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West Coast Eagles

Five things we learned against the Demons

PERTH, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 22: Scott Lycett of the Eagles contests a ruck with Max Gawn of the Demons during the 2018 AFL Second Preliminary Final match between the West Coast Eagles and the Melbourne Demons at Optus Stadium on September 22, 2018 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Will Russell/AFL Media)
Scott Lycett teamed up with Nathan Vardy to take down Melbourne goliath Max Gawn

1. West Coast were intent on a strong start and it couldn’t have been any better for them. The pressure they applied from the outset forced Melbourne into error and the first half was sublime, setting up a 10-goal advantage at the long break. So impressive was it that Melbourne were goalless at that stage – the first time since Richmond in 1927 that a team had been without a major after two quarters in a final.

2. Continuing with the theme of pressure, which was a key to the Eagles' performance, the tackle count was another indicator. West Coast led the tackles 59-34, but a lot of the pressure came from the West Coast small forwards. Jamie Cripps, typically, led the way with 18 pressure acts, while Willie Rioli (13), Liam Ryan (12) and Mark LeCras (12) were also prominent.

3. Playing a role within the team structure is essential in achieving the result in big games. There has been no more selfless player at the Eagles this year than Mark Hutchings and he was again prominent against the Dees. Hutchings went to Jack Viney, a key midfielder, and nullified his impact. Viney had 21 possessions to Hutchings' 14, but only four of them were kicks and Hutchings was with him every step of the game. The Eagles needed a big effort through the midfield to get the result and Hutchings, in concert with Jack Redden, Luke Shuey, Elliot Yeo and Dom Sheed won that battle.

4. Last time Melbourne were in Perth, when they won by 17 points in round 22, ruckman Max Gawn was the difference. Yesterday, Eagles pair Scott Lycett and Nathan Vardy worked hard against one of the Brownlow Medal favourites and limited his influence. As a combination Lycett and Vardy accumulated 12 possessions, two marks and 28 hitouts against Gawn’s 11, three and 36. But the Eagles won the clearances 40-32 and that was an important win. Gawn is another midfielder for Melbourne when at his best, but was unable to produce it in the preliminary final.

5. Much has been made – and deservedly so – of the form of all-Australian defenders Shannon Hurn and Jeremy McGovern this year. But the younger players in the defensive structure have also stood tall and were prominent against Melbourne. Tom Barrass was outstanding in the air while Tom Cole and Liam Duggan hit the contests hard at ground level and repelled many of the opposition’s forward thrusts.