West Coast Season Review

Please note this is coming from a North Melbourne supporter, so I don’t generally know what happens in the WAFL leagues.

#1 Mitch Brown

A year to forget for the Brown twins, both Mitch and Nathan at Collingwood missing most of the season with injury. The West Coast Eagle Brown played the first four games of the year but a broken thumb ruled him out until Round 20, where he returned for two more games. Eric Mackenzie and Will Schofield went past him as the Eagles surged to a Preliminary Final. May find it hard to break back into the side next year.

#2 Mark LeCras

The remarkable Frenchman’s season was almost over before it began after he tore his groin while kicking a goal against North Melbourne in the opening round. He returned well ahead of time in Round 6 against Melbourne, and despite patchy form, he managed to return to his very best form as West Coast started dominating the rest of the league. With the prominence of Mark Nicoski in the forward line, LeCras was given the license to run through the midfield to great effect, with a starring role in the 123 point demolition of the Western Bulldogs in Round 9 when he gathered 29 possessions and kicked three goals. Kicked a season-high five goals against Adelaide in Round 12, and booted 47 for the year. Was disappointing in the finals series but was prominent in the Eagles tough win over Carlton in the Semi-Final. Has now played 100 games.

#3 Andrew Gaff

After being used as the sub early on in the season, Gaff was unleashed later in the year to great effect, with the number four draft pick starring and putting his stamp on the Eagles midfield. Got away from St Kilda’s attention in Round 17 to gather 21 touches and boot two goals, and two weeks later he accumulated 31 disposals and another two goals against the Dogs. Picked up 93 touches in three weeks of footy from Round 19-21. Will be a star.

#4 Daniel Kerr

The former midfield maestro hit back in 2011 after disappearing from the main stage recently due to a bad run of injuries, and showed he still has all the tricks he used to have. Started the year slowly, but soon got into his groove with 27 touches against Melbourne in Round 6. Missed some games late in the season, but returned to have a huge finals series, with 57 possessions in the Semi and Preliminary finals combined.

#5 Brad Ebert

The former much-maligned midfielder improved his disposal remarkably in season 2011, along with many of his teammates, and became one of the Eagles more potent attacking weapons. Came to play against Melbourne like many of his mates in Round 6, gathering 24 disposals and laying six tackles. Starred late in the season against Richmond, picking up 21 touches and booting a career-high four goals. Despite such a successful year, Ebert has request a move home to South Australia.

#6 Mark Nicoski

The Eagles journey man switch to the forward line in season 2011 to great effect, booting a very surprising 41 goals for the year. Kicked two goals in a game nine times for the year, and three five times with a bag of six coming against Richmond in Round 20. It all counted for zilch however, with just five touches and no score coming in the Preliminary Final against Geelong.

#7 Chris Masten

The former number three draft pick from 2007 still hasn’t quite lived up to his lofty standards, with just 13 games for 2011. His hopes looked dash after he missed every game from Round 12 onwards, but gained a call-up late in the season. Again didn’t have an impact against Richmond and Essendon, but he sizzled in the final two games of the year, gathering 31 possessions, kicking three goals and laying seven tackles against Brisbane, earning him one of the highest Supercoach scores of the season with 182. Followed it up a week later against Adelaide with 27 disposals, two goals and six tackles. Had an alright finals series. Might be his year next year.

#8 Beau Waters

The West Coast general of the backline, Waters’ impressive start to the season was dealt a savage blow when after Round 2 he required a full reconstruction to his elbow. Returned in Round 17, and helped hold the Eagles defence together. Put in a super performance against Geelong in the Preliminary Final, gathering 38 possessions playing as a loose-man in defence. Hot tip to be the next captain of the club when Darren Glass retires.

#9 Nic Naitanui

The Western Australia sensation put together a breakout year for the Eagles, combining with Dean Cox to pose the most threatening ruck combination in the league. Averaged just under 20 hitouts a game along with 13 disposals. Improved the attacking side of his game too, with 18 goals for the year. Had a good September, with 18 disposals, 22 hitouts and two goals against Geelong in the Preliminary Final. The sky is the limit for this young man.

#10 Scott Selwood

The youngest of the Selwood trio, Scott got the deserved recognition in 2011 after a brilliant year in which he led the competition in tackles with 202 at an average of 8.1 a game. Averaged 18.7 possessions a match, and had a career-high 14 tackles in a game twice in ’11, against St Kilda and the Western Bulldogs in Round 17 and 9 respectively. Finished the season with 22 disposals, eight tackles and three goals against Adelaide in Round 24. Still one step behind his older brother Joel.

