When too much Eagles is never enough

Subiaco Oval,2.40pm, Sunday 20 May

I love Beau Waters.  There, I’ve said it.  The Avenging Eagle needn’t worry.  Julia and Tony won’t let us marry.  Beau played his 100th game in 9 seasons in last week’s loss to the Bombers.  A series of elbow dislocations and fractures threatened to end his career, but he is back to career best form now.  Who could forget his lone handed Master Class against the Kats in our preliminary final drubbing last year?  He is famous for crazy brave marks running back into packs, like those saving gems as a 20yo in the last quarter of the 2006 GF.

But above all I love what he represents as a person.  Self confessed high school drop kick, who slept on friend’s couches and was involved in a tragic car accident that killed one of his school mates.  He has grasped every opportunity that life has subsequently given him, and is now a voracious reader, autodidact and studying for an MBA.

We went to the game with my mate Tony, who has done it similarly tough, and now devotes a lot of time to volunteering with the Sallies and helping other blokes that are struggling.  When I hear his story I wonder that he’s not dead.  When I hear him talk about what he does with his life, I think he should get an OAM.  He and Beau are the sort of blokes you would like near you in a foxhole, when the ammo is running low.

Today was one of those perfect autumn days  in Perth that starts with a cleansing chill, and then unfolds into gentle breezes and the late afternoon glare of the sun setting over the 3 tier stand at the Subi end of the ground.

Matt Priddis was a late withdrawal having still not recovered from concussing the Docklands concrete.  Natanui and Schofield were back, and except for Priddis the lineup looked about as good as it will get for the next few months until the long term injuries come back.  Embley and Nicoski may well struggle to get a run even when fit, such is the development of their replacements.

The story of the game is encapsulated in Waters’ performance. BOG in the first half with strong marks, pin point kicks to set up attacks from half back, and 2 ripping goals when drifting into attack.  One was a long bomb and the other an acute snap.  But what really stood out was the ferocity of his tackling.  Time and again the Eagles forced turnovers with their press and their relentless pressure.  We aren’t the best side, but we are the best tackling side I have ever seen.

At half time the Eagles led by 8 goals and the game looked over.  All credit to the Saints, their clearance work in the second half was outstanding and they reduced the margin to 21 points at orange time.  Beau went missing for that quarter along with most of his team mates.  The Eagles were continuing to work hard, but the previously pin point passes were now needle in a haystack.

The last quarter was an arm wrestle, and while visions of the yesterday’s last quarter surrender by the Kangaroos briefly tormented, there was never a serious threat.  After a ten minute arm wrestle early, the Eagles kicked clear and won by a comfortable 30 points.  Waters regrouped to put on some strong tackles and forward charges, missing a soda on the run from 15 metres out in the forward pocket in the dying minutes.  He kicks the hard ones, but ……

Rather than describe the game I thought I would encapsulate it with some pen pictures.

Hayes, Montagna, Stephen, Dal Santo, Jones – the Saints’ hard working midfielders were terrific.  Despite losing the hitouts after Stanley was injured, the Saints dominated the clearances, particularly in the second half.  The highlight for Saints supporters was that they never gave up, and they look a better side than last year to my eye.  The youngsters struggled today against the Eagles’ ferocity but Watters has injected some pace and flair into the side.

Rhys Stanley – looked an athlete early, but tried to outsprint NicNat (never wise) and paid the price.  Injuries to key players during a game (like Priddis for the Eagles last week) really unsettle a side.  The Saints diabolical second quarter was at least partly due to being unbalanced by his hamstring injury.

Riewoldt, Koschitzke, Goddard – “Round up the usual suspects,” as Claude Raines (Geoff’s father) laconically instructed in Casablanca.  Riewoldts – Jack and Nick – vie for my title as the most over rated and under performing footballers in the AFL.  What’s that you say, Nick kicked 4 goals and got 103 Dream Team points?  3 of the goals were crumbers.  One contested mark from an Adonis who, like his cousin, looks like Ken plays like Barbie.  Kozzy is like Fozzy (bear) – loveable dolt – 10 possessions and 2 contested marks.  Goddard I find the most frustrating.  I thought he was going to be a superstar.  Plays as a loose man a kick behind the play.  Like Peter Bell on steroids, gets leather poisoning but never hurts oppositions.  22 possessions, but only one contested mark with his physique and talent.

Now for the good bits:

Waters, Hurn, Schofield – Good teams are built on defence.  The Eagles have the most solid and best rebounding defence in theAFL.  All are running defenders, strong marks and excellent kicks.  Schofield is one of the most under rated and improved players going around.  Adam Selwood is getting too slow to play in the midfield, and generally gets a tag on a dangerous mid-sized forward (he has always done a good job on Stevie J).  Sam Butler is a handy pinch hitter and he won my man of the match today for the job he did on Milne (more later).

