MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 22: Neil Erasmus in action during the NAB AFL Academy training session at Gosch’s Paddock on April 22, 2021 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos)

It was a disappointing year for the West Coast Eagles, who dropped out of the top-eight to their lowest finish in seven years. 

Backed as a premiership contender at the start of the season, a mounting injury list and some big losses saw the Eagles slump to ninth on the ladder. 

But it’s back to the drawing board for West Coast, who, to keep their premiership window open, will be looking to add some new faces to what is an already impressive squad.

Draft Hand

Picks: 10, 29, 35, 68, 86
Draft points: 
2629

Last November, the Eagles didn’t have much work for the National Draft, picking up two players with their lowest pick coming in the fourth round. 

That was due to the trades they off-loaded the season before to acquire Tim Kelly from Geelong

But this time around, West Coast hold their lowest draft pick since they acquired Liam Duggan at pick number 11 in the 2014 National Draft

List Needs 

Looking at the Eagles’ forward line, it seems they’re well-stocked with talent up top. 

After signing on for another season, Josh Kennedy will spearhead that attack, alongside Oscar Allen, Liam Ryan and Jack Darling, who will likely sit behind the Eagles front three at half-forward. 

The majority of the Eagles list requirements lie behind them in the middle of the park, and they may also have some room to bring in another defender. 

Embed from Getty Images

Onballer:
Fresh legs are needed in the Eagles engine room, and bringing in another midfielder will help to improve their squad depth, which did get a little thin at times this year. 

The other issue is that their list isn’t getting any younger, and while the Eagles have a raft of A-graders who can turn a game on its head, they need to start thinking about bringing in some younger players for the future. 

While Andrew Gaff, Luke Shuey and Jack Redden are all world-class players, each has now played over 200 matches, while Dom Sheed (26), Elliot Yeo (27), and Tim Kelly (28) are also coming into their peak playing years. 

Embed from Getty Images

A little further down the selection queue, Luke Edwards and Xavier O’Neill showed great promise for the West Coast last season, but if the Eagles are to keep their premiership window open, they will need to bring in some younger stars, and preferably ball carriers who can provide a little more pace through the middle. 

Defensive midfielder:
Similarly, shutting down attacks and rebounding at teams was a problem for the Eagles last season, and for that reason, they could do with a little more ballast in front of defence.

The inclusion of another defensive midfielder could also give the Eagles the security to push players like Elliot Yeo higher upfield, where Yeo can win turnovers in more compromising positions. 

Half-back or utility defender:
The West Coast could also use another utility defender to help provide cover across the back six. Last season, Harry Edwards stepped up to the mantle, having an excellent season providing injury cover for Jeremy McGovern and Tom Barrass

That forced Adam Simpson to pull Oscar Allen back into defence to cover the tall positions, and while Allen did an excellent job in defence, ultimately, the Eagles do miss his scoring ability when he’s not playing inside 50. 

Embed from Getty Images

Ideal Recruits 

Campbell Chesser:
Chesser seems to be one of the favourites to move to the West Coast this season. As a rebounding half-back who can also play deep from midfield, Chesser could be the solution to a lot of the Eagles' problems.  

Known for his excellent speed and attack orientated playing style, the Sandringham Dragons star is an onballer who could help add an injection of pace to the Eagles midfield. 

One of the most impressive pieces of his game is his work in traffic, and at AFL level, his composure to retain the ball and keep possession while transitioning forward will come as a huge help for the West Coast next season. 

Accompany that with his superior work rate off the ball and Chesser becomes a great match for the Eagles needs this season. However, he is in hot demand from other clubs around the AFL, and the Eagles will need to negotiate well to acquire his services. 

Embed from Getty Images

Neil Erasmus:
Subiaco product and midfield/forward Neil Erasmus is another ball-winning player that West Coast could look to tie down this week. 

Hailing from WA, Erasmus has had some impressive starts at WAFL Colts level, kicking four goals in the 2020 Grand Final while averaging an impressive 27 disposals across four outings in the league. 

As an efficient ball user, he models Andrew Gaff’s style, collecting and redistributing the ball forwards upfield, and at 188cm and 80kg, his height and strong marking qualities also render him as an excellent aerial weapon.

Embed from Getty Images

Matthew Johnson:
Similarly, Matthew Johnson is another tall WA player the Eagles should consider snapping up. The 192cm onballer shares similar traits to Bulldogs midfielder Jackson Macrae and uses his clean hands and swift agility to dominate stoppage play to navigate congested areas of the field. 

Having played alongside Erasmus in the same 2020 flag-winning Subiaco side, Johnson’s precision kicking skills are another excellent part of his game that see him fit in well with Adam Simpson’s kick-marking style of play. 

Embed from Getty Images

Darcy Wilmot: As a leader at the back of the field, Darcy Wilmot is a defender the West Coast will be keeping an eye on this year. Physical on the ground, aggressive with the ball in hand, and unafraid of aerial battles, this defender will jump high with his back to goal to take those all-important intercepts.

While his aerial qualities and impressive groundwork make him an outstanding player to have in the back six, Wilmot can also win turnovers and launch attacking moves from the back half of the field. 

He will be well sought-after in this year’s draft, and while the Eagles may prioritise their favourable picks to secure a top midfielder, Wilmot would be a great asset to help shore up the Eagles defence and add a bit more physicality to their backlines.