AFL Round 3 – Melbourne v West Coast: Eagles start season 10 quarters late

There are a few games every year where you can tick off – with some degree of confidence – the following: a.) a blow-out; b.) not one highlight for the 2013 show reel and c.) a one-tenth-filled stadium.

Saturday’s Melbourne –West Coast clash had promised to live up to this expectation, but it’s pleasing to report that point B remained un-ticked and point A threatened to follow suit – for a half at least.

A match involving an Eagles team loaded with talent but so far resembling last year’s group on paper only and a Demons outfit vying to become the biggest basket case in VFL/AFL history promised little for the impartial supporter.

On face value, the 94-point hiding dished out to the Dees would support this point.  However, for two quarters at least, this was a fairly entertaining match.

From the first bounce it was clear that the Demons had indeed heeded the subtle messages from supporters and decided it was time to have a crack. And so it was that Melbourne, fresh from a mid-week love-in at Sorrento (there’s no snow at Bulla yet) and sans bearded number one daft* pick Jack Watts, threw themselves into contest after contest in front of a National Basketball League-esque MCG crowd.

And didn’t the Demons faithful love it: maligned whipping boy Colin Sylvia, threatening to play his traditional one good game for the year, was all over the park, kicking two first quarter goals; Aaron Davey snapped an absolute pearler from 35m; and Mitch Clarke bagged a couple and took some strong grabs.

To top off an enthralling half, perennially airborne Jeremy Howe took what will certainly be a contender for mark of the year over Andrew Embley on the wing. It’ll take something special to wrest the car keys from howe’s hands.

It certainly didn’t hurt the Demons’ cause that the Eagles, playing with all the intensity of an amoeba, appeared ambivalent about playing football this day. While Matthew Priddis and Daniel Kerr had 22 first-quarter possessions between, they were playing a lone hand.

A Luke Shuey shank from the backline gave Jack Trengove the easiest of goals. Despite John Worsfold’s maniacal glare from the coach’s box, there was to be no Shuey-shank redemption in this match, bar a handful of touches in fourth-quarter junk time. Andrew Gaff continued his indifferent start to the year, committing his namesake in a possession-less first half. To be fair, he improved in the second half.

Against all expectations, the game was poised to be a decent affair at half-time, with the Eagles heading into the sheds with a 10-point lead.

Two things happened in the second half: the Eagles decided to begin their season and the Demons found out very quickly that intensity will only get you so far without talent.

As the Eagles lifted about four gears, Melbourne couldn’t match their aggressive, close-marking first half, exposing a shallow Demons talent pool as the game was broken open.

West Coast’s gargantuan forward line doesn’t get any smaller as the game goes on, and Josh Kennedy and Jack Darling (who both finished with five goals), aided by intermittent forward-line cameos from Dean Cox (24 possessions and three goals) and a very impressive Callum Sinclair (two goals), playing just his second game, were the difference.  Together they accounted for 90 of the 94-point margin.

As the Eagles cruised to victory they were afforded the luxury of putting Kerr, literally, on ice and in the substitute’s vest. They’ll also be pretty rapt with the return of Mark Le Cras who, sporting padding on his mending forearm, kicked a couple of goals and showed no signs of being hampered by his injury. They’ll like their form heading into the round 4 against Carlton at home.

As perverse as it sounds, there was a bit for the Demons to take away, despite the voluminous loss. Clarke took some ripping pack marks over some of the competition’s stingiest backmen and kicked a couple of important goals; Sylvia delivering on his talent; and midfielders Nathan Jones and Jack Viney took it to the Eagles for most of the day. Sadly, I think Davey’s days as an AFL player are numbered.

If one reads the popular media, a Demons loss next week to Greater Western Sydney will be as grave as a North Korean invasion. I’m not normally prone to hyperbole, but I think they may be close to the mark.

If they lose to the Giants, I imagine coach Mark Neeld will be taking the players a little further south than Sorrento. A lot further south. Hell, perhaps.

*The report has been checked for typos.

MELBOURNE                                        4.1   9.2     10.3   13.5 (83)
WEST COAST                                                     5.3    10.6     21.9  27.5 (177)

Clark 3, Sylvia 2, Trengove 2, Davey, Howe, Sellar, Tapscott, Evans, Burns
West Coast: Darling 5, Kennedy 5, Hams 3, Cox 3, Le Cras 3, Sinclair 2, Embley, Gaff, Masten, Cripps, Hill, Hurn

N Jones, M Jones, Sylvia, Grimes, McDonald
West Coast: Cox, Kennedy, Priddis, Masten, Hurn, S Selwood, Shuey

Umpires: Troy Pannell, David Harris, Leigh Fisher

Official crowd: 18,571 at the MCG

My Votes: Cox (3), Priddis (2), Darling (1)

About Nic McGay

West Coast fanatic living in enemy territory.


  1. Thanks for the report Nic. Good to see Cox and Darling back to their best. Shuey, Gaff and Schofield yet to give a yelp this year.
    Saturday night will tell us a lot as the Blues have been good without winning, and Subiaco suits their running game.
    We have a bit of critical mass back in the midfield with Kerr and LeCras but it is still slow. Wonder if Wellingham will be worth the wait???
    NicNait’s comeback has been cancelled more times than George Michael’s. The medical staff should be shot for waiting 2 months at the end of last year before deciding on surgery.

  2. Nic McGay says

    Peter_B, can’t argue with any of that. Re Natanui, I like the looks of Sinclair who I reckon will ease some of the pain of Nic’s absence.

  3. Stephen Cooke says

    Welcome to the Knackery, Nic. Very entertaining. Are the Eagles expecting to flick the switch at some stage? Or are they not too bothered this year?

  4. I like Sinclair too. As a replacement for Cox in a season or two. Noone has the mobility and versality of Natainui at that size. We couldn’t play all 3 without getting top heavy and losing too much mobility. But he held his own against Hawthorn and looked good against very moderate opposition on Saturday. He is a real find for the future.
    Good to see another Eagles fanatic climbing on board with match reports. We’ll call you Nic Nac.

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