Round 17 – West Coast v Sydney: Icing on the Cake

Milestone games are tricky things.   I didn’t want to get overhyped for my 60th birthday encounter.

Footy always makes me nervous. I can always find a hundred reasons why the bread will land buttered side down. Forty years barracking for the West Torrens Eagles and then St Kilda, before the Avenging Eagle rescued me, will do that to a man.

My first game of league footy was watching West Torrens at Kensington Oval in 1962. I don’t remember who we played. Just that we lost (which was generally about $1.30 favourite for the next 25 years until they amalgamated with the Peckers).

Gigs’ wonderful website (http://australianfootball.com/seasons/season/SANFL/1962) tells me there are two candidates – a thumping by Westies in Round 9 and a tighter loss to the Bays in Round 11. I know that my Nan and Pop took me and that we sat behind the northern goals. Kensington Oval has not seen league football for over 50 years. It is best known as the home of two SA sporting legends – Don Bradman and Rulebook Ashwood.

Still they say you never forget your first one.

At the start of the week I thought my Eagles were a 60:40 chance to beat Sydney at home. The loss of Ted Richards (losing Tippett improves them) made it 70:30. Driving to the game we heard that Buddy Franklin was out with a back injury from a training incident. I thought that made us 90:10 favourites, which was really worrying as certainties always find a way to lose. Still their midfield of Kennedy, Hannebery, Parker, McVeigh and both Jacks was not be sneezed at, and they were too proud a club not to put up a better showing than last week’s humiliation.

And that was how the game started with Sydney dominating the clearances for the first 10 minutes. Sam Reid looks and plays like Jack Watts on a good day. His two set shots from within 30 metres conclusively demonstrated that there were no termites in either post. The Eagles kick 3 goals in 5 minutes and all the Swans early efforts are for nought. BKIBF. The Swans are still serving it up to us but Jack Darling lands on from outside 50 and Shuey goals on the run as the siren sounds. 5-0 to 0-5 at the first break. Sydney have had more sprays than a Ross Lyon ¾ time address.

The second quarter is played almost entirely in the Eagles front half. We are less dominant on the scoreboard, but now we dominate in general play. The Swans defence is slow and stagnant, succumbing to turnovers whenever they try to run it out. At half time we lead by 41 points and the result seems beyond doubt.

Kieren Jack, Hannebery and McVeigh who cut us up at Subi last season all seem disinterested today. This is more than a loss of form. This is a loss of effort from blokes who I really rate. The Bloods are duds. There is something wrong inside the change rooms, that goes well beyond “form”.

Halfway through the third quarter and we are 10 goals in front. The game and the crowd have slipped into a strange listless torpor. Noone can be stuffed raising an effort. The Swans attitude has spread to the umpires, the crowd and finally to my Eagles.

All season I have thought the umpiring adequate to good. Today is just a mystery. When the whistle blows the players all stop and wait. Everyone wants to see what Powerball the umpire has drawn out of the mystery box. Ray Chamberlain is in town, so the umpiring is both ostentatious and baffling. Replays shed no light on the mysteries. Just when I am convinced that they are trying to even up an uneven contest, they award us three charities in a row. Go figure. Just incompetent.

The Swans kick the last three goals of the third quarter, but still we lead by 45 points at the last change. Isaac Heeney looks like 2UW “good guy” Ward “Pally” Austin fresh from the Maroubra Stomps. Heeney is “too much for the human unit” when he gets on the lead with 2 goals from strong marks and long accurate kicks.

Ward Austin   Ward Austin Elvis

Sydney continue their resurgence at the start of the last quarter with 2 more goals to get within 30 points and for the first time they are dominating contested ball. Just when I think that a thumping will become a modest win, we kick back into gear with the last 3 goals to win by 52 points.

Our greatest strength this season is the evenness of our effort. Every player plays a role and there are few passengers. I can find only two who have bad games today, and we have been competitive in every game we have played this season.

To my eye Nic Naitanui is our best (again) because everything starts from him. We have 71 hitouts to their 26. Callum Sinclair with 29 hitouts and 9 marks would be lead ruckman in 80% of AFL teams. But Naitanui is something else with his tapouts, tackles and pressure setting up nearly all our clearances. As his confidence has built over the season he is now marking more reliably around the ground. He is the X Factor that makes a good honest side into a serious flag contender.

Our running defence is dominant again, led by the unheralded Brad Sheppard who consistently plays on taller opponents and today takes 10 marks with 23 disposals at 96% efficiency. Wellingham, Hurn and Ellis are not far behind him.

Matt Priddis is a tackling and running machine with 34 disposals and 13 tackles setting the benchmark. Gaff and Shuey offer plenty of support. But even our “serviceable” players have outpointed their opponents in a game where my Eagles are one for all, while the Swans look all for one (big fat pay cheque).

The Swans best is the other Josh Kennedy who is their only midfielder to consistently win clearances. Dane Rampe held our Josh Kennedy relatively quiet, but he still worked hard and kicked three goals. Luke Parker and Rhyce Shaw were honest on a day when the Swans midfield had more bludgers than Joe Hockey’s imagination.

The day’s controversies seemed to revolve around Buddy, Adam and Lewie.   Here’s my take:

No doubt Buddy’s absence made it easy for us. His size and strength would have troubled our skinny, undersized key defenders. If the forward 50 entries were even I would have said the Swans were unlucky. But we dominated 58 to 35, so the Sydney midfield did not create enough opportunities to win even if they had Buddy, Plugger and John Coleman playing up front.

