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Kangaroos Survive Late Eagle Attack

Roos Celebrate (file photo/AFANA)

The North Melbourne Kangaroos withstood a late West Coast Eagles revival to win their first game of the season. The Kangaroos were hungrier than the Eagles and fought harder for the ball for most of the day, winning contested possessions (152 to 137) and laying more tackles (84-62) to create an upset win over the home team. Although the combination of the Eagles' two ruckmen, Matt Flynn and Bailey J Williams, had the edge over North Melbourne's ruckman Tristan Xerri, the Kangaroos were good at stoppages winning forty-eight clearances, which was eighteen more than West Coast. Despite having the edge in the midfield for most of the match, the Kangaroos fell down in attack by initially bombing the ball high to their forwards which suited the intercept skills of the Eagle defenders Jeremy McGovern and Tom Barrass who shut down many early attacks with their spoiling skills.

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Saints Escape from Eagles

Jack Steele (Dave Woodley/AFANA)

The St Kilda Saints Played a strong last quarter to outlast the West Coast Eagles in a hard-fought game where the lead changed eight times. After three straight losses, it was the Saints fourth win for the season and they stay in fifteenth place on the ladder; but are now a game clear of West Coast who are sixteenth. Remarkably they are just two games out of the top eight, but would need a drastic turn-around in form to trouble the top sides. Things didn't start well before the game for the Eagles. Their mascot, a majestic wedged-tailed eagle (with a wingspan of nearly three yards) refused to follow the script of flying around the arena and landing in the center of the oval. Instead it reached the center, relaunched to check out various views from the bleachers and finally perched himself near the coaches box, keeping a close eye on coach Adam Simpson. The game started once his handler had him (Ozzie the Eagle) under control. For Simpson's sake, it is hoped Ozzie was not sending a message to the club board by impersonating a vulture.

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Eagles Ambush Demons

Williams marks (Dave Woodley/AFANA)

The West Coast Eagles launched a surprise attack on the Melbourne Demons to win convincingly by thirty-five points. The Demons were overwhelmed by the Eagles' attack on the ball and the pressure applied in the midfield. The Demons' defense has been the best in the league, but with linchpin defender Jake Lever injured early in the first quarter, the visitors were unable to withstand the repeated entries of the Eagles.

Teams that have defeated Melbourne recently have concentrated on nullifying the influence of Lever, Max Gawn, and Christian Petracca. With Lever out of the equation the Eagles physically targeted Gawn but he was equal to the challenge. He dominated the hitouts and won six clearances, but the physical buffeting he received in packs reduced his marks (catches) tally to just three. When the ball hit the ground the Eagles' Tim Kelly, Harley Reid, Liam Duggan and Reuben Ginbey swooped to initiate Eagle attacks. Clayton Oliver (nine clearances) and Christian Salem were good for the Demons but were outpointed by the combined Eagles midfield who won more contested possessions, particularly in the first half. Jake Waterman and Jack Darling were the Eagles' main targets up forward with Waterman taking thirteen marks and booting five goals. Darling only took four marks but with thirteen tackles, he kept the Melbourne defenders under constant pressure.

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Bombers Survive Late Eagle Challenge

Kyle Langford (file photo/AFANA)

The Essendon Bombers survived a late challenge by a determined West Coast Eagles to win by one goal in a thriller at Optus Stadium. The Bombers had more of the play for three quarters but couldn't finish scoring opportunities off the strong work of their midfield. Whereas the Eagles launched less attacks but were more efficient in attack. The Bombers used handball to break out of packs but the Eagles' players were more inclined to "roll the dice" and take on the tackler to get out of tight situations. Veteran ruckman Todd Goldstein, was dominant in for Essendon and for three quarters the Bombers won more clearances through his combination with Darcy Parish and Zach Merrett at ground level. Goldstein tired in the last stanza and an improved second half by Tim Kelly of the Eagles in the packs brought the hosts back into the game.

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Eagles Shock Dockers

Elliot Yeo (file photo/AFANA)

The West Coast Eagles shocked an out-of-sorts Fremantle Dockers. They defeated the match favorites by applying pressure at the ball and using direct attacks into a well-organized forward line. The Dockers appeared jaded after two games on the road where they lost narrowly to Carlton and Port Adelaide. The Eagles built on last week's comprehensive victory over the wounded Richmond Tigers to record consecutive victories for the first time since 2021. The addition of number 1 draft pick Harley Reid, combined with an injury-free and resurgent Elliot Yeo, has provided the Eagles with the midfield strength they have lacked for three years. Their clean delivery into the forward line enabled Jack Darling to feature more prominently; however, it is the re-emergence of full-forward Jake Waterman that is the big story of their forward line. The Dockers were due to have a poor game after playing intense pressure football for the first five weeks of the season. However, nobody expected such a sudden drop in form.

