Janet Linn reporting for AFANA from Subiaco Oval
Dazed Eagles supporters had their Finals hopes seriously undermined after an unexpected defeat by Collingwood at Subiaco Oval in Round 9. West Coast started better than the Magpies and led by two goals at the end of the first quarter. It was downhill from there on in with Collingwood running out very comfortable 22 point winners. Collingwood went into the game as underdogs with talented forwards Paul Medhurst, Alan Didak, Travis Cloke and Dale Thomas all sidelined by injury. In a standout game befitting the occasion - the AFL Indigenous Round - Leon Davis led the Magpies to victory in a game that put the magnifying glass on the Eagles' weaknesses up forward.
It took ten minutes before the game was any sort of spectacle with loose handballs, clumsy fumbles and poor foot skills the order of the day. There was a collective sigh of relief when John Anthony took a good mark in the forward pocket and scored the first goal for the Magpies at the 12 minute mark. West Coast also found some touch and booted a reply through David Wirrpanda who looked lively up forward. Brad Ebert got West Coast's second after a good handball from youngster Adam Cockie and Wirrpanda was inspirational with a classy tap down to Josh Kennedy who goaled towards the end of the quarter. Although the standard of football wasn't great and neither side looked particularly convincing, West Coast were ahead at the break.
Collingwood came out a different team in the second quarter. A poor decision by Adam Selwood at the first bounce saw Josh Fraser awarded a 50 meter penalty, bringing him within goal-scoring range. When his kick dropped short, Anthony took another contested mark in the square and converted. The intensity of the game increased although again the skills were lackluster and both teams over handled the football. Heath Shaw lifted the Magpies with a glorious 55 meter goal and narrowed the deficit to one point at the halfway mark of the quarter. Collingwood began to move the ball around better and their defensive players increased the pressure on the West Coast forward line. Anthony slotted another goal but Davis, Tarkyn Lockyer, Cam Wood and newcomer Brad Dick let West Coast off the hook when they missed opportunities. Wirrpanda was moved to defense when Harry O'Brien started to get the better of the duel and with him went any forward momentum for the Eagles. Collingwood went into half-time with an eight point lead after a strangely uninspiring half of football.
West Coast's defense sprang some leaks early in the third quarter. Leon Davis appeared to be moving around the ground solo, creating havoc and scoring goals and goal assists at will. The Magpies had their tails up and Leigh Brown and Lockyer had the skills to make inroads on the scoreboard. The Eagles could not pinpoint their forwards with any precision and it was finally left to Magpie Ryan Cook and his errant kick across goal to gift Ben McKinley with a goal. The busy Brad Dick wasted no time restoring Collingwood's lead with a good set shot on goal but West Coast worked the ball forward again and Kennedy and Daniel Kerr combined to give McKinley his second. The game became more interesting for a time as West Coast attacked the ball with more vigor and Kerr, Kennedy and Chris Masten lifted their team mates. Unfortunately for the Eagles, their finishing was substandard. Both Scott Selwood and Andrew Embley wasted golden opportunities up front. Collingwood went into the final break with a 20 point lead and looked solid but West Coast had everything to play for with a loss in this game making a chance of playing Finals in September very unlikely.
West Coast dodged several bullets in the opening minutes of the final quarter when Steele Sidebottom and Josh Fraser missed goals. Inexplicably, Leon Davis was still wandering around the field unmanned and this failure to show defensive discipline cost the Eagles big time. When the normally reliable Mark Nicoski kicked dangerously across goal, Davis, with his customary touch of brilliance, swooped and goaled. Two minutes later, he soared over a pack to take a mark, play on and goal. The game was effectively over at the halfway mark of the last quarter although Collingwood eased up a little and West Coast scored some late goals. In the end the score line flattered the Eagles who played one decent quarter and from then on were well and truly out-skilled and out-muscled.
Collingwood play at home in Round 10 against the inconsistent Port Adelaide and, with the probable return of some star players, they will start favourites. West Coast travel to Etihad Stadium to play Carlton and, with both teams coming off inglorious performances, it is hard to predict a winner. One thing, however, is sure. The loser of that game will be hard-pressed to win a Finals berth in September. Both teams, optimistic at the start of the season that they would make the Final Eight, have their season well and truly on the line.
Scoreboard Collingwood 1.4 4.10 8.12 12.16 (88) West Coast 3.4 3.8 5.10 9.11 (66) Best players Collingwood L Davis, S Pendelbury, D Swan, T Lockyer, S O'Bree, J Anthony West Coast D Glass, S Selwood, J Kennedy, A Embley, B McKinley, D Kerr
Article last changed on Tuesday, May 26, 2009 - 1:00 PM EDT