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Last glance: Eagles v Dockers

Rhys Dickinson  July 16, 2017 10:00 AM

AFL 2017 Round 06 - West Coast v Fremantle

Liam Duggan could the key to an Eagles win this afternoon

Changes:

West Coast

IN – Josh Kennedy, Will Schofield, Jackson Nelson, Chris Masten

OUT – Eric Mackenzie (Hamstring), Scott Lycett (Shoulder), Malcolm Karpany (Quad), Sharrod Wellingham (Omitted)

Fremantle

IN – David Mundy, Lee Spurr

OUT – Tommy Sherridan (Hamstring), Brady Grey (Omitted)

Form:

West Coast relinquished a golden opportunity to cement its spot in the top eight when it succumbed to a late Power surge at Domain Stadium last Sunday. The Eagles got off to a slow start, letting Port Adelaide kick the game’s first four goals, but the home side sprung to life midway through the first quarter and kicked seven-straight goals to lead Ken Hinkley’s men by 11 points at half-time. The visitors evelled the ledger at 68 points apiece before the final change of ends and kicked eight-goals-to-three in the fourth term to defeat the Eagles by 32-points. In spite of the disappointing result, Mark LeCras and Jack Darling impressed with four goals each, Andrew Gaff amassed a team-high 28 disposals, Luke Shuey topped the contested possession count with 14 hard ball gets and Matt Priddis stuck six effective tackles.

Ryan Nyhuis capped off a dream debut with two late goals to help Fremantle hold on for a heart-stopping four-point win over North Melbourne last Sunday. The 20-year-old defender booted four goals, the last of which at the 28-minute mark, to put Freo six points up. However, Todd Goldstein looked set to steal the win for North when he received a free kick 25m from goal after being held in a ruck contest in the dying seconds. But Freo dodged a bullet when the Roos ruckman pulled his set shot to the right. Connor Blakely starred in defence with 32 disposals, energetic forward Michael Walters collected the ball 20 times and kicked three goals and Nat Fyfe amassed 18 contested possessions at Etihad Stadium.

Key Eagle:

The Eagles need burgeoning third-year talent Liam Duggan to continue his rich vein of form this afternoon. The 20-year-old midfielder boosted his stocks in recent weeks by demonstrating he is more than serviceable as a dashing half back, and the team might need him to play both of roles in the 46th and final Carlton Draught Derby at Subiaco Oval. Duggan could be called on to help contain the likes of Fremantle small forwards Michael Walters and Hayden Ballantyne in addition to spending extended periods on ball to give West Coast a little more nip around the stoppages.

Which line must fire?

West Coast’s midfield needs to be on-song this afternoon. The team's nucleus took it up to Port Adelaide for two quarters, but their intensity dropped after the main break and they lost the inside-50 count (37-14), contested possessions (66-54) and clearances (26-18) in the second half. The Eagles needs its inside stars – most notably Matt Priddis, Sam Mitchell and Luke Shuey – to dig in at the coal face and win plenty of hard balls against the likes of Dockers skipper Nat Fyfe, Lachie Neale and David Mundy. West Coast’s ruck division also needs to make the most of Aaron Sandilands’ absence and give the team’s outside runners a clean path forward with some taps to advantage. If West Coast’s centre brigade can get on top it will give the team’s elite forward line a good shot at outscoring Ross Lyon’s Dockers.

Danger man:

Livewire Dockers forward Michael Walters has been causing opposition back lines ­– and midfields – headaches in recent weeks. The versatile goal sneak has been given permission to venture outside the attacking arc and has made the most of his time working with Fremantle’s renowned on-ball division. He is averaging 20.2 disposals, 8.7 contested possessions, 4.1 inside 50s, 2.7 clearances and 2.6 tackles per game in 2017. He has also kicked 20 goals – the most of any Docker – and is in many ways the heart and soul of the purple army. If West Coast can find a way to keep Walters in check, it will go a long way to taking the crowd out of the game and winning the contest.

Final thoughts:

This is a make or break game for the Eagles. A win could catapult the team back into the top eight and give it a foundation to work from as September nears, whereas a loss could put the club further back in the finals race pack. The team will also want to give their members and fans bragging rights following the last derby at Domain Stadium ahead of football's transition to the new Perth Stadium in 2018.