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AFL Drugs Cover-Up?

Ben Cousins (File photo/AFANA)

Shortly after Round Two concluded, Andrew Wilke (Australian Member of Parliament, Independent) dropped a bombshell statement regarding Australian rules players and clubs. The allegations, denied by the league, doctors, and the AFL Players Association (AFLPA), state that club doctors would test players midweek. If any player tested positive for an illicit substance, that player was instructed to fake an injury to be ruled out of the upcoming game to avoid match day testing and subsequent ramifications. The allegations also claim that the midweek tests were "off the books". The tests allegedly took place at a clinic away from the clubs with former AFL chief medical officer Peter Harcourt helping to facilitate the tests. Wilkie said the information was given to him by Melbourne Demons president Glen Bartlett, club doctor Zeeshan Arain, and Shaun Smith, the father of a player accused of drug trafficking. (Ed. note: we have been critical in our editorial view on this matter for many years, as far back as the Essendon scandal of a decade ago: AFL Drug Policy, Essendon, and Predictable Outcomes)

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Giants Step Over Eagles

Whitfield kicks (file photo/AFANA)

It wasn't a giant leap for the Greater Western Sydney Giants, but it was a small step towards their first Premiership flag. For the first time in their history, the Giants have started a season with three wins. Their opponents, the Eagles, have landed with a thud. After a boost in optimism, having drafted the number one draft pick, Harley Reid, the Eagles have been brought back to Earth. The Giants were expected to win this game, they did what they had to, without really breaking stride. For a large part of the match the Eagles impersonated traffic cones as the Giants weaved towards repeated goals. Both teams were evenly matched in terms of games played and player age, but that is where the comparisons end. The Giants are loaded with talent and the Eagles have a few good men who try hard but can't carry a playing list that had been neglected while the club relied on its aging stars.

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Power and Bulldogs Delist Players Plus Lycett Retires

Scott Lycett Contests Mark (file photo/AFANA)

The past week provided yet more delistings and retirements. The Western Bulldogs delisted Hayden Crozier and Roarke Smith. Port Adelaide delisted Orazio Fantasia, Sam Hayes, and Jake Pasini while Scott Lycett has retired. Sam Naismith has found his way back into the AFL at Richmond.

Lycett, a former Port Adelaide SANFL player, was drafted by West Coast in 2010 and played 75 games for the Eagles, including the 2018 premiership. At the end of 2018, he moved to Port as a free agent and played a further 71 games. Port Coach Ken Hinkley said, "Scott has been an outstanding contributor for two clubs ... He was an incredible workhorse for our club during the last five seasons and was totally focused on putting his teammates first. As a former Port Adelaide junior, Scott was Port Adelaide through and through.

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Collingwood Delistings and Free Agents Moves

Flynn tackled (Dave Woodley/AFANA)

Collingwood delisted Trey Ruscoe, Trent Bianco, Tom Wilson, Arlo Draper, and Cooper Murley. Sydney picked up unrestricted free agent James Jordon and West Coast added unrestricted free agent Matt Flynn.

Ruckman Flynn has joined West Coast from Greater Western Sydney. Flynn, 26, was drafted by GWS in 2015 and played 33 games. The Eagles believe will add size with the retirement of Nic Naitanui. List manager Rohan O'Brien said, “We prioritized adding to our ruck stocks this off-season so we’re really pleased Matt decided to join the club ... Matt has spent eight seasons in the AFL system and is physically mature so we expect he can come in and make an impact.”

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Hibberd Retires from Melbourne and Eagles Cull Six

Hibberd Handballs (File photo/AFANA)

Demon defender Michael Hibberd, 33, announced his retirement after 12 seasons and 197 for Essendon and Melbourne. The West Coast Eagles have delisted defender Luke Foley, Xavier O’Neill, Greg Clark, Connor West, forward Isiah Winder, and utility player Sam Petrevski-Seton.

In making the retirement announcement, Hibberd said, “I have really loved my time at the club. I love the boys and I feel like I could play until I am 40, but I know that’s not the reality. The body gets a bit slower as you get older, and although I like to think that I have a little bit left in me, I feel like going out with a little left in the tank is the right way to go about it ... ".

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