West Coast Eagles vs Collingwood Magpies (Optus Stadium)
STATE OF PLAY:
The Saturday clash between West Coast and Collingwood is a top four battle of two teams that have been hit hard by injury during the season but have come through in pretty good shape nonetheless. Both teams will more than likely welcome back marquee players for the clash, with the Eagles hoping to add gun forward Josh Kennedy and speedy Lewis Jetta, while the Magpies are hoping for a boost with Jeremy Howe, Tyson Goldsack, and key midfielder Adam Treloar a possibility to return from injury.
HEAD TO HEAD FORM:
In their only clash this season, the Eagles surprised many with a comfortable win at the MCG, defeating Collingwood by 35 points. The win was a costly one for the Eagles as ruckman Nic Naitanui went down with a second season-ending ACL injury. In their last five clashes dating back to 2015, the ledger stands 3-2 in West Coast’s favor.
If Kennedy is healthy, the Eagles boast the best two-pronged attack in the AFL with Jack Darling having arguably his best season yet. Half-forward Mark LeCras, seemingly on his last legs early in the season, has provided a solid boost to the forward line this season with 29 goals to his name. Add in dynamic small forwards Willie Rioli (25 goals) and Liam Ryan (17 goals), and the Eagles have a handful for the undermanned Collingwood defense to deal with. Jeremy McGovern is the class of the Eagles back line with a team high average of 8.43 intercept marks per game, while Captain Shannon Hurn and his booming kick have been a revelation for the West Coast as the 30 year old enjoys the best season of his excellent career.
Brodie Grundy has had a monster season in the ruck, and stands as the biggest weapon for the Magpies in the absence of the Eagles’ Nic Naitanui. Going head to head against Scott Lycett should give the Magpies the edge around the midfield with Steele Sidebottom, Scott Pendlebury, and a rejuvenated Taylor Adams ready to reap the rewards. If Adam Treloar does indeed play, all of a sudden the Collingwood midfield looks to have a big advantage over the Andrew Gaff-less West Coast.
While the Eagles have the forward line with all of the “street cred”, the Magpies weapon up forward is its variety. With Jordan de Goey (2.12 goals per game), Brody Mihocek (1.92), and Will Hoskin-Elliott (1.77) sharing the load, there is enough to cause the Eagles defense plenty of headaches. Add in the monster sized and rapidly improving Mason Cox (a goal per game) with AFL rising star Jaidyn Stephenson (1.55), and all of a sudden there are too many options for West Coast shut down completely.
West Coast will go in favorites with the bookmakers due mainly to the game being played in Perth and their big win over Collingwood in round seventeen. To win, the Eagles will have to have their forward line firing, as the Collingwood midfield appears to have the edge on paper. Finals experience may come into play with the Eagles boasting an edge of 169-116 in finals played. The Eagles can win if they get big games from Elliot Yeo and Jack Redden, allowing their midfield to break even. For Collingwood, it is all about their makeshift back line being able to stand up against Kennedy, Darling, Rioli, and company. The losses of Lynden Dunn, Darcy Moore, and Matt Scharenberg cannot be understated when facing such an elite forward group.
This game could be decided on whether Scott Lycett can do enough to stifle the influence of the rampaging Brodie Grundy. If Lycett can nullify Grundy and cut off his supply to the Collingwood midfield, the Eagles will be in good shape.
West Coast by 19 points
Article last changed on Thursday, September 06, 2018 - 1:04 PM EDT