Rick Browner reporting for AFANA from Patersons Stadium, Perth
Nic Naitanui played the best game of his career to lead the West Coast Eagles to a demolition of the Brisbane Lions at Patersons Stadium in Round 18. The Eagles needed a win to keep in touch with the Top Four with six rounds to play. Brisbane had beaten West Coast against the odds last time they played and held a winning record in the last six out of eight encounters. The Lions had every reason to go into the game with their tails up.
In front of a home crowd of 37,000, the Eagles opened up their attack when Quinten Lynch kicked the first goal. The Eagles’ energy was up and they were going in hard for the ball. Josh Hill followed soon after with their second goal after there was an interception from an out of bounds kick in. Naitanui was dominating the center ruck contests and his on-ballers were feasting on the results. Jonathan Brown scored first for the Lions when he was the beneficiary of a dubious free kick during a rare Brisbane foray into the forward line. The game was being played very much on the Eagles’ terms who were up on confidence and passion. In the football equivalent of thumbing your nose at your opponent, Dean Cox took the ball out of a ruck contest and kicked the Eagles’ next goal. From there it was all one-way traffic as the Eagles piled on three goals to one to finish the quarter. James Polkinghorne managed to shark a Naitanui tap deep in their forward line to score Brisbane’s second goal for the term. Unfortunately if you give the Eagles seven goals in the first quarter at home and only kick two yourselves, your team is going to be behind the eight ball for the rest of the match. West Coast took a comfortable 34 point lead into the first change.
Luke Shuey, returning from a two week suspension, stamped his authority on the game when he took a Naitanui handball, bounced it twice while sprinting through the center of the ground, and delivered to Jack Darling on a strong lead. Darling’s goal took the Eagles out to a 40 point lead and things were looking very troubling for the visitors. To their credit the Lions hardened up and started to claw their way back into the game by keeping possession and delivering to their forwards. Daniel Merrett was working hard up front and his mark and goal gave Brisbane hope that all was not over. Jed Adcock won a 50 meter penalty to kick the Lions’ next and they began to look threatening with hard running and crisp delivery. The Eagles were rattled and started to fumble and make simple errors under the pressure. Brisbane locked the ball into its forward line with Simon Black stepping up and blocking many moves out by West Coast. Brisbane players couldn’t hold the line however and the Eagles kicked the next three goals to effectively crush their spirit. The best of West Coast’s goals came when Naitanui, who certainly doesn't need to employ a stunt double for his aerial maneuvers, leaped from the back of a pack to take a mark some four yards high in the air. His follow up goal put the screws firmly on Brisbane. Jack Redden did not give up and his tackle on Matt Priddis won a free kick and a goal just as the first half ended. Brisbane trailed by 39 points but had held its own and stopped the bleeding to some extent.
Life was snuffed out of the Lions’ comeback when the Eagles kicked the first four goals of the second half. Substitutes were made early in the quarter with Eagle Patrick McGinnity coming on for Daniel Kerr who had tweaked a calf muscle. Todd Banfield took the field for the Lions for Matt McGuire who had twisted an ankle. Darling showed his customary dash when he turned his opponent on a dime and sprinted into the square to score his second goal. After a dashing run through the middle, Dayne Zorko kicked a goal for Brisbane but it was answered by two more for the Eagles and the game was well and truly over. The only question on the table was how much could the Eagles ramp up their percentage. Final percentage will be important if they hope to finish in the Top Four. Brisbane’s James Hawksley maintained the Lions’ trend of scoring late in the quarter when his goal finished the term. Trailing by 63 points, the Lions needed to save some face.
As the final quarter got under way it was clear that John Worsfold had laid down the law during the break. There were an incredible 16 goals kicked in the final term, none better than the first. In a feat of pure athleticism, Naitanui took on the whole Brisbane team when he ruck tapped, took the hand pass, fended off a chaser, ran his full distance and slotted a goal. His contribution this game had been outstanding, not only in ruck contests but in general field play. His inspirational play broke the dam wall and the flood of goals that followed stamped the Eagles as genuine contenders. They kicked 11 goals for the quarter to completely put their opponents to the sword. Brown played a cameo role to score when he kicked his third goal after copping a Darren Glass shoulder to his face, but all the Lions could do was try to avoid a beating by more than 100 points.
In Round 10 Brisbane had beaten the Eagles who were on a rampage. Today they looked a shadow of that side. West Coast remains outside the Top Four but their aggression and the fact that they have talented players returning soon from injury will give teams above them on the Ladder some cause for concern. Next week’s Western Derby against Fremantle looms large as an epic contest with both local teams vying for Finals spots.
David Woodley's photos from this game can be found at http://www.afana.com/drupal5/category/image_galleries/2012_season/home_and_away_games/round_18_west_coast_v_brisbane/14-2216
Scoreboard West Coast: 7.4 11.5 17.6 28.7 (175) Brisbane: 2.0 5.2 7.3 12.5 (77) Best Players West Coast: Naitanui, Waters, Shuey, Glass, Hurn Brisbane: Black, Redden, Polkinghorne, Zorko
Article last changed on Thursday, August 02, 2012 - 12:27 AM EDT