The “booing” of Adam Goodes is dumb, mindless and perplexing. In truth it was “hooing” not “booing” – there was no malice or intent in it. I was taken aback when it started as soon as he touched the ball in the first quarter. I looked around and there was no one doing it in the rows near me. I was going to challenge anyone doing it with any venom. My conclusion was that it is herd behaviour with opposition nongs (every club has them) apeing what they heard from other teams the week before. Goodes was a serviceable player with his smarts always making him a threat, but like another great in Matthew Pavlich he has hung on a season too long chasing a fairytale ending that recedes further into the distance each week.   First gamer Barrass often beat him one on one in the second half, and that never would have happened when he still had wheels. Sad way to end, and I hope that the finals crowds show more respect to a retiring great.

Lewis Jetta did a war dance when he kicked a goal in the last quarter. He wasn’t Sydney’s worst player, but a bigger statement would have been more run and attack from him through the midfield. He picks up a lot of cheap kicks out wide. When I read that he was interested in coming home to WA, I thought that he would be a perfect match for the Dockers.

The Avenging Eagle keeps asking if an Eagles Grand Final qualifies under the “Act of God” clause in our travel insurance. As a natural pessimist I keep telling her that losses are easier to take from the South of France.

Winning is a new trick for this old dog. Optimism doesn’t come easy. But I’m prepared to keep working on it.

We only have the Hawks to worry about now.

 

WEST COAST         5.0   8.5   12.10  15.13 (103)

SYDNEY SWANS   0.5    1.6     5.7       7.9 (51)

GOALS

West Coast: Darling 3, Kennedy 3, LeCras 2, Gaff, Priddis, Shuey, Cripps, Hill, Sinclair, Naitanui

Sydney Swans: B.Jack 2, Heeney 2, Goodes, Jetta, Shaw

BEST 

West Coast: Naitanui, Sheppard, Priddis, Wellingham, Gaff, Shuey, Hurn, Sinclair

Sydney Swans: Kennedy, Shaw, Rampe, Heeney, Parker

Umpires: Bannister, Margetts, Chamberlain

Official crowd: 38,760

VOTES: Naitanui (WC)3; Sheppard (WC)2; Priddis (WC) 1

 

 

Comments

  1. I will have my eyes closed for the derby….

  2. djlitsa says:

    Hi Peter, great read. Was going to ask about the booing of Goodes. I figured it would just be herd mentality, and while there might not be any real menace to it, it does have an impact the longer it continues.

  3. craig dodson says:

    A clinic in the middle by Nic Nat and gang. With a gun ruckman, polished midfield and full forward with sticky hands, the Eagles will make noise in September..

    Happy Birthday…

  4. Pottering says:

    Peter, I must have been seated near you because I too could hear the booing but nobody around me was doing it. It was childish in the extreme and I think Gil McLachlan had it spot on when he said it was like a mob of mindless sheep simply doing what others were doing. Various internet forums have seen people justifying the booing because Goodes is a “flog”, a “sniper”, a “campaigner”, et al, as if that makes it all ok to single out one player. They’re kidding themselves.

  5. PB- Happy birthday. Your Eagles are flying and will go deep into the finals. When McKenzie went down I thought they might be exposed, but no. Tracking beautifully. Are your European flights up for sale on a internet site?

  6. E.regnans says:

    Love your stories PB.
    Another pearl here.
    And happy birthday very much. It’s right to recognise such things.

    I know you’ve wondered before of erosion of club culture that can occur with a Big Fish signing.
    It would be interesting to know what effect this has on other individuals in a club environment (even at the subconscious level).

    This blighted booing seems to be the talk of the town.
    Time for a bit of Empathy 101.

    France in September will be wonderful (of course).

  7. Malcolm Ashwood says:

    PB Happy Birthday (thank you I did have a giggle at that ) Kensington oval is a picturesque oval with a rich history the scoreboard of Bradman making 332 in a district game also the tragedy of losing
    Jackson Marsh when hit by lightning,RIP Marshie.
    I was standing with JTH when Bunger Hurn walked to the umpires to toss the coin I made the point how he remindes me of his grand father forme,sA shield winning open bowler and Angaston mayor,Brian
    Bunger Hurn.The unique ruck taps and mobility of Nic Nat is West Coasts key he is just so exciting to watch if he stays sound as Mickey said tickets put on e bay,PB

  8. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says:
  9. The wry twist you use in turning a phrase makes me laugh.

    Greetings for your own milestone Peter and hope the bread lands the right way up for you on this day.

  10. Luke Reynolds says:

    Happy 60th Peter.
    Your Eagles will take some stopping. I’ve only recently realised how good Gaff is. Especially after watching him against the Pies last week.
    Great writing again. Always dangerous booking September holidays.

  11. John Butler says:

    Welcome to your 7th decade of existence PB.

    Only the Hawks to worry about? We’ll see.

    The September holiday booking is always a provocation to the footy gods.

    Cheers

  12. Phillip Dimitriadis says:

    Happy Birthday PB. I had a look at your Eagles up close last week against the Pies. They looked good, very good. Hawthorn wouldn’t want to lose any key defenders in September. Nic Nat and many others have found the belief and consistency, even my old mate Sharrod! Cheers

  13. Mathilde de Hauteclocque says:

    Bien joué, PB. You’ll need that … when you’re watching from France in September. October, even.
    And Joyeux Anniversaire!

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