Everything (and more) that you wanted to know about the West Coast Eagles 2015 but were afraid to ask

All across Europe people comment admiringly on my blue and gold hat and shirt (by now I just whistle each morning and it jumps on).  They say “tell me more about your exciting and wonderful football team and how they are going in your beautiful and generous country”.

Sometimes I suspect that they may also be thinking “I hope this grumpy old bastard tips an extra 20 kuna so I can eat this week”, but I like to take people at face value.

The rise of the West Coast Eagles in 2015 has surprised and astonished many people.  Not least your correspondent, otherwise I would have picked a different year to holiday in Europe at finals time.

I well remember when DJLitza published the first version of his 2015 Premiership Window a couple of months back (and our analytical genius got it right again this year with the grand finalists) that several correspondents said something like “yeah, but they’ve had a soft draw so far and they’ll fall over at the first hint of grapeshot”.

Skip of Skipton comes to mind.  Mr Wrap.  Everett.  Gorman.  Zampatti.  Lori Fletcher.  Not that I keep a list, mind.  (Your names will all be passed onto the Inquisitor come the revolution next week.  Monsignor Abbott has unexpectedly become available to hear confessions and determine which detention – sorry reeducation – centre you will be transported to.)

So for all of you anticipating a knock on the door, I have compiled a handy primer to help you be an informed consumer of the 2015 GF.  Think of it as the CliffsNotes cheatsheet for all you Magpies and Cats students that fell asleep in class about Round 20.

First a few apologies – I am not always right.  This is something that the Zestok Orao has been insisting for several years, and the Miracle of the fishes, loaves and Qualifying Final win has forced me to reconsider my faith in a Higher Power (as the ZO refers to herself).  My pronouncements on this august site last season and earlier this year have (thankfully) not all been accurate.

Mea culpa; mea culpa; mea maxima culpa. Jarrod Hill and Sharrod Wellingham do not have spines like jellyfish.  Luke Shuey is not a serial underachiever who goes missing in big games.  Brad Sheppard is not as tentative as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.  Chris Masten can kick.  Mark LeCras has developed into a midfielder who can handle the hard stuff inside.  You cannot buy two good players for $400k each that combined would deliver more than Nic Naitanui.

OK – can I sleep in the big bed again now?

I was right about some things.  Adam Simpson is a genius. The Steve Jobs of footy strategy developing new products that the footy faithful (not just Eagles fans) all want to watch.  Jeremy McGovern is David Dench reincarnated.  Jack Darling is a big game player who will win a Grand Final off his own boot with a deathless conversion from 40 metres on an angle.  Josh Kennedy rivals James Brown as the hardest working man in showbiz.  Callum Sinclair is the best support act since the Rolling Stones toured Australia in 1965 as the opener for Roy Orbison. Andrew Gaff is Michael Chang’s younger brother, but with a more potent serve.

Shannon Hurn proves that you lead by example not words. Will Schofield shows that attack is the best form of defence. Sam Butler proves that there are second acts in footy. Xavier Ellis proves that a long road does have a turning. Dom Sheed shows the value of a cool head in a crisis, and that there are overnight successes.

Jamie Cripps and Matthew Dellavedova were separated at birth.  Elliot Yeo is Andrew Embley’s long lost half brother.  They both play with the zeal of a Red Setter on red cordial.   Mark LeCras is Cary Grant’s cat burglar in To Catch A Thief.  Too handsome and too clever to really be a footballer.  By the time you wake up to the ruse he has run off with the diamonds, Grace Kelly and a brace of goals.

Josh Hill has had more hits, disappointments and comebacks than Jimmy Little.  This Grand Final is his Messenger.

We’re gonna rise up singing; Randwick bells are ringing.

Matthew Priddis is the Ginger Rogers of midifielders to Scott Pendlebury’s Fred Astaire. Priddis can do it all, but backwards and in heels.

Magic Johnson + Jonah Lomu = Nic Naitanui.
Our defence combine and work together like a posse of reluctant ranchers set out to bring the ‘unsociable’ outlaws to justice. Shannon Hurn (Jimmy Stewart) in the Man who shot Liberty Valance. Matt Rosa (Glenn Ford) in 3:10 to Yuma. Brad Sheppard (William Holden) and Jeremy McGovern (he walks bow-legged like John Wayne) in the Horse Soldiers as a Union cavalry outfit sent behind Confederate lines to destroy the rail head. McGovern may walk with John Wayne’s long time in the saddle swagger, but his laconic look is pure Chips Rafferty.

Luke Shuey is Cool Hand Luke refusing to buckle to the established order. Sharrod Wellingham dazzles and tap dances like Sammy Davis Junior. Mark Hutchings is a street fighter like Rocky Balboa taking on Jordan Lewis’ Apollo Creed.

This Grand Final promised to be a shoot out like the epic 1989 21 goals apiece (with a different winner). The predicted warm weather; the week’s rest and less recent travel suits us. The home ground and the unfamiliarity of the wide MCG suit them.  (I am confident that Adam Simpson has dined out on Stone Cold Steve Baker’s brilliant analysis of how the Crows played the MCG all wrong in the semi final.  Simpson knows how to play the MCG from his time at the Kangas and Hawks.  He will make sure we move the ball quick through the corridor, and are not seduced into slow and wide.)

