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West Coast Eagles

Five things we learned against the Pies

Highlights: Eagles v Magpies Check out the highlights from our crucial Qualifying Final win!

1. Opposition teams plan for the intercept marking and rebounding skills of star Eagles defenders Jeremy McGovern and Shannon Hurn. Certainly Collingwood put a bit of work into them, but the West Coast pair were still key contributors. McGovern was supreme in the air, had an amazing opening term and despite copping a bit of physical punishment, pushed through to be among the best afield. He and Hurn, an exquisite ball user, each took nine marks and thwarted many of Collingwood’s forward probes.

2. The electrifying skills of Willie Rioli and Liam Ryan ignite the home crowd every time they go near the ball. You sense the fans’ anticipation of something special when they are near the footy and they rarely disappoint. Both were involved in important moments, but perhaps one aspect of what they bring to the team is underplayed. Their defensive pressure is crucial and Rioli, in particular, is impressive in that respect. Aside from his 14 possessions, five inside 50 entries and a goal, the most telling element of his game was his 26 pressure acts – including a couple of run-down tackles.

3. The advantage of finishing in the top two at the end of the qualifying rounds is that it gives the club two home finals. The degree of that advantage was illustrated with 59,585 screaming fans urging the Eagles over the line. They were at their most boisterous when the Eagles were trailing, but lifted it to new decibel levels as West Coast soared in the last five minutes – starting with a spectacular goal from Lewis Jetta. That support will again be a factor when the Eagles clash with Hawthorn or Melbourne in a fortnight’s time.

4. Having missed the last five rounds with a fracture in his leg, it was going to take some time for Josh Kennedy to work his way into touch. After a first half when he looked threatening without imposing himself on the game, his second half was impactful. A couple of strong marks, two important goals and his work in tandem with Jack Darling helped the Eagles over the line. Between them they kicked four goals and took 11 marks – six of them inside the attacking arc.

5. Losing half-back Brad Sheppard to a hamstring injury in the opening quarter threw out the team balance, before they sorted themselves out and settled on their defensive roles. Sheppard has been an integral part of the team’s backline structure in recent years and has enjoyed a stellar 2018 season. Hopefully the scans show a minor grade strain in the muscle and he can be back for the preliminary final.