#11 Matt Priddis

Goldilocks put together another fantastic season for the Eagles, tying with Darren Glass for the Best and Fairest, but losing in countback. Played every game for the year, and ranked first for total handballs and second for tackles in the league, with an average of 15.4 and 7.7 for each respectively. An absolute ball magnet, played perhaps the game of his year in Round 4 against Hawthorn, where he picked up 26 disposals and laid 14 tackles. Could win a Brownlow in the next few seasons.

#12 Brad Sheppard

Seems to be in the same boat as Chris Masten, despite being a high draft pick (pick 7), he has failed to come on as fast as the likes of Naitanui and Gaff. Played six games for the year, but wasn’t sighted after Round 11 against the Gold Coast.

#13 Luke Shuey

Was pick 18 in the 2008 Draft, the gun midfielder finally broke away from his injury issues in the past to put together 25 games of sheer brilliance. Fought out a season-long battle with Dyson Heppell on the way to the Rising Star Award, in which Shuey came second. Averaged 20 touches and 4.2 tackles a game, and booted 24 goals for the year. Put together a performance that was reminiscent of Chris Judd in Round 9 against the Western Bulldogs, picking up 27 possessions, laying eight tackles and booting five goals. Could be the best footballer in the league in a few years.

#14 Koby Stevens

Another of the West Coast youngsters acquired high in the draft from finishing in the lower reaches of the ladder that hasn’t performed as well as most would expect. Played just two games of the year in Round 16 and 17, and couldn’t cement himself in the strong Eagles midfield. Was a chance to move back to Victoria in trade week but a deal hasn’t eventuated. Yet.

#15 Tom Swift

Seemed like the next big thing a couple of seasons ago after he picked up 3 Brownlow votes against Richmond, but hasn’t lived up to that standard. Played five games for season 2011, and while he picked up decent amounts of possessions, turnovers killed him and he was sent back to the WAFL. Needs to improve his defensive skills.

#16 Eric MacKenzie

The tall Eagles defender entrenched himself in the backline as the second best defender behind captain Glass. Played 15 games, missing a chunk of the season due to a foot injury, but made it back in time for the finals series. Played a starring role in the upset victory over Carlton in Round 14, and managed to restrict Travis Cloke in the Qualifying Final. Has the best in the business to learn from, and has come a long way from the young defender that got towelled up by Jack Riewoldt at the MCG last year. Riewoldt kicked 10 goals on Mackenzie and a number of other West Coast defenders.

#17 Josh Kennedy

While Carlton will be quite contempt with the acquisition of Chris Judd, the loss that Kennedy has left may have cost the Blues a premiership this year. Kennedy has developed into one of the powerhouse forwards in the competition, kicking 59 goals from 23 matches in 2011. Infamously missed two matches late in the season after suffering severe brusing of the eye after teammate Dean Cox pelted him with a tennis ball at training. Achieved every forward’s dream when he kicked 10 goals against the Western Bulldogs in Round 9, the second West Coast Eagle to kick double figures in the past two years.

#18 Bradd Dalziell

Managed just one game for the year, in which he was the sub against Hawthorn in Round 4. Played out the season in the WAFL. May be delisted, but has serious ability to find the ball.

#19 Tim Houlihan

Suffered a large fall from grace since his promising early seasons in 2008 and ’09. Was delisted and rookied last year, and didn’t play a game this season. Was again delisted. Too much class to stay away from the AFL scene, we will see him back at some stage.

#20 Dean Cox

The premiership ruckman appeared down and out after two quiet seasons and the ageing superstar was deemed out of date. He proved all of his critics wrong with the best season of his career, playing every game and making the All-Australian team. Averaged 28.6 hitouts a game, along with a very impressive 17.8 possessions. Also kicked 20 goals for the year. Put in one of the most dominant performances of his career against the Western Bulldogs in Round 19, collecting 27 disposals, taking 13 marks, having 37 hitouts and kicking two goals. Could’ve been the last big hoorah in his long and decorated career.

#21 Quinten Lynch

The ‘Big Q’ played a starring role in the Eagles’ rise from the bottom of the ladder to top four, missing just one game and kicking 28 goals. Played around half forward, pinch-hitting in the ruck when needed. Is mobile enough to play through the midfield, a far cry from the burly full forward from their premiership days. Had 22 disposals, took seven marks and kicked three goals against Adelaide in the last game of the season. Come a long way since being taken as a rookie in 2001.

