Janet Linn reporting for AFANA from Subiaco Oval
Following a devastating Round 12 loss to bottom team Richmond, the West Coast Eagles’ players and coaching staff attracted heavy home town scrutiny. John Worsfold’s future was openly debated and senior players spoke publicly of their disappointing recent performances. Sunday’s Round 13 match against the Western Bulldogs needed to be a do or die effort to regain the respect of fans and to inject new belief into the players. A slightly smaller crowd than usual - just over 34,000 - gave credence to the feeling that West Coast fans have lost the belief they started the season with several short months ago.
Signs were good for West Coast early in the game with Andrew Strijk thrilling the crowd when his first kick in AFL football scored a goal. A sleeker, speedier Quinten Lynch returned to the side full of energy and he and Mark LeCras provided West Coast with regular scoring opportunities up forward. For the Bulldogs, Robert Murphy was in terrific form, clearing many a ball from defense with his classy foot skills, and Daniel Giansiracusa was on fire in front of goal. When the first quarter siren sounded it was the Bulldogs leading by a solitary point after an entertaining opening contest.
Nic Naitanui and Dean Cox were on top in the ruck duels with Ben Hudson and Will Minson but the Eagles struggled with their ball handling skills around the ground. The number of Eagles fumbling and mishandling handballs and marks was noticeable while the Bulldogs were consistent and skillful in their disposal of the ball particularly by foot. By midway through the second quarter the Bulldogs had taken a handy 16 point lead and the floodgates looked likely to open. To West Coast’s credit, they refused to panic and excellent goals to Lynch and LeCras steadied the boat just before half time with only nine points separating the teams going into the long break.
By the eight minute mark of the third quarter the inside 50s were Bulldogs nine, West Coast nil. Consecutive goals to Captain Brad Johnson, returning from an achilles injury, Brennan Stack and Jarrad Grant saw the Dogs surge to a 27 point lead. Although the Bulldogs seemed in control, the Eagles were dogged and while their football was ugly, they hung in the match with goals to Josh Kennedy and the youngster Strijk. West Coast never looked overly threatening and had to struggle mightily to get the ball forward but the concern for the Bulldogs was that they could not quite break the Eagles’ spirit. When Mitch Hahn kicked a sensational goal in the dying minute of the quarter, the margin was 23 points.
In effect Hahn’s goal was the sealer. West Coast ran out of puff in the final quarter, gaining lots of possessions but playing indirect football and missing targets. They had no answer to the last quarter efficiency and skill of players like Grant, Nathan Eagleton, Ryan Griffin, Giansiracusa and Barry Hall. In the end the Bulldogs ran away with the game and gave the Eagles a lesson in how to play the game for four quarters.
While the Western Bulldogs appear to be building towards their best, the Eagles are now stuck in a battle to avoid the Wooden Spoon. After Richmond had their third win in four matches and drew level on points with both West Coast and Adelaide (who are yet to play in the second half of the split round) alarm bells are ringing loudly in Perth and many are now predicting a West Coast bottom of the Ladder finish in season 2010.
Scoreboard West Coast 3.3 6.5 8.5 9.5 (59) Western Bulldogs 3.4 7.8 11.10 17.17 (118) Best West Coast: B Waters, Q Lynch, M LeCras, J Schofield, J Kennedy Bulldogs: D Giansiracusa, M Hahn, J Harbrow, R Murphy, J Grant
Article last changed on Saturday, June 26, 2010 - 9:51 PM EDT