Rick Browner reporting for AFANA from Patersons Stadium, Perth, Western Australia.
Melbourne has had a tough time against the West Coast Eagles over the years, particularly when traveling to their fortress, Patersons Stadium, winning only eight times in the last 28 matches. The Demons were trounced last week in an emotional game after the passing of their club President and playing hero Jim Stynes. Round 2 was another serving of the same medicine as the Eagles went all out to crush their spirit.
It was Shannon Hurn’s 100th game and West Coast wanted to honor him in style. Luke Shuey started the proceedings, being awarded a free kick after having his head nearly ripped off. His goal rewarded the Eagles’ endeavor with most of the game so far played in their forward half. They had five inside 50 meters to the Demons’ one at this early stage as Melbourne continuously failed to hit targets when they needed to and looked second rate. Lyndon Dunn took a strong mark and slotted the Demons’ first goal from 55 meters out, but from there on in, it was all Eagles. Beau Waters drifted up from the back line to be on the end of a 50 meter penalty kick to score the next major. Scott Selwood gathered deep in the pocket to score a skilful goal from 50 meters out to have the Eagles take a handy 20 point lead into the second quarter. Late in the first quarter, veteran Andrew Embley dislocated his shoulder and had to be substituted by Ashton Hams. Another veteran, Melbourne’s Nathan Jones, was tireless in his efforts to bring his side back into the game. His straight kick from 50 meters out after a Chris Masten turnover gave his team renewed hope.
There was no doubting Melbourne’s determination at the contest. They were hard at the ball and none better than mature age recruit James Magner. He racked up multiple possessions and was very impressive in only his second game at the top level. Mitch Clark was putting his hand up at full forward for the Demons, and kicked a goal against the flow of the game to keep his side in the contest. At this point the midfield of the Eagles began to dominate. Scott Selwood, Matt Priddis, Hams, and to a lesser extent Daniel Kerr, started to get the ball into the forward 50 meter arc with great regularity. They were feeding off each other as well as applying scorching pressure to hold the ball in West Coast’s forward 50 meter arc. Still Clark for the Demons was a thorn in their side, snapping around his body to kick goals every time he got the ball.
As the game progressed however, the taller forwards for the Eagles came into play. Midfielders lowered their eyes in their delivery and, rather than banging indiscriminately into the forward zone, spotted up their forwards as they led up to the ball. Jack Darling created headaches for his opponent every time he got the ball, and his run and chase to lock the ball in was superb. The talls were also doing the work on the ground as well as in the air. The Mighty Quin, Quinten Lynch, took a great mark outside 50 meters and kicked a telling goal as the half was winding down. Melbourne looked to be on the ropes and seemed content to go into the main break to recover and regroup, trailing by eight goals. One point that was remarkable was the free kick count. To this stage of the game the Eagles had been awarded 20 frees while Melbourne had a solitary one, surely a record in AFL history.
As the third quarter progressed, it was clear that a thrashing of biblical proportions was underway. The Eagles ran all over the Demons, who at times looked as if they wanted the ground to open up and swallow them. Hams kicked his third followed by a goal to Josh Kennedy. When Darling kicked his second to rub salt into the wound, the ball had spend 93% of the quarter in the Eagles’ forward half. The tireless and courageous Jones was a lone ranger for the visitors and his free kick and subsequent goal stemmed the tide for a moment. Coach Mark Neeld made his substitution to put some more fire under his charges and Matthew Bate took the ground to replace the rarely sighted Jamie Bennell. The change had no effect on the game whatsoever and the Eagles looked more determined than ever to dominate the opposition. West Coast finished the quarter with four of the next five goals and took a game winning 90 point lead. The only interest now was whether they would beat their record winning score against Melbourne of 102 points.
To their credit the Demons fought it out. Mitch Clark was determined to make the score respectable and kicked his fourth and fifth goals back to back from some strong forward play. It was a pity that some of his teammates didn’t share his enthusiasm. Lynden Dunn scored another after an Eagles turnover but it was a belting whichever way you looked at it. Although Melbourne scored three last quarter goals, the Eagles doubled that and in the end ran all over the opposition by a record margin of 108 points.
During the first part of the game the Eagles seemed to be too top heavy in the forward line. The midfield had trouble delivering the ball effectively but once this area was smartened up, the big boys came to the party. They were able to crumb the spills and put real pressure into keeping the ball locked inside their forward zone. The Demons had absolutely no answer and will go into their match against cross town rivals Richmond with not much to cheer about.
West Coast is looking like a real Premiership contender for this year’s Flag, soaring to the top of the AFL Ladder with a very healthy percentage that will only get better if they serve up the same treatment next round. Their luckless competitors in Round 3 are the neophyte Greater Western Sydney Giants who have been on the receiving end of a hiding in their first two games.
Check out David Woodley's images of this game at http://www.afana.com/drupal5/category/image_galleries/2012_season/home_and_away_games/round_2_west_coast_v_melbourne/14-2096
Scoreboard Melbourne: 1.1 4.2 6.2 9.4 (58) West Coast: 4.3 11.8 19.4 25.16 (166) Best players Melbourne: Magner, Jones, Clark, Trengove West Coast: S. Selwood, Priddis, Hurn, Shuey, Darling, Lynch
Article last changed on Wednesday, April 11, 2012 - 9:56 AM EDT