Round 8 – West Coast v Collingwood: The showtime Eagles and a perfect image

It’s incredible how footy can give off a feel through certain images. There may be no way of placing how or why, but some games have a look that can give you confidence. It’s an indescribable phenomenon, whether it be the weather, the jumpers of the two teams or the context in which you are watching the match.


There are certain ways in which I remember the 2018 Grand Final. The week before, I had entered the MCG full of confidence, foolhardy as it may have been. But something about the crisp yellow of the Sherrin, the look of the MCG packed to the rafters with fans, and the slight change of Collingwood’s clash jumper gave me an unseeded amount of belief.


A week later, the Grand Final holds a quirky spot in my football memory. The hope I held the Friday before had transitioned to the crowd around me. Sunny skies breaking out of an even cover of cloud punctuates my recollections of the opening term. Of Varcoe’s goal, the emotional kiss of his armband. Of Stephenson breaking away from the overcasting Eagles. Then, the frantic final quarter. De Goey’s running goal, the guttural roar threatening to blow the goal posts over at the City End. The shock and dread that seeped into the stomach via an invisible IV as the siren sounded and the black and white faithful were confined to a harrowing day that was undeserved.


On Sunday, Collingwood trotted out onto the Colosseum-like confines of Optus Stadium. A week before, the surrounds felt homely when paired with Geelong’s navy blue and white jumper. There were no specks of yellow adorning the crowd, no sense of hostility. It had been a night Collingwood fans were familiar with. Familiarity soothes the nerves. The West Coast Eagles side does not induce any comfortable emotions for Collingwood fans still in the midst of healing.


But the alarm bells quietened when Hoskin-Elliott filled the void left in the air by McGovern’s late departure. With Darcy Cameron getting off the leash and slotting two first term goals, the game took on a certain look. No longer was the contest a regular Sunday afternoon clash; the look of the half-filled arena on TV, the clear day and the flying red footy made it eerily reminiscent to a Grand Final. Needless to say, I sat on the couch, fully expecting West Coast to seize control of the second term.


That didn’t mean it wasn’t frustrating. It was a predictable trap that Nathan Buckley’s men fell into, continuing to flick the handball around too often and then struggling to catch the flowing Eagles on the fast break. The way West Coast burst away from a turnover was similar to the Chicago Bulls, except every player in blue and yellow took on the role of MJ. Still, a Hoskin-Elliott goal meant the Pies weren’t out of it, but without Pendlebury the Magpie midfield was left languishing.


A Gaff goal on the half-time siren broke the deadlock. The feel of the match changed; no longer was it a tight goal-for-goal affair – the West Coast Bulls burst out of the blocks in the third term and began to perform some showtime football.


No one could miss – even the dangly legs of Oscar Allen could wrong-foot Maynard for an athletic goal. The likes of Kennedy, Waterman and Cripps all hit three-point shots from the corner of the ground. It soon became clear the key to the West Coast Bulls lay in the engine room. Nic Naitanui/ Pippen ground Grundy into the dust; his athleticism proving too much for the strength of the Magpie big man. Tim Kelly/ Rodman didn’t stop collecting, using his flair and raw athleticism to produce plays most footballers could only dream of. Luke Shuey/ Jordan was the star – a smother off Treloar’s boot that somehow turned into a dazzling pass up forward highlighted his superiority. Collingwood has plenty of good mids, but they don’t have the dynamic multi-faceted game that Shuey and his comrades boast.


Gaff settled into the Ron Harper role, waiting out the back for the long ball and fading out of notoriety behind the trio of midfield stars in front of him. Big man Josh Kennedy may have been Luc Longley, but that may be harsh on Kennedy – he is a champion in his own right, and his precision from range bested any three-point ability the Australian centre ever possessed.


Post-game, Buckley remarked that his side were the Washington Generals to the West Coast’s Harlem Globetrotters. Elements of that were true, but there was one key difference. The Eagles aren’t show ponies – they are a seriously good football team possessing some of the best top-end talent in our land. When McGovern returns to the fold, it’s impossible to pin him to a player in the Bulls line-up.


I turned off the TV after Channel Seven flicked to the nightly news, still in a state of shock. There was no disappointment for my Pies; they never stood a chance. The feel of the game had changed from a prime time viewing to a slaughter. The sight of the blue and yellow, the parochial crowd and the lovely afternoon climate – I should’ve realised sooner the signs were all pointing west.


In the end, it’s hard to feel hard done by. Collingwood had a stinker, and picked a bad day to do so. West Coast played the best all-round game of football I have seen in a long time. If they are comparable to the star-studded Bulls, how far can they go in 2020? In three months’ time we may all point to this game as a turning point.




WEST COAST         2.0       7.2       13.2     18.3 (111)
COLLINGWOOD     4.2       5.3       5.6       6.9 (45)


West Coast:
 Kennedy 7, Allen 3, Waterman 2, Naitanui, Gaff, Cripps, Ryan, Kelly, Darling
Collingwood: Cameron 2, Hoskin-Elliott 2, Elliott, Daicos


West Coast: 
Kennedy, Kelly, Allen, Naitanui, Yeo, Shuey, Gaff
Collingwood: Adams, Crisp, Quaynor 



Our writers are independent contributors. The opinions expressed in their articles are their own. They are not the views, nor do they reflect the views, of Malarkey Publications.


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