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.
The West Coast Eagles outclassed and out-muscled the Fremantle Dockers to strengthen their grip on second spot on the ladder. However, their win could have serious ramifications for their premiership hopes as their main play maker, Andrew Gaff, looks set to be banned for an extended period. Gaff swung a left arm haymaker into the Dockers’ second draft pick, Andrew Brayshaw, breaking his jaw and re-arranging several teeth. The incident sparked several ugly melees as Fremantle players targeted Gaff with ferocious tackles and bumps. The Eagles absorbed the renewed vigor of the Dockers and finished the game playing conservatively, but still in control and making good use of their forward line air superiority.
The West Coast Eagles controlled the Western Bulldogs for most of the day to put in a workman-like display of winter weather football, to run our comfortable winners. The Dogs fielded a young team with the majority of players in their second or third season, and it showed, against the more experienced Eagles. Playing conditions were tricky with a strong wind blowing and some showers of rain in the second half. The game was unspectacular and dour as players dropped marks (catches), missed easy goals and kicked the ball out bounds without being touched (resulting in a free kick to the opposition) in their attempts to master the vagaries of the wind swirling around the field.
After another top notch round of footy, Richmond holds onto top spot on the AFANA Power Poll as a result of its 47 point win over the Adelaide Crows, damaging the Crows chances of returning to finals football in 2018. Collingwood had to fight hard to defeat a determined Essendon, while the Swans stumbled at home against a very impressive Geelong.
Port Adelaide kept in touch with the top two after a comfortable win over Saint Kilda, the Eagles returned to the winners list in the “battle of the decimated forward lines” as they held off the Giants in Perth, and the Hawks solidified their run at the finals with a second half blitz to defeat the Bulldogs.
The West Coast Eagles won a Sunday thriller to end their run of losses and halt the Greater Western Sydney Giants’ surge towards the finals. The Giants threw everything they had at the Eagles and it was only their inaccuracy in front of goals that cost them the game. Both teams were missing key personnel in their respective forward areas, but the Eagles manufactured goals when needed, and the Giants were off line at key moments.
The game was played at a fierce pace with both teams moving the ball quickly with handball and long kicks into forward lines. West Coast’s Nic Naitanui dominated the Giants’ journeyman ruckman Dawson Simpson at bouncedowns and throw-ins, allowing the Eagle midfielder’s Andrew Gaff, Luke Shuey, and Jack Redden to gain an advantage in clearances. However, when the ball was kicked long to the Eagle forwards, the tall Giant defenders Sam Taylor, Adam Corr and Phil Davis spoiled the kicks repeatedly.
The Essendon Bombers completed a surprising and convincing demolition of the West Coast Eagles to knock the big birds from the top of the ladder. The fleet-footed Bomber midfielders tore the Eagles apart in the first half, and their work was finished with flair and panache by Jake Stringer and Devon Smith up forward.
The Eagles’ Nic Naitanui had a slight edge over the Bombers' Tom Bellchambers in the ruck but Essendon cleared the ball from congested areas more efficiently. Bellchambers also took a number of strong marks around the ground. The Bombers concentrated on exploiting the Eagles’ lack of midfield pace by giving their speed machines freedom to take on their slower opponents. Fittingly, the Bomber’s first goal was initiated by the pace of Adam Saad. Dashing from half-back, Saad weaved his way past four Eagles’
Chris Kowald reporting for AFANA from Optus Stadium, Perth
The West Coast Eagles remain undefeated and have won their tenth consecutive game, but they left the ground to subdued celebrations after being pushed by a stubborn St Kilda team, who refused to be intimidated by the league leaders.
The cool windless evening suited open play and fast ball movement and West Coast started in hot form. The Eagles had three goals on the board by the eight-minute mark with big men Nic Naitanui, Jack Darling and Josh Kennedy all flying for big marks (catches). Naitanui out marked St Kilda’s Tom Hickey to kick the first goal.
Boris Kilpatrick, special to AFANA from Australia
Almost a third of the way into the 2018 season and round seven gave us some answers while it also gave us plenty of questions. The West Coast Eagles are for real, Richmond are showing no signs of the dreaded “premiership hangover” and the Sydney Swans have seemingly lost their home ground dominance. Hawthorn is once again a contender after moving out the old and adding some ready- made talent.