Th West Coast Eagles missed out on a crucial top four position and it cost them their season. They took care of the Bombers in the elimination final before falling to Geelong in the subsequent semi-final.
There is no doubt the Eagles loss to a travelling Hawthorn in round 23 effectively ended their season and premiership chances. In an effort to exercise any demons lingering, the Eagles have finally landed their man as Tim Kelly arrives from Geelong.
Before their untimely exit, the Eagles shaped as a genuine contender, they really only have themselves to blame.
In: Tim Kelly (Geelong), Callum Jamieson (Pick 49, Claremont), Ben Johnson (Pick 58, West Perth), Anthony Treacy (Pick 11, rookie draft, Claremont), Mitch O’neill (Pick 25, rookie draft, Tasmanian Devils), Nic Reid (Pre-season supplemental selection, West Coast WAFL), Jamaine Jones (Pre-season supplemental selection, Geelong)
Out: Matthew Allen (delisted), Patrick Bines (delisted), Keegan Brooksby (delisted), Chris Masten (delisted), Fraser McInnes (delisted), Kurt Mutimer (delisted), Brodie Riach (delisted), Josh Smith (delisted).
Off-season grade: A
Hard to fault what the Eagles got done over the break. They set out to land Tim Kelly and they got their man. Yes, they gave away a lot to get him and it may hurt them in future years, but they are in the premiership window with an ageing list. They’ve gone chips in here on Kelly and fair play!
They cleared up list space by removing some dead wood and lost no one of any huge importance. The Kelly deal will be easier to judge in time but at this stage it’s a huge win.
B: Tom Barrass, Will Schoefield, Brad Sheppard
HB: Shannon Hurn, Jeremy McGovern, Lewis Jetta
C: Dom Sheed, Elliot Yeo, Andrew Gaff
HF: Jamie Cripps, Jack Darling, Jack Petruccelle
F: Oscar Allen, Josh Kennedy, Liam Ryan
FOLL: Nic Naitanui, Luke Shuey, Tim Kelly
I/C: Tom Hickey, Mark Hutchings, Jack Redden, Liam Duggan
The Eagles’ best 22 looks reasonably set in stone. Their depth is underrated and they have seamlessly allowed players to come into their team and play a role with no issues. Nathan Vardy and Jake Waterman stand out as the two unlucky players to miss out.
Waterman is the casualty of Tim Kelly’s arrival while Nathan Vardy is the back-up ruckman, with potential debutant Bailey Williams looming as the other option there. Willie Rioli also drops out as he faces a multi-year suspension, while Jarrod Brander has also put his hand up for a round one debut.
Champion Data says:
“With a list littered with talent being able to add and All-Australian midfielder and lose no-one suggests that West Coast are primed for a tilt at a second flag in three years. Overall, their list ranks fifth for quality, with the equal most elite or above average players of anyone. A great starting point.
“So, what does the inclusion of Tim Kelly do for West Coast? He is currently rated as an above average midfielder and the 28th best in the AFL. He is more than a handy addition to a midfield.
“Elliot Yeo is the star of this group, ranking as the 8th best midfielder in the game. Luke Shuey is in the same group as Kelly, but then it’s a big drop. Dom Sheed and Andrew Gaff are a long way off joining the above category, while Jack Redden and Mark Hutchings are rated poor. This is the group that will largely determine the fate of the Eagles this season.”
Strengths and Weaknesses
Of course, the star-studded midfield featuring Kelly, Luke Shuey, Andrew Gaff and Elliott Yeo stands out and will be a handful for opposition.
Another key strength is their forward set-up – Josh Kennedy is an elite tall forward who looks primed to find his best footy again after an injury interrupted 2019. Jack Darling was superb last season in Kennedy’s absence and looks ready to assume his spot as the Eagles number one forward. Liam Ryan is all class and is as difficult match-up as anyone in the game, his speed and aerial ability are unparalleled.
Jamie Cripps is a reliable goalscorer and normally finds himself marked by the oppositions 3rd or 4th best defender.
The intercept marking of Jeremy McGovern and Tom Barrass has changed the game, with teams now focus more on marking the ball off opposition entries then spoiling and no one is better at that then the Eagles. However, your strength at times can play as a weakness.
Team that can use the ball wisely going forward can exploit the space given by the likes of McGovern and Barrass and force them to defend more then they attack. Another area they need to work on is contested footy, the Eagles were smashed in contested possessions were they finished 17th, they then ranked 18th for contested possessions after centre clearances. They don’t need to be towards the top of the list for either but they need to be more competitive.
The Eagles should realistically find themselves with a home final and a double chance. Their home ground advantage is second to none and they are presented with a great opportunity to assert their dominance at Optus Stadium. Although, will the empty crowds affect their advantage? And if the AFL looks to squeeze the fixture, will the constant travelling negatively impact them?
The addition of Tim Kelly rounds out a damaging midfield which will drive them for another premiership tilt.