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by Chris Kowald, reporting for AFANA from Perth, Australia

First Bounce
West Coast Eagles sent a powerful message east. From the first bounce, when Nick Naitanui flew over opposing ruckman, Stefan Martin, it was clear that the Eagles would not be dispensing Easter cheer. Brisbane though were not to be denied, Tom Rockliff was back to his best, as he showed his young charges how to draw first blood, with a goal at the three–minute mark. The Eagles responded a minute later by kicking long into the forward line. Young Brisbane defender Marko Paparone sinned by allowing Naitanui an uncontested mark close to goals. The fans sensed the night was set for a fast paced open game of football and reacted appreciatively.

Naitanui dominated the hit outs in the first quarter, but the Lions through Rockliff and Mitch Robinson, were able to give the Lions hope by winning the clearances. The Brisbane forwards responded and Josh Walker led well, but lacked the polish to finish. The Eagles launched most of their attacks from the defensive 50 meter arc and played with an open forward line, making full use of the expanses of their home ground. Josh Kennedy obliged the followers by putting on a master-class in leading to space and kicking accurately.

In the second quarter the Eagles showed their true power. Priddis started to win more than his fair share of contested possessions. His accurate handballs to Andrew Gaff, were repaid with interest as Gaff repeatedly speared the ball into attack. However, the Lions would not lay down. Allen Christensen gave drive from the center, making good use of his pace and accurate delivery. Mitch Robinson continued to launch attacks, but was too-often let down by his poor delivery. The Lions were competing in packs and winning the tackle count, but the more experienced Eagles were able to use the ball more effectively. The home team showed more class around the ground and young player, Jamie Cripps, along with former Lion, Jack Redden, rubbed salt into the Lions’ wounds by scoring valuable goals. By half time the Eagles had extended their lead to six goals as Brisbane wilted under the relentless pressure and hard running of their more experienced opponents. With Priddis dominating in close, the Eagles could launch repeated attacks from the center area; making full use of the dry conditions to deliver with clinical accuracy to Jack Darling and Kennedy.

In the third quarter Cripps opened with his third goal and it seemed the Lions would fade in the second half. However, Robinson provided something special for the Lions fans, as he ran the ball from his back line by linking a chain of hand passes; only to see Rockliff miss an easy shot at goal. Despite this, Robinson was not deterred and continued to impress in the center. Daniel Rich who had played a steady game at half-back began to show his class. The Lions’ spirits lifted and for the first 12 minutes of the quarter they made the Eagles work for every kick. Then a costly turnover in the middle allowed Eagles’ Elliot Yeo to score an easy goal. The young Lions charged yet again and finished with a towering mark and goal to first-gamer, Josh Schache. An improved Rich showed surprising pace to run away from Yeo and kick a fifty meter goal. But it was Naitanui who steadied the center breaks, allowing Priddis and Gaff to make productive use of his accurate taps. Whenever Brisbane got a sniff of a chance, their hopes were extinguished by Priddis, Luke Shuey and Redden around the ground - and the irrepressible Kennedy up forward.

The last quarter was a foregone conclusion with the Eagles continuing to apply the pressure. The exhausted Lions midfielders stopped running into defense and allowed the Eagles to create a loose man and score easily. The Eagles kicked seven goals in the last quarter but the Lions showed some heart to score four of their own.

The Eagles travel east next week to meet Hawthorn and atone for an insipid performance in the Grand Final. Coach Adam Simpson would be concerned that the struggling Lions could score 102 points against his outfit. He knows a much stronger defense will be needed to shut down the powerful Hawks. The Lions can lick their wounds with the knowledge they have unearthed a future star forward in Josh Schache. Tom Rockliffe is ‘the rock’ of old. Daniel Rich showed strength. The Irishman, Pearce Hanley, gave flashes of brilliance. For them, there will be no resurrection against North Melbourne next week; and it may be mid-winter before they win a game - but based on this performance, they will be far more competitive than they were last year.

West Coast Eagles    7.4  13.7  19.9  26.10 (166)
Brisbane Lions       5.2   7.4  11.7  15.12 (102)

Best  Players:
West Coast Eagles:    Priddis, Naitanui, Kennedy, Shuey, Gaff
Brisbane Lions:          Rockliff, Robinson, Christensen, Rich, P. Hanley

Article last changed on Monday, June 18, 2018 - 12:15 PM EDT

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