Rick Browner reporting for AFANA from Patersons Stadium, Perth
Sydney and West Coast have fought out some epic battles over the years, including two memorable Grand Finals. The Eagles are playing nowhere near their glory days while the Sydney Swans were the 2012 Premiers. It was expected that Sydney would roll right over top of West Coast and they didn’t disappoint their fans.
Although the Eagles got out to a flying start with the first two goals, their big forwards troubling the Swans’ defense, it went downhill from there. Sydney soon reeled them back and went on with it thanks to some inspired play by Jesse White. He made every post a winner in trying to cement his place in the team and was too strong and nimble for the West Coast’s running brigade. In fact the Swans ran the Eagles ragged all over the ground. They were prepared to spread and lead up to the ball when a teammate had it, making the Eagles look sluggish in comparison. Daniel Hannebery exemplified this when he ran the entire length of the ground to receive a pass and convert it to a goal. To paraphrase Yogi Berra, “It was getting late early” for the West Coast players. Although the Swans only led by seven points at the first break, the signs were there that it was only going to get worse for the home team.
With a size advantage, West Coast rucks were winning the taps only to have them sharked by the opposition midfielders who won the contest with slick hands and banged the ball into their forward line in the blink of an eye. This pressure put the Eagles’ back line under siege, and if not for Darren “Bulletproof” Glass marking just about everything coming his way, the game would have blown out very quickly. As it was the Swans were well and truly in control with big Canadian Mike Pyke kicking two goals, assisted by the fleet-footed Jed Lamb who scored two of his own. Eagle Josh Kennedy was on target at the other end of the ground and his two goals gave the home crowd the illusion that there was still some gas in the West Coast tank for a third quarter run. Unfortunately the reality was that the Swans were giving the Eagles a hard lesson in Premiership football and it resulted in a handy lead of 32 points when the main break came around.
Luke Shuey was substituted for Cale Morton after he tweaked a hamstring. Morton had an immediate impact, scoring a runaway goal to give West Coast some belief that things might be getting better. It was short lived as most of the quarter was being played out in Sydney’s forward half. The Swans were giving the Eagles a clinic in how to win the ball at contests and move it with skill to whichever part of the ground they wished. Their anticipation and read on their opponent’s moves was dazzling to watch and West Coast had no answers. Many times the Eagles appeared flat-footed and running up and down on the spot for little positive effect. Sydney won the quarter and extended their lead to 37 points.
Even the best teams have down moments and Eagles' supporters' hopes were raised when Sydney started to lose the plot somewhat early in the final term. West Coast gave the Swans a taste of their own medicine when they started to swarm at the ball and win the stoppages at last. With three goals back to back early, the lead was cut to a manageable 24 points and it looked like an upset was in the making. It was not to be as Sydney decided to up the ante again and slotted three in a row of their own to quell the riot. They finished on a strong note and put the Eagles back in their box to run out 34 point winners in the end. The only highlight West Coast could take from the game was that Kennedy kicked five goals to take him to the lead in the Coleman Medal, the AFL’s award for the player who kicks the most goals for the season.
The mathematicians will be in heaven calculating the percentages, win ratios and the rest of the minutia that gives the Eagles an "on paper" chance of making the Finals. In reality they are finished and will probably look to play some rookies to blood them in for next season. Some crusty old veterans need to walk the plank, either voluntarily or at the point of the cutlass to make way for them, or else it will be more of the same next year. Sydney Swans are the outside favorites to repeat their Flag win and any team playing them in the Finals would underestimate them at their peril. They are big game players and always find a way to rise to the occasion.
Scoreboard West Coast: 3.4 5.6 6.8 11.13 (79) Sydney: 4.4 10.8 12.9 17.11 (113) Best players West Coast: Glass, Kennedy, Masten, Priddis Sydney: K Jack, Hannebery, Pyke, Kennedy
Article last changed on Tuesday, July 23, 2013 - 6:28 AM EDT