Round 20 – St Kilda v West Coast: I need a hero


It’s a strange experience being a West Coast Eagles supporter, especially in Victoria. We get to be both front runners, and underdogs, alternating weekly.  There was a crushing familiarity to the final quarter fadeout at Etihad Stadium against St Kilda on Sunday afternoon.


Like almost all teams in 2017, the Eagles are both victim and beneficiary of the competition’s evenness. We win just enough to stay in touch, and lose regularly enough to keep us in the pack. Every team and season has its sob stories, and we’ve been no exception, leading in the final quarter in every game this year except for blowouts against Hawthorn and Essendon.


What’s missing? We ask ourselves. Whose fault is it? We wonder. Maybe we should sack the coach? We ponder, unreasonably. There’s plenty of time for doom and gloom as we trudge out of Etihad, defeated again. So I try to turn my thoughts to more optimistic themes.


West Coast needs a hero. A leader who will pick the game up and drag us over the line.


So, who is there?


Shannon Hurn, the captain. Tough. Respected. Quiet. Unassuming. Anonymous. Which one is he again? Sometimes he channels his inner John Worsfold and forms an impenetrable wall across halfback, but those instances stand out for their rarity, not their regularity.


The obvious candidate is Luke Shuey. The closest thing to Ben Cousins we’ve had since Ben Cousins – on field at least. He operates both inside and outside the packs, but doesn’t get it done when needed. Too often he misses the crucial goal. He had a number of chances to burst free of the packs in the last quarter against St Kilda, and declined them all. Maybe he’s injured, but maybe he’s missing his chance to lead this team that’s in desperate need of leadership.


Andrew Gaff is a handy role player who works extremely hard, but so often a glance at the stats sheet shows 35 possessions, and not one of them I can recall.


Matt Priddis, well he was missing on Sunday, and will be missing forevermore post 2017. He’s given his all, and tried to lead from the bottom of the pack. Adam Simpson was right when he said that we’ll never see another one like him again. Sam Mitchell and Drew Petrie have been fun and bewildering to watch in blue and gold. How on earth did this happen? They represent succinctly the challenges of trying to execute a mid-range transition period without dropping to the bottom. They show Simpson’s ability to innovate, and his willingness to make the most of his strong relationships developed over the past few decades in the game. Good on them for committing to the Eagles’ cause, but we all know there’s no future there.


Jeremy McGovern deserves his reputation as one of the league’s best steadying and rebounding defenders, but is still quite young and inexperienced. He coughed up the ball on the halfback line against the Saints that led to the sealer. Jack Darling competes hard and chases hard, and gets his regular two goals a game. Mark Le Cras doesn’t compete hard, doesn’t chase hard, and gets his regular two goals a game.


Elliot Yeo, Dom Sheed and Liam Duggan form the nucleus of a promising group of young midfielders who could lead this club into the future, along with older bodies like Lewis Jetta and Jack Redden. And of course there’s the irrepressible ruck work and pressure of Nic Naitinui to return. There’s improvement to come.


But if it’s a hero we’re looking for, there’s one absolute standout. When the game was on the line yesterday there was one thought on my mind – get it to Josh Kennedy. He had two opponents on him for most of the day and still managed to kick five goals, including two in the final quarter with the game on the line. Since returning from injury he’s had hauls of 3, 6, 6, and 5 goals, and remarkably may be on track for his third consecutive Coleman Medal.


Key position players like him are the most valuable currency in the league. As long as Josh Kennedy is at the West Coast Eagles, they should be aiming as high as possible. In an equalised competition in which ‘average’ actually means ‘very good’, the Eagles have a player who can elevate them above the average, to become great. But the time is now. It’s not time for a rebuild, it’s time for a reload. Improvement can come from within this squad, or it can come from outside. In Josh Kennedy they have someone who can capitalise on it.


ST KILDA 3.2 7.5 10.7 15.13 (103)
WEST COAST 3.5 7.8 10.10 14.11 (95)


St Kilda: Membrey 2, Bruce 2, Steele 2, Billings 2, Sinclair, Riewoldt, Acres, Newnes, Ross, Dunstan, Savage
West Coast: Kennedy 5, LeCras 3, Darling 2, McGovern, Karpany, Sheed, Cripps

St Kilda: Steele, Acres, Billings, Newnes, Roberton, Sinclair, Stevens
West Coast: Kennedy, Petrie, Yeo, Sheed, Redden, Mitchell

Steele (STK 3), Kennedy (WCE 2), Acres (STK 1)

Umpires: McInerney, Mitchell, Mollison

Official crowd: 22,688


Based in Ballarat. Supports West Coast Eagles. Originally from Perth but trying to raise a new generation of Eagles supporters in Victoria. Only partially succeeding.


  1. In JK we trust. Thought it was revealing in a recent Eagles podcast when Butler and Schofield described Hurn as ‘easily the weirdest bloke at the club’. Make of that what you will but it’s not an immediate vindication of any willingness to run through a brick wall for their leader. Great description of Hurn too Dave. I’ll use that. Without doubt JK is the leader of the club thru actions on the field. Is he a natural leader off the field? You’d like to think they don’t need to put a ‘C’ next to his name to find out.

