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Cats Jump Into Top Four

Hawkins booted goal 700

The Geelong Cats moved into the top four after doing enough in blustery conditions to beat the West Coast Eagles at Optus Stadium. The Cats have had a heavy couple of weeks on the training track, as they build their strength for the end of the season. They looked lethargic for much of the game but won critical balls when challenged to keep a determined West Coast Eagles under control. The Eagles were strengthened by a number of stars returning from injury and will be pleased with their improved performance against a strong team.

The early signs for the Cats looked good as Tyson Stengle burnt off a pack of chasing Eagles to handball to Brad Close, who goaled without much pressure. However, the Eagles were a different team to the one that played the first half of the season. They contested the ball with a new found hardness and with their more-experienced players tasting leather, ball movement became purposeful. Reward came after eight minutes when Willie Rioli received a free kick and goaled. The Cats played Jeremy Cameron away from the goals to draw the Eagles intercept marker (catcher), Jeremy McGovern, out of the play. The Cats' full forward Tom Hawkins appreciated the space to move, but was closely shadowed by the Eagles' fullback Tom Barrass. With Cameron and Hawkins not scoring, the Cats placed greater reliance on their small forwards. Tyson Stengle slipped in for an early goal after an excellent kick from Cameron on the boundary. Then Sam Menegola sharked a loose ball to snap the Cats' third major.

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Running Dogs Attack Eagles

Bulldogs cheer squad (file photo)

The Western Bulldogs produced an irresistible second half of football to record their highest score and biggest winning margin against the West Coast Eagles. The win allowed the Dogs to sneak back into the top eight after a slow start to the season. Their 6 wins and 5 losses put them within striking distance of the teams above them and sets them up for the second half of the season. West Coast have one win from eleven games, which equals their worst start to a season. The loss to the Bulldogs was also their seventh consecutive loss, all of which had a deficit of 50 points or more. The Bulldogs ruckman Tim English played a magnificent game, dominating the ruck and picking up 25 possessions in general play. It is rumored he will decline offers to return to Western Australia, and in the near future, will sign a new contract to stay with the Dogs.

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Hungry Tigers Eat Eagles

Shai Bolton (file picture)

The West Coast Eagles were eaten alive by a hungry Richmond Tiger outfit that is determined to regain lost prestige. The proud Tigers finished twelfth in 2021 and were determined to show the football world that they still had what it takes to rip a team apart on a Friday night stage. Their first goal came after Eagles’ captain Luke Shuey dropped a mark (catch) and Kane Lambert launched an attack, where Jayden Short kicked to Jason Castagna who marked and kicked truly.

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Slick Sydney Embarrass Eagles

Heeney Flies for Sydney

The Sydney Swans didn’t just defeat the West Coast Eagles at Optus Stadium, they comprehensively thrashed them to hand the Eagles their biggest home game loss in the club’s history. The Swans were without Buddy Franklin, who has made a habit of tormenting the Eagles at Optus and veteran midfielder, Josh Kennedy, who was rested for the game. The Eagles virtually rested their own Josh Kennedy in the first quarter as the ball rarely got near their big forward. The Swans had a massive 21 forward entries in the opening term, while West Coast could only manage four. Sydneys’ reserve ruckman Peter Ladhams dominated in the ruck to highlight the extended absence of the Eagles’ ruckman Nic Naitanui. The Eagles' midfielders Elliot Yeo, Tim Kelly and Luke Shuey, who were all returning from extended layoffs, barely touched leather in the opening quarter as Sydney’s Callum Mills, Isaac Heeney and Errol Gulden did as they liked. Tall forwards Hayden McLean and Logan McDonald dominated in the air and kicked two goals apiece and a busy Ben Ronke booted a goal after two early misses. The lopsided first quarter score line flattered the Eagles as Sydney missed some very gettable shots.

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Dockers Dominate Weakened Eagles

Banfield celebrates

The Fremantle Dockers returned to the winning list by dominating the undermanned West Coast Eagles at Optus Stadium. The Eagles had made thirteen changes to their side from the previous week, with several stars returning from injury and Covid protocols. However, the team appeared underdone and flat footed as they offered little resistance to the pacy young Dockers.