#22 Ryan Neates

The 169cm pocket-rocket suffered a season of injury woes in 2011, with an abdomen injury early in the year before it was ended with a posterior cruciate ligament tear. Has serious pace which is best suited to a wing. May be delisted and picked up again as a rookie.

#23 Darren Glass

The captain of the Eagles, Glass returned to his very best form at full back, conceding under a goal a game in his 24 matches for the year. Very rarely beaten by his direct opponent, he made the All-Australian team and won the West Coast Best and Fairest for the third time in his career, stamping himself as one of the greats of the club alongside Ben Cousins and Glen Jakovich. A move towards an attacking defensive role is forecast for 2012, with Mackenzie and Will Schofield becoming the main defensive options.

#24 Matt Rosa

The wingman put together arguably the best season of his career since his debut in 2005. Averaged 22.3 touches a game, with a best of 31 and two goals against Adelaide coming in Round 12. In a cruel blow, he injured his knee against Richmond in Round 20 and missed the finals, being an emergency for the Preliminary Final. Was linked to a trade back home to Victoria but it didn’t eventuate.

#25 Shannon Hurn

The man with the biggest legs in the AFL, he didn’t miss a game in season 2011 and was pivotal in setting up a number of attacks throughout the year. His pinpoint passes that cover over 60m were used to great effect, and his rebounding skills were at their very best. Took 14 marks along with 30 disposals against the Gold Coast in Round 11, and ventured forward a couple of weeks later against Port Adelaide to kick a career-high three goals.

#26 Sam Butler

The luckless premiership player put a horror 2010 behind him to play 13 matches and be a pivotal cog in defence for the Eagles. Missed a large chunk in the second half of the season due to injury but returned just in time to play all three finals and was far from disgraced in his performances. Has never played over 16 games in a season in his eight years at the club.

#27 Jack Darling

The troubled child many clubs were too afraid to take a chance on paid the Eagles back big time with a superb debut season, playing 23 games and kicking 24 goals. Averaged 12.4 touches and four tackles a game, and was played around the half forward line. A booming kick, he booted three crucial goals in the Semi-Final against Carlton, but was one of the number of Eagle players that were caught in the spotlight in the Preliminary against Geelong.

#28 Ash Smith

The young defender built on an impressive debut season last year to play 18 matches in 2011. Averaged 14.5 possessions, with a career-high 25 against Melbourne in Round 6. Starred in the Eagles’ upset victory over Carlton in Round 14, recording 21 touches and kicked two goals. Was dropped for the finals.

#29 Scott Lycett

Talented 202cm ruckman from South Australia was taken at pick 29 in the 2010 Draft. Wasn’t expected to make his debut as early as he did, given the Eagles have one of the best ruck combinations in the league, but he was tried in the game against the Western Bulldogs in Round 19, and he looked at home on the big stage, kicking a goal within the first 30 seconds. Gathered 11 touches and booted two majors, and was cotton-balled for the rest of the season. Interestingly, Cox played his best game of the season that match.

#30 Blayne Wilson

Huge prospect taken at pick 2 in the Pre-Season Draft. 188cm defender, he has excellent foot skills on both sides, and prefers to take a pack mark rather than spoil. Reads the play as well as anyone at the club.

#31 Will Schofield

Versatile defender who built on his break-out season last year with 23 games. Usually took the best small forward for the opposition, and provided plenty of run out of defence. Ventured forward to kick two goals for the season, once against Carlton in Round 14 where he picked up his first ever Brownlow vote.

#32 Andrew Embley

Veteran midfielder was deemed past his best by the Perth media, and, like many of his older teammates, proved them wrong with a stunning turnaround in season 2011. Missed just one game and averaged 21.6 disposals, kicking 17 goals in the process. The Norm Smith Medalist from 2006 played perhaps one of the best games of his career in Round 2 against Port Adelaide, with 32 disposals, 11 marks and four goals, netting him 167 Supercoach points. Had a horror Preliminary Final, which put a severe damper on his year.

#33 Jordan Jones

Defender who couldn’t add to his tally of two games from late last year. Highly rated, but couldn’t find a spot in the defensive 50 which boasted the likes of Hurn, Waters, Smith and Schofield. Next year is make or break.

#34 Jacob Brennan

Son of West Coast Premiership player Michael, Brennan had the same problem as Jones in finding a spot in a settled Eagles’ backline. Highly touted, so we should see him more next year.

#35 Patrick McGinnity

Underrated tagger who played 19 games in 2011. Known for getting under many players’ skin, none more so than Ricky Petterd in Round 21 where McGinnity was suspended for a week after slurring Petterd’s mum on the field of play. Kicked a crucial goal in the Semi-Final against Carlton after coming on as the sub. It was his only major of the year.

