The Eagles travel to Western Sydney to take on the Giants in another crucial game in the chase for the top four. Six points currently separates the sides, with the Eagles in 2nd on six wins, while the Giants sit fifth with four wins and a draw from the opening seven weeks. GWS will be smarting after they were comprehensively outplayed down at Kardinia Park, while the Eagles are riding high on the confidence of six consecutive wins.
The Recent History
The Eagles and Giants met three times in 2017, with the two home and away fixtures both close encounters, before the Giants ended West Coast’s season in the semi final with a record 67 point win. West Coast had exhausted all of their lives by this point of the season, having reached the finals in the dying minutes of the regular season, and then escaping against the Power in an after-the-siren overtime win the week before. By the time West Coast had travelled to the Showgrounds they were low hanging fruit for a Giants side keen to atone for a qualifying final loss.
Three weeks earlier the two sides met in a fiercely contested game. The two sides couldn’t be split in the first three terms, even after the Giants skipped away to a four goal advantage in the second term. West Coast were able to turn the momentum of the game their way to trail by just a point with one term to play, but the Giants ran out the game stronger with a four goal to one final term. Josh Kelly was surpreme with 43 disposals, while Matt Priddis was the Eagles best with 31 touches and seven tackles as he was coming into the twilight of his career. Josh Kennedy was a handful up forward with four goals, while Toby Greene was the leading goal scorer for the Giants with three.
Toby Greene also proved to be the difference earlier in the season when his final term delivered the Giants their first ever win over West Coast at Subiaco. In another tight encounter, Greene booted two final term goals as the Giants came from three points down at the final change to sneak home by eight points. The Eagles got the fast break to lead by 14 points at quarter time, but from there the Giants were able to control the stoppages and record a historic win. Callan Ward was the driver for the Giants, while Andrew Gaff was his usual accumulator self, racking up 35 disposals. The match would have further lasting effects for West Coast with Josh Kennedy going down in the final term with an achilles injury that would see him miss the next six games.
GWS have won the last three games between the two sides, after West Coast claimed the first five meetings.
It is more about who is missing from the two line-ups than who is in, with both sides missing a number of their first choice players. The Eagles are without Dom Sheed and Lewis Jetta for a second week, and are set to be without Luke Shuey for the next month after he tore a hamstring in the opening minutes against Port Adelaide. Nic Naitanui was suspended for a week over his tackle on Power player Karl Amon and the final blow for West Coast is the withdrawal of Jeremy McGovern after the team had flown out of Perth.
The Giants have endured a wretched injury run throughout 2018, although this week does bring some relief with Jeremy Cameron and Rory Lobb both returning. Still they have the likes of Josh Kelly, Toby Greene, Brett Deledio, Tom Scully and Will Setterfield on the sidelines as they continue to stretch the depth of the squad.
Along with Cameron and Lobb, the Giants have brought in Isaac Cumming for his debut, with the omission of big man Jon Patton the big surprise from the Giants. Patton has struggled in recent weeks as he has been asked to alternate in a ruck-forward role and paid the price with the Giants opting to keep former Collingwood player Lachie Keeffe in the side after he impressed on his club debut in the loss to Geelong. Dylan Buckley and Nick Shipley were the other two casualties for the Giants, also both dropped.
The Eagles bring in their own debutant, with Braydon Ainsworth the sixth player this year to make his AFL debut. Brendon Ah Chee will also make his club debut, crossing over from the Power in the last year’s trade period. Fraser McInnes comes in for the suspended Naitanui, with Nathan Vardy re-injurying a groin last week for East Perth and Will Schofield is the like-for-like swap for McGovern.
The Talking Points
Was the Nic Naitanui Suspension Correct?
No. The AFL got this decision wrong, and the whole process has been a mess since Michael Christian first announced Naitanui was cited. The fact that Christian’s reasonings for offering Naitanui a week for his tackle on Port Adelaide player Karl Amon were proven to be incorrect should have been the end of the matter, with several other issues putting doubt into the charge coming up during the tribunal hearing.
The Power were adamant that Amon suffered from delayed concussion during the incident involving Naitanui, despite footage being shown of other moments of contact that could have contributed to the concussion. Further, the charge came about despite going against one of the principles outlined, that being that a player makes a decision – either to bump or tackle – and can foresee the result of their actions. Considering that Naitanui chose to tackle rather than bump should have
Finally, the suspension for the tackle was inconsistent with both two other incidents involving Naitanui from this year, where the ruckman laid the same type of tackle, which didn’t result in injury and therefore didn’t get reviewed by the MRO. It also seemed to be a heavier penalty than Ryan Burton’s hip and shoulder on North midfielder Shaun Higgins, which left the Kangaroo concussed and in hospital, and Tom Mitchell’s behind-the-play elbow to Kangaroo ruckman Todd Goldstein a fortnight ago.