We could outrun them in the last quarter with young legs in the heat. They could out-finesse us with their skill. Clarkson underestimated us in the QF, and he will have developed strategies to combat Kennedy’s athleticism in particular.

Hawthorn are like a fine Swiss watch with meticulous attention to detail and countless features and adaptability for all situations. The Eagles are precocious Slipper and Guineas winners sooled out of the gates to run. Our Sunline to their Saintly.

We have one gear, but its powerful and brutal. They have a half dozen gears, but the clutch has started to slip and the gearbox has a few missing teeth.

Other club supporters yell “get on your man” in defence. Eagles supporters scream “get off your man”. Toe to toe we can be outmarked. Our ‘web’ relies on arriving at the marking contest at the precise moment as the ball, putting maximum body pressure on the marking forward. We spoil at the chest, flank and hips. It’s a body check not a punch of the arms or ball. Waite, Petrie and Brown know what it feels like. The slips catch that is perfectly in your hands, then jolts free as your elbows feel the impact from the turf.

It has to be timed perfectly and executed to the side not the front or back. It’s just legal like the Hawthorn 12 metre pass. When it works we have a mosquito fleet of defenders ready to collect the spillage and charge into attack.

The method relies on our midfield putting enough pressure on the opposition ball carrier to cause them to delay their kick or punt it higher and wider than usual. It worked in the QF and for the last 3 quarters of the Prelim. In the first quarter North got quick movement and run out wide that cut us up like Adelaide did in Round 22. But do ageing warriors like Hodge, Lewis and Burgoyne have the explosive speed of a Dangerfield or Sloane?

On song the Eagles are a symphony that requires the midfield strings and woodwind defence to combine for the melody. LeCras’ brass and Kennedy’s percussion deliver the crescendo.

I am not worried about the 2015 Eagles being overawed like their 2005 brothers or the 2013 Dockers. Both those teams played with a heavily structured, overcoached defensive method.

The joy of the current Eagles is that they play with a reckless abandon that is purposeful and great to watch. Like footy was as a teenager. Tora, tora, tora – as I wrote a few weeks back.

When we struggled against North in the first quarter, the ZO asked me what Simpson should change or tell them? Nothing – just play better, they only know one way.

This Grand Final a genuine 50:50 contest. The old bull clinging to his acquired herd at the top of the mountain. The young bull eyeing the spoils from the crest.

Good for football. Eagles by 11 points.

I have it on good authority.

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Comments

  1. You’ve convinced me PB. Can’t see any reason the Weagles won’t win by 150 points, give or take.

    Seriously though, West Coast have been my tip since about midway through the season. If they can stand up mentally they have all the pieces in place to get the job done.

    And I think the karma bus might come past to collect Hawthorn’s #5 and #15.

  2. Dear Sir
    I submit another name for investigation…. please read this heresy…

    “I have come to believe that life and footy are all about preparation and planning.  Nothing worthwhile comes quickly or easily.  My Eagles have grown insular and self-satisfied over the last decade.  Divine right of FIFO’s?  Success is determined between October and February – the footy season only announces the results – it doesn’t decide them.
    Recruiting has been awful.  Game plan is ancient.  As for strength and conditioning – I give you the 98 pound weaklings of the AFL.
    Shuey, Gaff, Schofield and Masten have been in the AFL long enough to know that competence is no substitute for excellence.  Shuey rivalled Dyson Heppell for the Rising Star in 2011 – now he doesn’t even belong in the same sentence.  He’s the second best midfielder at the Eagles which guarantees him a generous salary and lots of back slaps.  It’s like being the second best tennis player in Serbia – daylight runs second.”
    Peter_B 20 April 2015

  3. Neil Anderson says:

    How things have changed since the eve of Round 1.
    A personal email from a bunker somewhere in Perth telling me the Bulldogs were a good thing to beat those mighty Eagles. Get your money on the Dogs now was the cry.
    It was a good start for the Dogs, shame about the re-match later in the year.

  4. Dave Brown says:

    Thanks for that, PB – until now I didn’t realise Hawthorn actually had an opponent this weekend.

  5. Malcolm Ashwood says:

    Toot toot Juno aboard great stuff,PB

  6. As you know I will be cheering on your Eagles PB. Just hope my window is not a curse.

  7. Phillip Dimitriadis says:

    I’m with the Weagles PB. Hope you ‘flog’ the Hawks. If Darling can take a few grabs and slot a couple early that Hawk defence will be on edge. Sharrod for the Norm Smith!