  2. Thanks Matt. Hurn’s got to be feeling the pressure, and not just cos he’s a weird bloke. Switching captain is the simplest way to send the message that the leadership has been lacking, which it clearly has. Is that what Shuey needs to step up and become the a-grader we know (hope??) he is?

    Though high and receding hairlines seem to be highly rated leadership characteristics at west coast (judd, glass, hurn), in which case Sheed is looking good for next captain.

  3. In 2017 you can be sure of three things: overpriced coffee, Trump tirades on twitter, and the Eagles lamely giving up a three quarter time lead. Oh to have someone who, Dangerfield style, takes the game (and the opponent) by the scruff of the neck and won’t let go ’til the job’s done. Shuey should be the one but can’t do it alone. Kennedy is a god in my eyes who can do no wrong, but the others? Meh, missing in action. Yesterday’s game left me feeling low, sure, but mostly because it was so predictable in its fade out. The devastation is slowly, after 5 years of false hope and blind optimism, fading to apathy. As one wiseguy once said “The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.” I need a hero, ageing JK aside, in 2018 or else I’ll have no choice but indifference. There’s only so many lonely commutes home from Etihad stadium on a cold Sunday night this lady can take.

  4. Same experience, down from Healesville , pick up grandson in Surrey Hills, train in to docklands, fans on the train, Eagles fans dotted here and there, roof open, closed sit back watch the game to half time. Pie and chips and the second half starts, and it gets towards the end and resignation that we aren’t going to win this game.
    Great to see a game, live, without those selected shots and woeful commentary and yes Josh Kennedy provides entertainment but you feel the commitment is not there it was left at Subiaco . I remember that Geelong game!!
    Not much since then!!

  5. I hear ya Andy and Victor. The unique loneliness of a Victorian Eagle.

    The Geelong game! There’s been a few of those worth remembering! But I’m pretty sure I know which one you mean Victor. Unfortunately I missed that one – not sure if I’ve ever been at a Kardinia Park win (a draw once when Braun hit the post with the last kick of the day was particularly cruel). But the one in 2006 was the epitome of Cousins-Judd-Kerr era determination.

    One thing the modern Eagles have been able to do though is get up off the canvas and charge up the ladder. A prelim in 2011 and GF in 2015 were pretty amazing achievements, coming off disappointing and hopeless seasons. As a whole this is an ambitious and well-organised club. Problem is these days, pretty much every club is at a level where they can compete and contend, you don’t need to be far off your best to be down the pecking order. I reckon that’s what’s happened this year, but we have the potential to keep challenging. Just need to keep changing it up.

    Problem was on Sunday we couldn’t get it to JK enough. Maybe he can go to a wing – a la late era richo. Some of his work around the packs in the backline in the last quarter was very clean when he drifted up there. Give Darling and a McGovern a chance to build a forward line partnership for the future, with Kennedy dropping deep when the pressure’s on.

  6. I agree with you about JK as captain, but its shuffling deck chairs on the Titanic. I thought our best were JK, Hurn and Duggan. Sheed was good in the first half, but the rest of the midfield were useless (again). We won’t be any good until we have midfield speed, size and strength. Anyone over 27 won’t be part of our next serious contender. A lot depends on whether we can get Nic Nat and Lycett fit and in form again. Retire Petrie and LeCras. Sell Darling and McKenzie to see if we can get a decent 23yo midfielder from the Bulldogs or Richmond (who need a tallish forward). Masten is Gaff without the endurance and footskills. Midget outside mid link players.
    I am infuriated by people in life (footballers included) who refuse to learn and develop. Darling and Shepherd are both worse now than they were in their early years. 2 crucial turnovers by Shepherd in the LQ. Darling trying to baulk a bloke on the wing in the dying minutes when he had every opportunity to kick long and lock it in our forward line where JK was freezing to death. Tries it every week – never comes off. Dumb as dirt.
    Shuey and Yeo are boys – not leadership material. McGovern is much more confident at CHB and we lose all rebound without him. Rucking him as backup to Petrie meant having to play Yeo back on Riewoldt, when he is our most incisive midfielder. Lose/Lose.
    The next football match I am looking forward to watching live is Sevilla v Malaga.

  7. Agree with most of what you say there Peter. Was sitting with my sis in the last quarter and she says to me “so I guess now they’ll be putting into action everything they’ve learnt in the last few final quarter losses”. We both knew she was only joking. they seem stubbornly inept at the moment.

    But I guess that any footy team is never quite as bad or as good as we think, and i reckon the glass is half full (maybe 2 fifths full… we’ll see), significant tweaking required, not rebuild.

    totally agree with the point about mcgovern and yeo in ruck / backline respectively. strange that vardy has not been in the side recently… he’s fit isn’t he? what’s going on there? kudos to petrie for getting his hands dirty but seems weird right?

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