WEST Coast has sent a message to the rest of the competition, after defeating the highly touted Collingwood by 35 points at the MCG.
While the win was somewhat soured by a left knee injury to Nic Naitanui, the Eagles will take great confidence from the victory, knowing they can perform without their star ruckman.
Naitanui played no part in the second half of the match, with the unheralded Scott Lycett stepping up to perform his role against possible All-Australian Brodie Grundy.
Indeed, the Eagles turned the match on its head in the third term, as small forward Willie Rioli and in form midfielder Andrew Gaff made their respective marks.
Rioli booted two majors, flooring the Collingwood opposition with his freak ability that can only be put down to that famous DNA.
Gaff, after a quiet first half, kicked one goal from 11 touches, while gaining 185 metres in a performance that would only have enhanced his price tag.
The Eagles had struggled to kick a winning score without twin spearheads Josh Kennedy and Jack Darling. But with the duo both back after injury lay-offs the competition was reminded of the real threat West Coast poses this season.
And now they know they can beat a contender on the MCG turf, something four-time premiership player Jordan Lewis said shouldn’t be understated.
“To come away from the MCG and play the way they want to play …. with Kennedy and Darling back in side they just provide so many forward options for the Eagles,” Lewis said on Fox Footy.
“It has been a complete performance.
“When you look at the game, West Coast can take confidence from it knowing they lost their ruckman but can still get the job done against a quality opposition at a ground where they haven’t had much success at.
“You get great confidence from a day like today.”
While the size of Subiaco and the MCG were never comparable, the Eagles’ new home deck of Optus Stadium is almost identical to the hallowed turf in Melbourne.
West Coast may not get to play on the MCG every second week, but now they have the advantage of playing on a ground that has very similar dimensions.
But it wasn’t just the ground that played into the Eagles’ hands. Indeed, coach Adam Simpson had winners across every line.
In defence, Shannon Hurn and Jeremy McGovern got on top of the mid-sized Magpies in the second half, which was no small feat given Josh Thomas and Jordan De Goey never stopped threatening.
Mark Hutchings chafed Steele Sidebottom to within an inch of his life and lowered the talented Magpies’ colours.
And as aforementioned, the multi-pronged forward attack was as potent as ever.
Geelong premiership captain Joel Selwood suggested the performance was the Eagles’ best of the season — and one that should send shockwaves throughout the AFL.
“They’re right up there,” Selwood said on Fox Footy.
“Today they’ve been super impressive. This is a best as they’ve played.”
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