Janet Linn reporting for AFANA from Subiaco Oval
How quickly a team's fortunes can change in AFL football. Accused of tanking their season only four weeks ago, the West Coast Eagles have put together two solid wins and are still a mathematical possibility to make the Final Eight. As slim a chance as that Finals appearance may be, their improved form is unarguable. In an impressive Round 20 win against the struggling North Melbourne, West Coast's loyal supporters glimpsed the potential unleashing within the current playing group.
Weather conditions were very difficult at Subiaco Oval with 45 knot squalls and possible thunderstorms predicted. The first quarter was a tight, low-scoring contest. Callum Wilson scored the only goal for the Eagles and the solitary reply for the Kangaroos came from young Leigh Adams. Although North Melbourne had a clear ascendancy in the clearances, shots on goal were elusive. It was a quarter of stoppages and crowds of players around the hit-outs and the fairly average level of skills on display made for a dull spectacle.
Injuries to Mitchell Brown and Chris Masten reduced West Coast to twenty players early in the second quarter but this only seemed to spur the home team on. After North scored the opening goal through Corey Jones, West Coast produced four goals in a row and the margin stretched to 16 points before the Kangaroos scored again through Adams. Late goals to Eagle Matt Priddis and Kangaroo Matt Campbell left North with a ten point deficit at half time.
After a two goal effort in the second quarter, David Wirrpanda continued his sparkling form to produce the first goal of the third, stamping himself as the most dangerous forward of the match. North Melbourne kept themselves in the game with a very good goal off the boot of Lachie Hansen but when the Eagles took control of the center breaks and began to dominate possession around the ground, the signs were ominous. In their best single quarter effort for the year West Coast produced a seven goal blitz and extended their lead to 40 points by the final break. Nicholas Naitanui was dominant in the ruck, Andrew Embley and Adam Selwood were unstoppable and Wirrpanda combined well with Mark LeCras and Ben McKinley up forward.
North Melbourne had the advantage of kicking with the wind in the last quarter and had most of the play early. Goals to Petrie, Adams and Andrew Swallow kept the game alive with the deficit narrowing to 20 points. A free kick against North followed by a careless 50 meter penalty gave Priddis a goal against the play and West Coast gained some breathing space. Todd Goldstein kicked an excellent goal from a very acute angle to give the Kangaroos hope and the lopsided tackle count in the Roos' favor was indicative of their fierce endeavor. A soft free kick to an Eagles player in the forward line gave Wilson a shot on goal and to the relief of the pro-West Coast crowd, he made no mistake. Embley rushed forward again and McKinley put the icing on the cake for the Eagles with his third goal. A goal to LeCras after the siren gave the Eagles a 38 point win but the Kangaroos could hold their heads up as they left the ground. They had fought bravely but were outclassed on the day.
West Coast won their third game in a row and restored some much-needed optimism to supporters after dismal seasons by both Western Australian teams. West Coast are now finishing strongly and there are definite glimpses of future glories in their recent performances. They have solid young players and senior players Embley, Lynch and Priddis have regained form. Unfortunately for the other home team Fremantle, the future looks less rosy after a ten goal drubbing by bottom team Melbourne on Sunday. A loss is one thing but their dispirited and undignified capitulation to the opposition team has them in danger of making a late grab for the Wooden Spoon.
On Monday, North Melbourne appointed Brad Scott, Collingwood assistant coach and former Brisbane Lions' Premiership player, as coach. His three year contract will no doubt please Kangaroo fans and give the North faithful something to look forward to next season.
Scoreboard West Coast Eagles 1.2 6.3 13.7 17.8 (110) North Melbourne 1.4 4.5 6.9 10.12 (72) Best players West Coast Eagles: A Selwood, A Embley, D Wirrpanda, M Priddis, N Naitanui North Melbourne: B Harvey, D Petrie, B Rawlings, L Adams, H McIntosh
Article last changed on Tuesday, August 18, 2009 - 9:04 AM EDT