#36 Callum Wilson

Imposing forward off the rookie list didn’t get game in 2011 despite showing serious signs in ’10. With the emergence of Jack Darling and the continued improvement of Josh Kennedy out of the goalsquare, Wilson found his spot hard to grab. Would be handy out of the goalsquare for pretty much any club in the AFL.

#37 Adam Selwood

The eldest of the Selwood trio played every game in 2011, being used as a defensive midfielder. Averaged 17.2 disposals a game, with a season-high of 28 in Round 24 against Adelaide. Very wise player.

#38 Brett Jones

Versatile defender who couldn’t add to his tally of 102 games in season 2011 due to form and injury. Pulled the pin on his career at the end of the season. A very good clubman of the Eagles.

#39 Lewis Broome

Despite Neates being 169cm, this man still takes the title of being the smallest player at the club, and the AFL. At 167cm and 59kg, Broome is a lightning quick Indigenious forward on the rookie list. West Coast has persisted with him, so they obviously believe he can one day play at the highest level.

#40 Anton Hamp

Tall rookie who can play forward or back. Posted great speed and jump results in the draft combine, and is a key prospect of West Coast going forward.

#41 Andrew Strijk

Excitement machine seemed destined to find a spot in the best 22 after an impressive debut season in ’10, but he played just one game against the Suns, where he was the sub. Next year is his year to shine. Has plenty of pace.

#42 Jeremy McGovern

Versatile tall who can play forward or back. Rookie who was picked up in 2010, he is unlikely to get a game in West Coast colours.

#43 Ashton Hams

Rookie who was upgraded last year to play 11 games and impress as a pocket-rocket around goals. Was the same story this year, except he played just four games and kicked one goal, although it was one of the goals of the year against Brisbane in Round 23. Needs to improve the defensive side of his game to stay on the list.

#44 Gerrick Weedon

Indigenious forward who inherited the number 44 guernsey after the departure of club legend David Wirrpanda. Yet to make his debut but is highly touted.

#45 Jarrad Oakley-Nicholls

Disappointing young player who was a high draft pick at Richmond. Never impressed, and was delisted. West Coast took a punt on him, selecting him as a rookie, and it never worked out for either parties. Has been delisted.

#47 Lewis Stevenson

Young midfielder who showed good signs last year, but failed to play a game in 2011. May request a trade if opportunities continue to bypass him next season.

About Josh Barnstable

21 year old North Melbourne supporter from country Victoria. Currently living in Melbourne studying a Bachelor of Sports Media. Dreams of becoming a sports journalist and broadcaster.


  1. John Butler says:

    Comprehensive as ever Josh.

    I’d be interested in the thoughts of our WA contingent on these assessments. The Eagles were a big story this season.

  2. Thanks Josh. Your distance seems to have given you ‘rose coloured glasses’ as you have glossed over some player’s shortcomings. For a slightly different take on the same theme, and I have marked our players pretty hard.
    A Graders (top players in any side) : Cox, Natanui (already a champion tap ruckman and his round ground skills improving rapidly), Glass (if the body holds up), Priddis (great inside workrate – not skilful or fast enought for a Brownlow!), Hurn
    B+ : Kennedy (on song is an A Grader but has confidence and kicking fluctuations); Kerr (age and his bash crash style means he will always be injury prone now); LeCras (brilliant when he gets time and space but was ordinary most of 2011 and we need to find a role for him in a crowded forward line – doubt he will be a top midfielder); Waters (A grader if he maintains fitness – his Prelim game against Cats was his best for 3 seasons); SSelwood (improver still with disposal and legspeed limits); ASelwood (plugs defensive gaps better than anyone); Mackenzie (huge improvement this year – really strong big defender only needs to improve kiicking).
    XXXX Factors – My opinion and hope is that Shuey and Darling will be outstanding. Shuey has a touch of the Judds. And Darling a touch of the Carey’s (big call). Gaff was great for a first year player, I just wonder if he will ever be big enough or quick enough to be more than an accumulator. Will certainly be very good. In his one game the big tall Scott Lycett looked the goods, but way too early to tell.
    Solid B’s – Embley (my lowish grading) is just based on his limits nowadays as an outside player and good teams/coaches shut him down easily late in the season; Schofield (big improver this year) is tall and agile with good skills who could continue to improve (or not); Lynch, Butler, Nicoski and Rosa are all solid role players with limitations.
    Solid C’s – Masten was a whipping boy for Eagles fans but worked really hard and gets possessions but his disposal is not up to AFL standard; McGinnity improved a lot and is quick but also dodgy disposal; Ashley Smith was a solid half back and surprised with his improvement – but not quick.
    C Minus – Hams is a real trier but short stature limits his upside; Sheppard is young and has not shown a lot at AFL but highly regarded by good judges; Strijk – limited opportunities in 2011 after promising 2010 (lacks pace in my observations); Mitch Brown is big and cumbersome but I think he will improve and fill a key defender role when Glass retires.

