite the stadium on our way from the game.  The road is normally strewn with self-inflicted damage and debris from government limousines on a Sunday evening.  But it seems like our former Treasurer, Troy the Boy, had a quiet night in this Sunday.  He looks like a Dockers man to me.  Too Hot to Handle.

Malarkey Votes:  Matt Rosa (WCE) 3; Mark LeCras (WCE) 2;  Dale Morris (WB) 1

 

Comments

  1. Neil Anderson says:

    Just when I was starting to get over it you bring it all back. The trouble is I agree with most of what you said about the Bullies. Particularly about the lack of height and Minson the only tall running around with his midgets. I have heard the coach, and lots of players criticised over the last couple of years but you’re the first one to suggest the recruiters have failed.
    I couldn’t agree more. Sorry Jason McCartney. You’re a good bloke and a brave bloke but you and your team have failed.
    Opposition teams see the Bulldogs coming and pack their sides with tall guys. No matter the endeavour of the Liberatores and Dahlhouses they can’t compete with that sort of man-power.
    The other thing against them was that heat although I thought the running players might have won out but it was not to be.
    It will be interesting to see how they go against North on Sunday, hopefully in cooler conditions. You must have been impressed with young McCrae and Hunter at least.

  2. I noticed Hunter because he is a left footer and his Dad is a mate of Almanacker Andrew Fithall.
    The honest answer is that I struggle with identifying a lot of players from other clubs that don’t get much FTA TV time. I used to be able to pick Dalhaus with his Johnny Platten hair, but even he defeated me with his haircut. Mitch Wallis looks like his Dad so I could pick him.
    Cooney went OK, but I noticed him wince on those knees a few times late in the game.
    Others were all “one of the Lilliputians”.

  3. Superb read Pete. And on the oven analogy, I’m not sure I agree. The oven would be the coach, I figure, and the dough would be the players. Can McCartney get the oven to a temp to get the players to rise? The question to that remains. But I agree that the dough could do with a shitload of self raising flour and yeast. We looked like midgits out there. And Crameri is one at a third stringer height, indeed.

  4. cowshedend says:

    Dogs were indeed poor but will defend their recruiting, the Eagles have an exceptionally tall side , don’t know why Williams, Talia and Tom Young were not considered.
    About 15 minutes into the first quarter ,dogs were about a goal up, ball was about 15 meters from the dogs goal directly in front, Selwood , who has had more ducks than all the Vietnamese restaurants in Footscray, decides to duck rather than disposing, rather than being penalised , gets the free, ball straight up the other end ,2 goal turnaround.
    Found my bitter self urging someone to inflict some incredible pain on this bloke.
    Note to coach, never play Boyd and Stevens on the same park, their disposal is abysmal.

  5. Malcolm Ashwood says:

    Good summary PB to me Worsfold was a good player who got the utmost out of his ability but in general in the coaching box struggled and amazingly for a side which had
    Judd , Cousins and Kerr for a lot of his tenure lacked flair and daring and was too predictable kick it long . West Coast have been crying out for a change of coach for a while now ( def shades of similarities between J Worsfold and N Craig v thorough and prepared but struggled once the siren went to start the game ) yes I no Worsfold was a
    Premiership coach but geez so he should have been with the talent at his disposal overall underachieved . Western Bulldogs seemingly have lacked height since Adam and Eve and to compound matters got sucked in with the old we need all our runners in WA selection of this team was diabolical as outlined above . West Coast will regain the Subiaco fortress in 2014 and the bulldogs will be just short of the 8 I and many others predict but they won’t be the last side to get beaten comprehensively in Perth this season Thanks Peter

  6. On my earlier comment. The question to that remains???? The answer to that remains .. typing through bleary eyes there.

  7. Oh PeterB PeterB PeterB.
    What’s happened to you?
    Last year your writing was all gloomy and wonderful.
    Now it’s making me vomit again.
    Couldn’t get through it sorry.

  8. Les,
    South Freo together on Friday night??
    Come along – we can vomit together supporting the Bulldogs based on Round 1 results.
    Woosha has returned to his South Freo roots I read. Could explain a lot.

  9. Luke Reynolds says:

    Sounds like the Eagles might be going to live up to their 2013 pre-season expectations. Still a least a week too early to be playing footy let alone at 4.40 in Perth heat. Don’t know much about Sinclair but Lycett will be a quality ruckman for a long time when Cox retires, was super impressed when he has played the Pies.

  10. E.regnans says:

    Good stuff PB.

    Impressive win. Impressive player info in your story.
    Tall teams can look unbeatable on their day.

    Do you now have a new favoured post-match routine?

  11. Sean Gorman says:

    you lost me at Eagles V….

  12. Thanks Sean. Its an away game this weekend so my report should get you in for a few more words.
    Do you have any interest in South Freo? I am taking a few blokes to games to see if they want to get involved in community footy at some level.

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