Adam Simpson was scathing of the process and of Michael Christian, describing the whole situation as ‘sloppy’.
What Can Eagles Fans Expect From Their Debutants?
Brendon Ah Chee and Brayden Ainsworth will both bring strong inside games to West Coast, despite their differing make up. Ah Chee has been around the system for several years and after dominating at SANFL level last year for Port Adelaide reserves, finishing second in the Magarey Medal, Ah Chee made the move back home where there were plenty of spots available following the retirements of Priddis and Mitchell.
Ah Chee was brought across to ply his trade in the stoppages, but will have support from the likes of Jack Redden and Andrew Gaff who have both improved markedly this season. Ainsworth has impressed many at the club this season with his attack on the ball, despite his light 80kg frame. Ainsworth has been in fine form at East Perth, averaging 24 disposals, five marks, three tackles and has booted two goals from four games. Ainsworth will add more grit around the contest and has shown at East Perth that can provide plenty of drive as well.
Should West Coast Be Keeping An Eye On Round 9?
The Eagles are in a crunch period of their season. After they comfortably accounted for Port Adelaide, the Eagles can be justified of their early rise up the ladder. Following this week’s trip to take on GWS, the Eagles host the reigning premiers Richmond, the improved Hawthorn in Melbourne, and then the Saints at home before they hit their mid-season bye.
While the Eagles will set themselves to win every game they play, there are some that think the Eagles would have been better served to focus on the following weeks home game against the Tigers. It has been no secret that several players are sore and this point of the season could have been an opportune time to rest some bodies ahead of the next month of football.
Brad Sheppard has battled through several corkies, Josh Kennedy is starting to show signs of his limited pre-season and there are a number of first and second year players that will have to start being managed with the club looking increasingly likely that they will play finals. Jake Waterman, in particular, has put through a high workload in the first seven games of his career and may benefit from a week off. The one benefit of Nic Naitanui’s suspension is that he will be able to prepare himself for the Tigers, after what would have been a taxing start to the season, following a year recuperating from a knee injury.
Regardless of the result this weekend, the Eagles will remain in the top four, and depending on other results they could still be in second spot. To save several players from a long trip to New South Wales and prime them for a tilt at the leading side of the competition could have done wonders for the side as they press for the double chance.
The player who needs a big game…?
Scott Lycett. Naitanui’s week off has thrust Lycett into the prime ruck role, but the South Australian has shown in the past that he can thrive when he needs to spend large chunks in the middle. Lycett’s return from injury has gone rather unnoticed as he backs up Naitanui, but his performances this year have been just as vital as West Coast lead the competition in hit-outs, hit-outs to advantage differential and scores from clearances differential.
Lycett has had his quieter moments as he continues his own comeback from a shoulder reconstruction, but his worth to the team was evident in the second half of the Eagles’ win over Geelong and also in stellar performances against Fremantle and Gold Coast. Lycett will fancy himself against Rory Lobb and Lachie Keeffe and his ability to control the ruck will have a big say in West Coast securing an important win on the road against a premiership rival.
A real toss of the coin where both sides have legitimate claims for a win. The Giants will be on their home turf and while their injury list is long, they still have plenty of stars in their side. Added motivation will be the milestone of co-captain Callan Ward, who plays game 200, and a desire to rebound from their disappointing effort on the Friday night stage last week.
West Coast have introduced a number of new players into their line up in 2018 and have gotten the games played on their terms and to suit their systems. They have strength in all areas, with currently the second best offence – which looks less reliant on Josh Kennedy than in past seasons – and the second best defence, which has been superbly led by captain Shannon Hurn. Their current outs will hurt, but if they can get an advantage in the ruck, which is a clear deficiency of the Giants at the moment, then they should have enough forward half possession to post a winning total.
The Giants have a lot of star power and class, but they haven’t been all conqurering in 2018 and there are too many question marks for a side that seemed prime for another premiership tilt.
West Coast by 14.
EAGLE TRIVIA: The first games for Brayden Ainsworth and Brendon Ah Chee is just the second instance where two players with the same initials are debuting in the same game. The other time was Dwayne Lamb and Dean Laidley in the Eagles first game, Round 1 1987. @WCE_History