    2012 Outlook – Manage the old guys to keep them on the park, and watch the rapid improvement of Natanui, Darling and Shuey into topliners (hopefully)

  3. Josh, very comprehensive review. I’m a Melbourne-based Eagles supporter, so not close to the WAFL form, but can offer a few thoughts on some of the players that would be lesser known.

    6. Nicoski: surprised me, I had thought he should’ve been delisted a year ago; a move forward and he found new life, in career-best form; sure proved me wrong

    7. Masten: showed definite signs, could be on the cusp of breaking through; I worried when he played well in the NAB Cup (in previous years, he’d played 2 or 3 good quarters and then got injured, and I was concerned he may have got that good period out of the way early); I thought he showed a lot late in the year, not least in Round 20 against Richmond when he came on in the 3rd as the sub and immediately became the play-maker; I definitely get the sense that I’m in the minority here though, a lot of Eagles supporters had high expectations and now feel their patience has been tested; I hope they back off him

    15. Swift: struggled at AFL level; from all reports, dominated at WAFL level – maybe a comment on the gap in pressure and intensity; I still think he has upside – he had done back-to-back knees in the 2 years before he was drafted, so his 2009 debut season form was well ahead of schedule, but he has slid back since then… I still believe he can improve

    16. Mackenzie: made great strides this year, looks like the next Glass in the making; announced himself to the Melbourne media in the QF, but he’d been doing it for weeks

    19. Houlihan: looked terrific when the Eagles showed some form in late-2009, when he very quickly became the play-making midfielder that everyone else looked to; since then, he’s had injuries, was delisted and re-rookied, apparently more injuries at WAFL level, and plenty of other midfielders who have gone past him; sadly, I think he’s unlikely to get back now

    22. Neates: I’ve got to admit I have real doubts, and I haven’t heard anything to suggest he’s dominating in the WAFL

    24. Rosa: much improved year, had a number of games when he was in the 5 best, well exceeding my expectations, until he got injured and missed the last 7 or so weeks

    30. Wilson: I’ve never seen him play, but from what I’ve read on the blogs, there are huge wraps on this guy, sounds like he’s made a bit of WAFL impact this year

    31. Schofiled: alongside Mackenzie, another backman I’ve been rapt with this year, got better and more assurred as the year went on, provided more and more rebound and he grew in confidence

    32. Embley (the exception to my focus on the lesser-knowns): improved in the sense that he looked interested (unlike in 2010), but I must admit I’m not as sold on his 2011 as a lot of people are; I think his disposal really let him down, not only in the Prelim (0 effective kicks until he hit a target in the last minute), but several other games where he got a lot of the ball and butchered it, eg. the away win over the Crows

    35. McGinnity: has become one of my favourite players, is now much more than just a tagger (which is all I thought he’d be), his skills have really improved and he moves the well through the middle now; an old-fashioned hard-worker, not voerly gifted but has ground out every bit of ability that he can out of himself; love those sort of players

    38. B.Jones: always sad to see a club great go, and an unsung club great is what he is; was terrific in the premiership year, and even better the following year; I think he got a WAFL flag this year to go out on; will always be remembered as a favourite

    39. Broome: excited all Eagles fans in the NAB Cup win over Freo, but I think he also looked a fair way off; we need a crumbing small forward, so there’s a spot there for him,. Hams or Weedon

    43. Hams: I’d have this guy in our starting line-up, just because he’s the closest thing we have to a true rover who gets front and centre; he probably would have too, were it not for Nicoski’s great year

    44. Weedon: another contender to fill the crumbing gap; looks a fair way off (Josh, interested you say he;s yet to debut, I thought he played in our away game against Essendon, as the sub), apparently didn’t do much for Claremont in the WAFL; still, is a possibility to eventually go past Hams as the small forward option

    45. Oakley-Nicholls: apparently did very little in the WAFL, and has been delisted; at least we only used a Rookie pick on him, so no harm… unlike Richmond…

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