The Collingwood Magpies defeated the West Coast Eagles in an epic battle by one point, to knock the Eagles out of the final series. The Eagles had been unbeatable in their seven home ground games this year but were knocked off their perch when it mattered most. The Pies were thrashed by the Eagles at Optus Stadium earlier in the year and few pundits expected them to come out of a COVID-19 lockdown and trouble the home team. With their respective seasons on the line, both teams began the match nervously with players dropping marks (catches) and fumbling the ball in the opening minutes.
The West Coast Eagles withstood a last quarter challenge from the St Kilda Saints to secure a place in this year's final series. The Eagles, struggling with injury to eight of their first-choice players and losing defensive linchpin Jeremy McGovern at the main break, looked gone, after St Kilda surged to the lead midway through the final quarter. However a goal to Josh Kennedy and then a sweeping handpass from Kennedy to Tim Kelly, put the Eagles back in front with twelve minutes to play and the Saints were unable to respond.
Port Adelaide Power continued their bright start to the season with a convincing win over the West Coast Eagles. Port Adelaide played rugged no-nonsense physical football, where they used their muscle to crunch the opposition in the packs; and then distribute the ball to their unheralded outside players, who moved the ball quickly to unsettle opposition defenses. West Coast were hoping the fine conditions would finally allow them to play their possession and clean delivery game; however, the Power rarely gave them space and dictated the game from within the packs.
Big forward, Charley Dixon, dominated the air in the Port forward line and finished with six goals. To the casual observer, it may seem that Dixon was a one-man band, but it was a team effort.
In the final game for round one of 2020, the West Coast Eagles showed why they would be considered one of the favorites to win the competition this year. (Ed. note: the AFL has suspended the season until at least May 31st.) The home team enjoyed the warm day (88º F. ), but it was their team structure and discipline which cooked the visitors. Melbourne started the game determined to show they are a better team than results from last year suggested. However, it was their delivery into their attacking zone that demonstrated they had learned nothing over the summer break. By quarter time, the Eagles were up five-zero in goals and it was already clear that Melbourne lack the structure of the home side.
In a Friday night (Melbourne time) Semi-Final at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, the Geelong Cats picked themselves up from their previous week's loss to the Collingwood Magpies, to keep their finals hopes alive and defeat the reigning Premiers, the West Coast Eagles. The Cats had been under intense media scrutiny all week, as many pundits predicted the Cats would again drop out of the finals series with two straight losses. The Eagles too had their own mid-week drama to deal with, as small forward Willie Rioli was handed a provisional suspension for interfering with a urine test administered by the Australian Sports Anti-doping Authority.
The Cats opened the game with a burst of goals. Their plan was clear. Run the ball through the middle of the ground, using handpassing and accurate kicking to catch the Eagle intercept markers [mark = catch] out of position. After nine minutes of play the Cats had booted three goals, keeping West Coast scoreless. Geelong's Captain Joel Selwood continually put his body on the line and midfielders Tim Kelly and Cameron Guthrie used their pace and ball skills to break the Eagles defensive lines. The Eagles abandoned their zone defense structure and played a man-on-man defense,
The West Coast Eagles held off the brave Adelaide Crows, to put a speed bump in the way of the Crows' push for the finals. Much was at stake for both sides. The Crows were playing for a place on the top eight, the Eagles were playing for a chance to creep into the top two. In perfect football conditions, the first quarter was an arm wrestle. The Crows concentrated on retaining the ball to stop the Eagles using their kicking game to control proceedings. It worked for a while, as both defenses applied plenty of pressure. The first goal was scored by the Eagles at the twelve-minute mark when Oscar Allen took a good mark (catch) and converted from a set shot from the boundary. (Ed.note: It was his first of three, in what was recognized as a performance that earned a Rising Star nomination on Monday.)
Three minutes later Jack Darling marked an Allen kick, after the Crows turned the ball over in defense. Darling's set shot from the boundary was also accurate. The Crows' only goal came from a Matt Crouch pass to teenager Darcy Fogarty, who marked and converted from fifty meters. Live-wire West Coast forward, Liam Ryan, gathered a loose ball and weaved through traffic to goal for West Coast with just seconds remaining of the quarter. The Eagles entered the attacking zone 21 times for three goals. The Crows failed to make full use of their six entries, finishing with just 1.4 for the quarter.
In Western Derby Number 50, the West Coast Eagles annihilated the inaccurate Fremantle Dockers to move to second on the AFL ladder and place a huge question mark over the Fremantle Dockers' finals hopes. After a slow start to the season the Eagles have hit their straps in their quest for back-to-back Premierships, with perhaps Geelong as the only team that can stand in their way.
The first quarter had the hallmarks of a tough ‘Derby’. It was a tight struggle, with defenses on top and forwards under pressure and missing "gettable" goals. It took eight minutes for the first goal to be scored. Jamie Cripps slotted a major (goal worth 6 points) for West Coast after marking (catching) a centering kick from Liam Ryan. It took another eight minutes for the next goal, which was a skudding 30-meter soccered goal by the Eagles' forward, Willie Rioli. The warning signs were there for the Dockers in the second half of the quarter.
The West Coast Eagles survived a spirited second-half challenge by the Gold Coast Suns, to position themselves for a move into the top eight. After two consecutive thrashings, the Eagles were expected to work back into form against the young Suns; and that is what they did in the first half. The Eagles started slowly, put the Suns to the sword in the second quarter; but then struggled as the Suns fought back in the second half.
The big movers on the AFANA AFL Power Poll this week were the Tigers and the Saints up four places each, while the Adelaide Crows fell four spots after a disastrous loss to the previously winless Kangaroos. Other notable happenings over another topsy-turvy round of footy were the Demons notching their first win for the season up in Sydney, while the previously unbeaten Cats were ambushed late by an impressive Giants outfit despite losing Callan Ward to a nasty knee injury in the first quarter.
Thursday night saw Geelong continue its early season dominance with a stirring win over Adelaide, the upstart Brisbane Lions stormed home to defeat the vastly improved Port Adelaide and the Grand Final replay saw the Eagles once again victorious over a disappointing Collingwood.
Highly fancied Melbourne are yet to register a win after faltering against Essendon, the much maligned Gold Coast Suns won again, and Richmond added a couple more players to its ever increasing injury list in a big loss to an impressive Greater Western Sydney Giants at Spotless Stadium.