  8. Les – the length of your internment (reeducation) depends on your answer to the following.
    (a) Internet fraud is rife these days.
    (b) Ancient history.
    (c) Just letting Pav and Luke have a well earned send-off.
    (d) Masterful motivating of greater effort from the recalcitrants.
    You cannot take the 50:50 or phone a friend.
    Jeff – Nice try. Sucking up would normally earn a sentence reduction. But the Eddie surcharge still applies to all Collingwood members.
    Neil – The state boundaries are being redrawn on Monday. The Bulldogs have not won a flag in my lifetime. So you can now be members of a premiership club with West in the name. Mortlake will be near our redrawn eastern boundary. Sunshine and Barkley Street are our new far boundary. The Western Oval will be redeveloped as our eastern training ground. You and Gigs and Crio and Cowshed are welcome any time. The latter two need lifting out of a life of punting desperation. Welcome aboard.
    DB and Rulebook – As a former Croweater I can only say Adelaide has suffered enough this year. Norwood’s demise; the Walsh tragedy; losing Danger; and you took decrepit old Woosha off our hands and made him saleable to the despised Bombers. You deserve your full dispensation.
    DJLitsa – Beatification awaits. You are not only a statistical genius, but also a fully paid up member of the Josh Kennedy Bequest Society. Grateful.
    By the way what has happened to the Peoples Elbow? Is the new medication working better? Has he taken on the behind the scenes role as Brendan Bolton’s PR flak?
    Breaking News – the Zestok Orao has cast off her moon boot and walked. Pope Francis is considering official miracle status. She says she will be ready to take her regular position on the Adriatic Balcony flank on Saturday morning. (The game starts when? I am suddenly in favour of night Grand Finals.)
    Regards to all back home.

  9. Each has won 8 of 13 matches against the teams that finished 1st to 9th this year.
    In those matches the Hawks conceded 961 points and the Eagles 1,071 points.

  10. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says:

    When do you get time to write all of this PB?

    Also, a Mr D Chick has taken to the papers, questioning your 2006 Strepsils consumption.

  11. Swish – I committed to write every Eagles game I attend and every finals game they play. I am terrified to break the chain. If I don’t get a piece up within a day or so of a game I am convinced Nic Nait will slip on a banana skin and snap his achilles. I have the lucky shirt, lucky cap, lucky undies and lucky seat all lined up for Saturday. When we win I should be a chance for the Norm Smith.
    As for when – the great thing about holidays is that you get to set your own agenda. We have been in Split – the Zestok Orao shops while I sit in a waterfront bar with wifi and a coffee or beer and my IPad watching the passing parade of humanity and pondering on my good fortune.
    Speaking of which, as someone who deals with an addictive (I hope) past every day I can tell Mr Chick that a gratitude attitude helps prevent relapses. We are all the architects of our own destiny for good or ill. I hope that the blood money Mr Chick received from Rupert stays in his own pocket.
    As for the strepsils – Ben, Kerry, Fletch and I didn’t inhale.

  12. David Zampatti says:

    God that was hard read. Good read, but hard.

    Go Hawks. Do your knee Mitchell.

  13. DZ – sort of like hearing that your ex has got hitched to a Texas Republican oil billionaire? You don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Enjoy.
    Phil D – I could cut you some slack if you start supporting RNK Split instead of the Magpies. Founded by anarchist shipworkers and they have a memorial to the 120 club members who died fighting for the Partisans. Originally played in anarchist black strip. Sounds your sort of guys – you could even recycle your skivvies as game day strip.
    Michael – I hope the Footy Gods read the stats.

  14. Mathilde de Hauteclocque says:

    Bonne chance PB and ZO!
    How strange is it for a Sydney girl to be cheering the Weagles this weekend? But boy I am. We all are in this household. Nostalgia for the Cygnet’s precocious independence post the 2006 grand final! And also for Hawthorn … is hatred a bit strong? And also pleasure in the three pronged forward line. In movement and a certain silkiness they that is the fabric of their game.

  15. John Butler says:

    Insightful analysis PB. Shame the boys never showed up. I think you underestimated the other mob in the equation.

    Ah well, supporting makes fools of us all eventually (sometimes perpetually). Enjoy the rest of the trip.

  16. MdeH – we somehow feel like partners in ignomy now. If you loaned us Hanneberry and Parker and we lent you Nic Nait, I reckon a combined team could get within 5 goals of them.
    JB – what hurts is not putting up any sort of contest, more than losing. I think I overestimated us more than underestimating the Hawks. But its been a season full of unexpected treats under the tree, and I am drinking hladno pivo/cold beer overlooking Dubrovnik harbour. Some small compensation. Thanks for your comment and understanding in this time of grief.

  17. Thoughts on The Age publishing your work to fill their sports pages (sans payment) PB?

  18. I seem to have missed Mr Rabbit thankfully. Maybe he thought I was too far gone to try to reeducate.
    Were we overawed in the 2013 GF? Maybe, but did you note how much we lost by? At least we were in the game.. If losing was painful for you watching from Europe, I am thinking winning would’ve been worse if not being able to join in the fun in Melbourne (I presume you would’ve gone if back in Oz?)
    I am encouraged by your opinion in our new recruit. Let’s hope you are right. If RTB can tame Son Son, hopefully he can do the same again.
    I will think of you whilst sipping my cold chardonnay next Saturday night. Three big nights out in a row may be too much for this old chook.
    I am rather chuffed to be named in one of your legendary posts btw!

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