PERTH, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 08: Matt Priddis of the Eagles focuses during the anthem during the 2016 AFL Second Elimination Final match between the West Coast Eagles and the Western Bulldogs at Domain Stadium on September 08, 2016 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Daniel Carson/AFL Media/Getty Images)

In the lead up to the 2017 season, we will be assessing each club’s list and naming our best 22 for round one. Working our way up the ladder; following the analysis of North Melbourne, the next cab off the rank is West Coast.

Ins: Sam MitchellNathan Vardy, Daniel VenablesJosh Rotham, Willi Rioli, Jake WatermanThomas GorterDrew Petrie.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – AUGUST 28: Sam Mitchell of the Hawks looks upfield during the round 23 AFL match between the Hawthorn Hawks and the Collingwood Magpies at Melbourne Cricket Ground on August 28, 2016 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Michael Dodge/Getty Images)

Outs: Corey Adamson, Jamie Bennell, Damien Cavka, Brant Colledge, Xavier Ellis, Kane Lucas, Patrick McGinnity, Alec Waterman, Mitch Brown, Kane Lucas.

Zero Hanger 2017 ladder prediction: 7th

It was a disappointing end to 2016 for West Coast. After putting together a pretty good body of work, they had a reasonable shot at the flag after finishing 6th. Granted, they came up against an inspired Western Bulldogs side, but it was the manner in which they were defeated that should give Adam Simpson concern.

In that elimination final they were completely dominated in the midfield and Simpson identified this, both in post match and their trade period. In came 307-game superstar Sam Mitchell to strengthen the midfield, as well as Nathan Vardy and Drew Petrie to address their ruck crisis.

Strengths

The forward line is the obvious strength for the Eagles, it’s one of the best in the league. Coleman medallist Josh Kennedy headlines the group, with fellow tall Jack Darling doing the work up the ground. With either Nathan Vardy or Scott Lycett also resting forward, it makes for incredibly difficult match-ups for the opposition defense. It’s no surprise that Mark LeCras’ relatively injury-free run in the last two seasons has coincided with the Eagles success.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – AUGUST 28: Nathan Vardy of the Cats kicks the ball during the round 22 AFL match between the Geelong Cats and the Collingwood Magpies at Melbourne Cricket Ground on August 28, 2015 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Michael Dodge/Getty Images)

The Eagles have recruited well in the last few off-seasons and it shows with the depth the side displays. Simpson has been quoted in the pre-season as identifying 28 players that are in the mix for round one, it’s made it tough to pick the side. Redden, MacKenzie and Jetta would walk into most teams in the AFL, while youngsters such as Dom Sheed, Tom Barrass, Liam Duggan and Jackson Nelson have played enough games to suggest they can play a role when required. Drew Petrie is a solid back up, but I wouldn’t expect him to be any more than that, he looked over the hill last season.

Weaknesses

With the addition of Mitchell their midfield looks far more formidable. However, there is still a lack of two-way running. Matt Priddis and Luke Shuey do most of the work, averaging 8.5 and 6.5 tackles a game. But given the time Andrew Gaff and Chris Masten spend on the ball, they should be laying more than two tackles per game. Nic Natanui’s dominance has somewhat hidden this flaw. As was providing silver service from the ruck, the midfield could gamble on winning the contest and run forward. Without him the Eagles will need to rediscover their defensive mindset.

Projected West Coast 2017 round one best 22:

FB: Shannon Hurn, Will Schofield, Tom Barrass

HB: Brad Sheppard, Jeremy McGovern, Sam Butler

C: Andrew Gaff, Sam Mitchell, Chris Masten

HF: Elliot Yeo, Jack Darling, Jamie Cripps

FF: Mark LeCras, Josh Kennedy, Josh Hill

FOL: Scott Lycett, Matt Priddis, Luke Shuey

I/C: Mark Hutchings, Sharrod Wellingham, Nathan Vardy, Dom Sheed

EMG: Lewis JettaEric MacKenzie, Jack Redden

Not considered: Nic Natanui (ACL).