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Last glance: Eagles v Blues

Rhys Dickinson  August 12, 2017 9:00 AM

'Eagles must be stronger for longer' Andrew Embley, Steven Bandy and Ben Roberts preview the Eagles' round 21 clash with Carlton
Nathan Vardy could play a big part in tonight's clash with Carlton

Nathan Vardy could play a big part in tonight's clash with Carlton


West Coast

IN – Matt Priddis, Lewis Jetta, Nathan Vardy

OUT – Malcolm Karpany (Omitted), Chris Masten (Omitted), Will Schofield (Omitted)


IN – Tom Williamson

OUT – Caleb Marchbank (Arm)


West Coast let slip another opportunity to cement its spot in the top eight with an eight-point loss to St Kilda last week. As has been the case for much of the year, the Eagles held gave themselves some breathing room early in the final quarter but watched the game slip away in the dying minutes. In spite of the disappointing result, several players fought valiantly to get the team over the line. Josh Kennedy booted five goals, skipper Shannon Hurn amassed 22 disposals and eight marks, while inside midfielders Dom Sheed and Jack Redden combined for 45 disposals and 21 contested possessions.

Carlton might have slumped to its seventh successive loss of the year against Essendon, but they were in the match until the very last minute. The Bombers looked set for an easy day at the office when they kicked five of the opening six goals to get out to a 28-point lead late in the first quarter, but the Blues stifled Essendon’s ball movement and hit the lead midway through the third term. Brendan Bolton's men looked on track to record an upset win after kicking the first three goals of the final quarter, but the Bombers rallied late and kicked three goals of their own to sneak home by eight points.

Key Eagle:

Nathan Vardy needs to have a big game against the Blues this evening. The versatile big man comes back into the fold after missing two weeks of senior action. Vardy suffered a glute strain in the lead up to West Coast’s Round 19 win over Brisbane and failed to force his way into the club’s best 22 for its crunch clash with the Saints. He has been recalled on the back of a strong showing for East Perth, in which he booted two goals, amassed seven contested possessions and effected 17 hit-outs playing predominantly inside the attacking 50m arc. Vardy will probably be asked to do more work in the middle of the ground against Matthew Kreuzer tonight. If he can nullify the big Blue’s influence in the ruck and run him around the park it will go a long way to helping West Coast secure a much-needed win.

Which line must fire?

West Coast’s forward line needs to lift against the Blues this evening. The attacking unit kept the team in the game against the Saints with its goal-kicking efficiency, but it failed to apply sufficient defensive heat when it was without the ball in hand. The Eagles cannot allow Carlton to play their slow, methodical style of football tonight; they must pressure the game and find a way to lock the ball in the forward 50 or create repeat attacking entries. Jack Darling, who ranks among the AFL’s top defensive forwards, will lead the charge alongside Jamie Cripps, Josh Kennedy, Mark LeCras, Luke Partington and Lewis Jetta, who returns to the team after battling a calf injury for the past fortnight.

Danger man:

Blues midfielder Bryce Gibbs has been in superb form this year. The 28-year-old is averaging a career-best 27.4 disposals per game in addition to 10.6 contested possessions, 5.3 clearances and 3.7 inside 50 entries in season 2017. When Gibbs is up and about, Carlton is a much better side. For that reason alone, it would be no surprise to see Mark Hutchings go to Gibbs at the first centre bounce. If Hutchings can keep Gibbs in check and rely on his fellow midfielders to contain the rest of Carlton's on-ball brigade, it might just take the sting out of the Blues’ midfield attack.

Final thoughts:

The equation is simple: West Coast has to win big against the Blues tonight. With just three games remaining in the home-and-away season, the stakes are as high as they’ve ever been in season 2017. The squad was put through the ringer following its loss to the Saints and they’re fired up to atone for that disappointing performance.