Round 12 – West Coast v Hawthorn: Ryan keeps flyin’ and a defender kicking goals

 

After getting home to Perth from the first QLD hub, the last six weeks have seen a welcome return to form by the West Coast boys and, as I sit on my couch in the midst of Melbourne’s second period of pandemic lock-down, seeing the team win week after week has been a real mood-lifter.  Six wins in a row, including a strong come-from-behind victory against Geelong, have made the iso-winter just a tiny bit easier to bear.

 

Round 12 was the penultimate game in “home hub” at Optus Stadium against Hawthorn.  The last time we played the Hawks here they well and truly touched us up, and that loss in Round 23 of 2019 effectively ended our chances of a Top Four finish and a better chance to defend our 2018 premiership.  As the first ball was bounced this weekend, my nerves were jumping as I could still feel the crushing disappointment of that 2019 game.

 

Josh Kennedy put our first major on the scoreboard in less than two minutes and, by the time the first quarter had ended, Liam Ryan had “flown” for the first of his three spectacular marks, and had goaled twice.  Whilst the Hawks dominated the play for much of this quarter, they failed to score even a single point, due in no small measure to our iron-clad defensive line which was boosted by the return of McGovern after a few weeks on the sidelines with a thumb injury.  In the quarter-time break, the TV commentators discussed what Clarko needed to be instructing his players, but to me it seemed pretty simple: “Get the ball through the sticks!!”

 

In the second quarter, Oscar Allan quickly added another major and our lead extended to 28 points.  Liam Shiels finally got the opposition on the board at the six minute mark.  Further majors were added by both teams off the boots of Darling and Cripps for West Coast, and Burgoyne for Hawthorn, and we went to the half-time break with a lead of 26 points.  A quick review of the stats sheet at this point had Andrew Gaff at the top with 18 uncontested possessions, which is by far the highest number of any player in the league this season and more impressive given the shortened game time this year.

 

We were again quick out of the blocks in the third quarter off the boot of Kennedy in the first minute, and both Darling and Ryan added to their first half majors.  All three of Liam Ryan’s goals were kicked after spectacular pack marks and he has continued his form of previous weeks with more entries into the “Mark of the Year” competition.  Hawthorn led the inside 50s count and the camera shots into the West Coast coaches box showed the concern on Simmo’s face despite our lead never dipping much below 30 points.  For mine, the definite high note of the quarter was defender Brad Shepherd kicking his second goal of the season (his first was scored last week) and the resulting whole-of-team celebration of the kick.

 

With a comfortable 37 point lead at the start of the final quarter, there was one final highlight still to play out.  Darling took a strong mark and seemed destined to take a set shot from 20m out but, in a beautifully unselfish moment, handballed to debutante Nic Reid who snapped perfectly and was then swamped by the whole team in a celebratory pile, much to the delight of the hometown crowd.  Hawthorn kicked two goals in the last quarter to reduce the final margin to 32 points, however their night was further soured when key defender James Sicily landed awkwardly and had to be helped off the ground and did not return.  The news the next morning was not good as he has done his ACL and will miss 12 months of footy.

 

There’s one more match in Perth before West Coast go back into hub-life in QLD and hopefully they will cope better with it this time around.

 

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