Main content

West Coast Eagles

Grand Final: Five things we learned

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 29: Will Schofield of the Eagles competes for a mark with Steele Sidebottom of the Magpies during the 2018 Toyota AFL Grand Final match between the West Coast Eagles and the Collingwood Magpies at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on September 29, 2018 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Daniel Carson/AFL Media)
Will Schofield did not lose a one-on-one contest in the Grand Final

1. Defenders don’t often win individual medals, but there could have been a case for both Will Schofield and Tom Barrass to poll strongly in the Norm Smith Medal. Schofield won some crucial one-on-one battles deep in the back half – and even a one versus two in the second term that was critical. He was opposed to Jordan DeGoey and Jaidyn Stephenson, with the Collingwood players in the box seat to goal. Somehow, he willed himself into the contest, halved it and saved the day. Barrass was opposed to the human tower Mason Cox and was generally his master, particularly in the first half, although the American import made the most of his chances to kick two goals.

2. If Collingwood were to win the premiership it would have been fair to assume Brownlow Medal runner-up Steele Sidebottom would have been pivotal. Coming off 41 touches in the preliminary final against Richmond, Sidebottom loomed as a potential match-winner, but Mark Hutchings effectively closed him down. He restricted the Magpies’ gun to just 14 possessions, while getting 15 touches and a goal himself. Hutchings was a pivotal player throughout the season, but was especially effective in September where he was one of the most consistent contributors in the finals series.

3. The leadership qualities of Lewis Jetta have been important, particularly for the club’s other indigenous players. At three-quarter time he threw a consoling arm around Liam Ryan, who had missed an opportunity to mark inside 50, and it was a great moment in the game. While exactly what was said is unclear, it was likely some advice to focus on the final quarter. Ryan did precisely that and took an amazing contested mark as part of the chain that led to Dom Sheed slotting the winning goal from deep in the right forward pocket in the dying minutes.

4. Talking about Sheed and individual growth, how good was the Kalgoorlie Kid in the finals series? The loping left-footer was a big influence on all three games and kicked a big goal in the qualifying final against Collingwood at Optus Stadium. On that occasion he kicked on his non-preferred right as part of the Eagles’ surge to a 16-point win. And then, on Saturday, he converted an even bigger goal from the tightest of angles 28 minutes into the last term. That goal gave the Eagles a four-point lead and his kick never looked like missing.

5. In the last fortnight the Eagles ruck combination of Scott Lycett and Nathan Vardy combatted the all-Australian selections of Max Gawn and Brodie Grundy. In tandem they were able to nullify two men who were central to their respective team's cause. Lycett and Vardy were strong, committed and focused on playing their role for the Eagles and were outstanding. The hitouts were won by Collingwood 57-29, but Grundy had just 10 possessions and four marks, well down on his numbers through the course of the season. Vardy had 14 possessions and four marks, including a crucial last-term goal (after Collingwood had kicked the first two of the term), while Lycett had nine touches and a mark.