Grand Final – West Coast v Collingwood: Decisions, decisions


Liam Ryan. Photo by Les Everett.


They teach decision making at coaching courses these days. Those in the know will tell you it’s a skill in Australian Rules football just like kicking, handpassing, tackling and marking.


Sometimes the decisions that claim a game are made long before the match is played. Usually by people who don’t even play.


Take the passage of play in the 2018 AFL grand final that finished with Dom Sheed showing nice kicking skills.


It began with Collingwood in possession – Adam Treloar looks calm as he runs close to the boundary with the ball. But he’s on his left foot and doesn’t have room to go inboard. The decision he makes is vital. Maybe he could keep the ball low, even kick it along the ground. But he makes the safe decision and kicks as long as his can, on his left, and it’s a floater.


Jeremy McGovern makes a decision, it’s the one he is encouraged to make. He sees where the ball is, leaves his man and marks the bloody thing. But where did McGovern come from? His father Andrew played for Claremont, Sydney and, most notably, Fremantle. I once wrote that the Dockers looked better when he was playing.


Post-football Andrew worked for the Clontarf Foundation founded by his Claremont and Fremantle coach Gerard Neesham. That led to Jeremy playing a bit of footy in Warburton, Kalgoorlie-Boulder and Albany before lobbing at Claremont. He was a bit pudgy, a bit relaxed but he sure could take a mark. Someone at West Coast decided there was nothing to lose and he was picked up at 44 in the AFL Rookie Draft on 2011.


After leaving his man and taking the mark McGovern played on and delivered a perfect kick to Nathan Vardy close to the middle of the ground. Vardy was chosen by Geelong at 42 in the 2009 AFL National Draft. He always looked pretty good – he could take a mark and kick a goal but he was always injured. He played 25 games and kicked 25 goals for the Cats before they decided to trade him to West Coast for pick 68 after the 2016 season.


In the ruck pecking order Vardy was well behind Nic Naitanui and Scott Lycett at the Eagles but the top two kept getting injured and Vardy kept getting a game. Geelong, meanwhile, were crying out for a decent ruckman in 2018. McGovern’s kick was perfect, Vardy marked it and kicked to a two-on-two featuring Liam Ryan.


Ryan arrived at Subiaco from Rovers in Geraldton in 2016. He would need a bit of time to adjust to city life but he’d come to a good club. He first appeared for Subi reserves kicking six goals in round three. He made his league debut in round eight and kicked two of Subiaco’s six goals in an 80-point loss to East Fremantle (times have changed).


Soon Ryan became a reason to go to the footy. He kicked 40 goals in 2016 and 73 in 2017, a small forward with a big leap, speed and tricks. He made fans swoon, photographers focus and opponents panic.


Overlooked in 2016 he was picked up in the 2017 AFL Draft by West Coast at 26. Coach Adam Simpson said he was looking forward to the excitement – he’d made a decision not to coach things out of Ryan just add some stuff.


Ryan made some errors in the 2018 AFL grand final but at that fateful late moment everything came together. The kick from Vardy was going past him but it was a favourite position for Ryan – going with the flight of the ball, turning, leaping, marking. He was away in a flash and he didn’t just bang the ball forward, he placed it gently to a two-on-one and Sheed couldn’t help but mark it.


And so Sheed, chosen at 11 in the 2013 draft had a shot for goal. Like Ryan, Sheed is a country boy. He played for Boulder club Mines Rovers in the Goldfields Football League and came to the Eagles via Subiaco.


Some decisions had been made about Sheed in recent times. He was a bit slow. Not really what the team needed. Then Andrew Gaff ‘made a poor decision’ and whacked Fremantle’s Andrew Brayshaw. West Coast decided to bring back Sheed and he won them a grand final.


About Les Everett

A Footy Almanac veteran, Les Everett is the author of Gravel Rash: 100 Years of Goldfields Football and Fremantle Dockers: An Illustrated History. He is the WAFL correspondent and uses the money he makes from that role to pay for his expensive websites and and fund the extravagant Vin Maskell at


  1. Enjoyed that great angle for mine yes,Treloar should have kicked lower but it was DeGoey looking for the cheapie out the back was a appalling decision he just had to go it was his time to compete with McGovern and I have made my thoughts clear re the mark by Sheed Maynard just had to go for the sherrin.Spot on re all your WC assements,Vardy in reality still needed at the chattery and Gaff stupidity gave,Sheed his chance and he delivered massively

  2. Matt Quartermaine says

    Commiserations for having to write this Les.

  3. The slippery shadow, eh Les. St Dominic’s fine deeds on Saturday would now make you the second best player to come out of Mines Rovers?
    And a Goldfields flag to round out the season. It would all be perfect, except………..
    Reckon you will enjoy getting your WAFL team back next season.
    Love the connections you made between all the connections.

  4. Les Everett says

    Yes Dom Sheed might have kicked the winning goal in a grand final… but it wasn’t for the Diorites.

    Rulebook, you’re right… DeGoey wasn’t showing a lot of urgency given the situation.

  5. Agree, nice angle Les. The player histories are really interesting. That passage of play and consequences cannot be pinned just on DeGoey. Yes, he could/should have gone with McGovern but who decided not to be on Vardy…or Sheed, and who put their whistle away and decided Maynard was not blocked and that Sheed had not stepped off his line and played on? I know Rulebook considers it was not a block, but other experts, such as Matthews, don’t agree. As others have said, it would have felt like we pinched it had we won it this year, but having held on for virtually the whole game it still hurts….more than had we been flogged by WC. Some of those ER waves would be therapeutic right now.

  6. Great article. Thought Liam Ryan had an extraordinary game. He was in everything. Delievered that hit on Maynard that changed the tone of the game. Put himself in match winning positions, including two posters in the last quarter and delivered the ball to both of the last two goal scorers. For a guy playing his 12th game or something like that, i don’t think enough has been made of just how amazing his contribution was. Has had just a fantastic debut season.

  7. Spot on Les. Paul Kelly’s Little Decisions could complement your summary analysis.

    Liam Ryan’s decision making is terrific. Let himself down just before half time. Some advice and support from Jetta then that quite incredible mark (decision making at its best) which was one of the key points of the game and Eagles win.


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