Glass and Mackenzie – The pillars that the defence is built around.  Tall, strong and rarely beaten in a marking contest.  Both have very good straight line speed for their size.  Both are poor kicks, who generally handball where the option is available.

Natanui and Cox – Peerless.  NicNat dominated after Stanley’s injury, then appeared to tweak a hamstring himself and was rotated a lot in the second half.  Does 70% of the ruckwork these days and is a glorious tap ruckman.  Fierce charging follower when the ball hits the ground and is a creative handballer.  Has prolonged Cox’s career by allowing him to play mostly forward these days.  Cox had kicked 5 goals from strong marks by early in the third quarter, when he surprisingly cramped and also saw limited game time late in the match.  What Cox has lost in athleticism he makes up for in strengths and smarts.  A fit Cox, Natanui and Kennedy on a dry day at the MCG in September will be a sight to behold.

Kerr and Scott Selwood – Hmm, I thought they had poor days today.  I was right about Kerr.  Clint Jones put on one of his usually effective strangles.  Kerr often tries to do too much when he has possession and often gets caught or turns it over.  I think experienced midfielders have generally seen most of his tricks before.  The stats tell me I was harsh on Selwood who was the biggest possession getter on the ground (31).  He obviously did a lot of grunt work in the absence of Priddis.  Nasty Selwood is a modest kick, and his disposals rarely hurt the opposition today.  My summary would be that the inside midfield are an effective unit when there are 3 Musketeers, but Athos and Porthos showed today that they really need Aramis to shine.

Shuey, Gaff, Masten and Rosa – This group are our running outside midfielders and were outstanding today.  Shuey is the only Eagle with really blinding leg speed.  He is a beautiful kick, and today was one of his best games.  He is only light and can struggle if the game is really tight and physical.  Has only played 38 games and I think he will be an elite player in a year or two.  Andrew Gaff is only a second year player, and has the most amazing ‘tank’ of any young player I can remember.  Small and light, he rarely gets contested ball, but is one of the great ‘link’ players.  Is a neat kick and gathered 25 possessions with tireless running.  Masten is a much maligned player who has really worked hard on his game in the last year.  Small but strong and tackles hard.  His disposal is improving, and he is becoming a very solid contributor.  By contrast with the other outside midfielders, Matt Rosa is experienced (114 games) and is more a classical wingman than an on-baller.  I always thought he was one-paced, but has definitely found a yard, and the last 12 months have been clearly the best of his career.

Darling and Hill – The Jack and Josh show.  Both are stars of the future.  Darling has just turned 20 and has played 30 games.  He has the confidence and presence of a young Wayne Carey.  Just needs the body strength and development to become the Eagles’ best ever key forward.  Is a fiercesome tackler and chaser.  Shows glimpses of taking the game apart, as in the first half today, but struggles to maintain that level.  Works hard even when he is struggling.  Josh Hill is a revelation, who has the skills and smarts of an elite medium-sized forward.  (If Brett Heady and David Wirrapunda had a …….)  Was sublime in the first half, creating space and opportunities for others.  Missed a couple of sitters from set shots, and then seemed to completely drop his bundle with a second half clanger fest of fumbles and dropped marks.  He is a work in progress, but his development in 8 games has been astonishing.  He rivals Mark LeCras for pure skill, which is something I thought we could never replace.

Quinten Lynch – A premiership winning full forward.  Who could ever forget Michael Voss’s chest puffing out, as his son was asked who his favorite AFL player was at the Brownlow presentation one year.  “Big Lynchy,” young Voss proclaimed, deflating his Dad’s not inconsiderable bubble.  I wonder if we can get young Voss under the father-son rule, given that his Dad was an assistant coach at the Eagles for 3 weeks in one pre-season?  Surely the AFL would grant an exemption under the ‘Big Lynchy’ rule.  As for Quinten, he spends large parts of most games working hard, running in circles and knocking over team mates.  But between that he links up in defence; pinch hits in ruck; lays crippling tackles and kicks bombs (occasional ones go between the big white sticks).  I used to pull my hair out.  Now he is just “Big Lynchy”.  A great contributor if not a great footballer.