West Coast started well with Josh Kennedy booting a goal in the first five minutes. From there it was all Dockers apart from Eagle defenders Jeremy McGovern and Shannon Hurn, who battled manfully in defense against the Docker onslaught. It was only the Dockers’ inaccuracy in front of goals which kept the Eagles within striking distance until the eleven-minute mark of the third quarter.

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Suns Burn Depleted Eagles

Hurn Leads the Eagles (2018)

The Gold Coast Suns celebrated their first away win against the West Coast Eagles in a performance that showed the growing maturity of the young Suns. Matt Rowell played his strongest game for the Suns, since returning from injury, to re-ignite the hype surrounding his brilliant entry to league ranks. The Suns’ new captain Touk Miller was inspired by his young charges and steadied the Suns at crucial parts of the game. Izak Rankine was dangerous up forward and used his growing maturity to steady when needed and kick four goals for the visitors. The Eagles were missing six of their ten best players but were well served by the enthusiasm of their young reserve players Luke Foley and Jamaine Jones. Former Richmond player, Patrick Naish, seized his chance to impress.

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Supplemental Signings

Paddy McCartin Handballs

The AFL's Supplemental Period (SSP) ran from January 10 through March 9 and several clubs took advantage and picked up players to round out their lists.

The Sydney Swans have picked Paddy McCartin, 25, during the SSP (Supplemental Selection Period) which has just concluded. McCartin was originally drafted by St Kilda in 2014 and played 35 games but had to step away from the game due to lingering concussion issues. He did spend last season with Sydney's VFL team and joins the club as a delisted free agent. McCartin joins brother Tom at the Swans and said, “It’s extremely exciting – it’s been a unique journey for me to get back to this point. It’s a path that not many people have taken, but my goal was to always try and get back to the elite level and to be able to do it with the Swans. To do it with Tom, in particular, is something that means a lot and is exciting. I’ve loved training with the team and playing last year, so it’s good to get on the list. There’s a lot that we want to achieve as a group so I’m looking forward to getting stuck in with the guys this year.”

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AFL Life Memberships and Jack Titus Award Announced

Grant Birchall vs Jordan Roughead

In early February, the AFL announced the next inductees for life membership and the Jack Titus Award, which is given annually for service to the game. The awards and the memberships will be officially presented at the league's AGM in March.

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Sheppard and Townsend Retire

Sheppard Tackled

In early December West Coast running defender Brad Sheppard and Suns defender Jacob Townsend announced their retirements just a few days apart. Sheppard, 30, was forced to retire due to ongoing concussion issues. He suffered several head knocks late in the season, the last coming in round 22. The Eagles believed he could still play but gave him time to decide. He sought medical advice over concerns about his future health and opted to retire.

Sheppard was drafted in 2009 and played 216 games. He was named All-Australian in 2015 and won the best clubman award in 2020. He was also a key member of the 2018 premiership side. Coach Adam Simpson said, "His career speaks for itself, over 200 games, it's just really sad that it finishes this way. He still had plenty of good footy left. He retires as a man with universal respect at every level of the football club ... ".

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Free Agency and Other Signings

Campbell Clips Kersten

The AFL free agency period opened in early November and ran through November 9. Several delisted players found new homes. Players who have been delisted can join any club that offers them a contract and would therefore avoid having to enter the AFL draft later this month. All clubs then filed a list lodgment (current playing lists) on November 10 and another round begins on November 10 and runs through November 15.

Sacked Crow Tyson Stengle joined Geelong as a delisted free agent. Stengle, 22, played two games for Richmond and 16 games for the Crows over a four-year period but a string of off-field indiscretions saw the Crows decide to cancel his contract. In the SANFL this year, Stengle kicked 44 goals in 19 games, including nine goals in three finals. He is set to reunite with former teammate Eddie Betts, who has taken up an off-field role at the Cats.

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