Jacob Brennan; Brad Sheppard; Paddy McGinnity; Koby Stevens – These are the younger or fringe players who would struggle for a place in a full side.  Monkey Brennan’s son Jacob shows real promise in his 3 games.  A tall, skinny attacking defender in the Will Schofield mould.  Turns it over, but will be a player.  Brad Sheppard has played 22 games, and is in his third season.  Has generally been played as a defender, but showed real speed and skill as a forward in the first half today.  Went missing after half time, but this was the first glimpse of what the hype has been about.  Koby Stevens only came on as a sub in the last quarter.  Laid on one goal with a neat pass.  Our Paddy Boy (didn’t he win a Derby) is one of my favorites.  Mr McGinnity (didn’t he win a Guineas) is a small, hard running defensive midfielder who is a wonderful tackler.  His main role in the side is to make Mackenzie, Glass and Masten feel better about their kicking.  West Coast have a wonderful tradition of effective midfielders who couldn’t kick over a bucket.  Remember the incomparable Rowan Jones, who with Daniel Chick formed the praetorian guard around Judd, Cousins and Fletcher in 05/06.  The coaches told him to handball (first, second and third) and kick it out of bounds if that wasn’t on offer.

Match Highlight – Stephen Milne trying to hook a goal from the right pocket in the second quarter.  Glanced over his left shoulder to size up the goals and didn’t watch the ball.  Had a complete airy, and tripped over his own feet.  Priceless.  One goal three for the game.  Sixteen possessions at 56% disposal effectiveness.  3 votes – Sam Butler.  I hope Hayden Ballantyne was watching.

WEST COAST   6.2   13.6    15.7    18.13   (121)
ST KILDA          1.4   5.5     11.10   13.13    (91)

GOALS
West Coast: Cox 5, Waters 2, Naitanui 2, Shuey 2, Darling, Gaff, Hill, Lynch, McGinnity, Schofield, Sheppard, Shuey
St Kilda: Riewoldt 4, Cripps 2, Armitage, Gilbert, Milera, Milne, Saad, Steven, Dal Santo

BEST
West Coast:
Shuey, Waters, Schofield, Gaff, Hurn, Masten, Butler, Cox.
St Kilda: Hayes, Montagna, Jones, Steven, Dal Santo

INJURIES
West Coast:
Priddis (concussion) replaced in selected side by Stevens
St Kilda: Stanley (hamstring)

SUBSTITUTES
West Coast:
Adam Selwood replaced by Koby Stevens at three-quarter time
St Kilda: Rhys Stanley replaced by Jamie Cripps at quarter-time

Reports: Nil

Umpires: Donlon, Dalgleish, Mollison

Official crowd: 38,174 at Subiaco Oval

MY VOTES: Shuey (WCE) 3; Waters (WCE) 2; Hayes (StK) 1.

 

Comments

  1. Phantom says:

    Back with avengence Pirate Pete.

    So there is obviously no truth to the rumour that you had given footy away altogether and were the designated decoy playing the castanets with that gypsie pick pocket troup that works the Freo market on Fridays.

  2. Powerful writing Mr B. The title made me vomit. I’m sure the rest was good too.

  3. Peter_B says:

    Les, I reckon the Rossmeister will have Dale Kickett polishing the boots this week. As we both know, the real season starts next Sunday afternoon.
    Did you hear our Premier’s brilliant proposal for secession on the weekend, and becoming the southernmost province of China? Think of it – the Rinehart Eagles could line up against Twiggy’s Dockers in the GF every year. That is unless Clive’s Canton Crusaders spend 6 billion Yuan to get Travis over from the AFL Magpies. Imagine if Eddie wasn’t the biggest dick (in every sense of the word) in town.
    Yours in enmity. PB.

  4. Phantom says:

    Boys, boys, boys, steady on there, it’s only a game.

    And the quaint little endemic critter you Sandgropers call a ‘Derby’ (Scientifically named “Encounterous insignifica”) will be reported over here on page 26 of the local rag next to the Coles and Woolies apologies for ‘misleading’ advertisements, only in smaller print.

  5. Peter_B says:

    How are the Wynyard Cats doing Phantom? I hope you have something to warm your heart through a Van Diemen’s winter. No reports have pogo sticked over the ditch in recent weeks.
    Is Chappy heading down to take over as playing coach?

  6. Phantom says:

    Greasing up the Pogo Stick at this very moment.

    All sorts of things have been happening over here. More drama and pathos than those two epic entertainment institutions – ‘Coronation Street’ and the recently aired ‘Les Luvs Peter B’.

    No, Chappy has three flags – the same amount as the Eagles (greedy little bugger isn’t he) He is planning on staying to get another one this season.

  7. I’m getting my lawyers onto the makers of that show Phantom. The nude bits were tasteful though.

  8. Nathan Jarvis says:

    You require special clearance to be able to utter the words “Dale” and “Kickett” – I am pretty certain you don’t have it.

    A lady I worked with back in the day showed up to the derby where the raging “Charlie” Gardiner whizzed up to the young Pavlich and began demonstrating how badly he had got the dosage wrong. It was the first time she had ever attended a game in person. By the time Dale had had enough and set about physically correcting the wicked and insane, this woman was going nuts with excitement. “Does this happen every week?” she shrieked.

    Sadly, no.

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