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West Coast Eagles

Last time we met the Demons

Last time we met the Demons West Coast won its way into the 2018 Grand Final with a crushing 66-point win over Melbourne

The adage suggests that it is foolhardy to continue doing things the same way hoping for a different outcome.

And the West Coast Eagles certainly learned from the experience about a month earlier against Melbourne at Optus Stadium.

The importance of starting well – or more specifically preventing the visiting team from getting their teeth into the game early – was evident when they came to town in round 22.

The Dees screamed out of the blocks and kicked the first four goals, the Eagles fought back and hit the lead in the final term, but Melbourne responded and won by 17 points.

It was one of the reasons they came for the return bout with an element of confidence, albeit with much higher stakes on the table, for this preliminary final.

The Eagles were hell-bent on taking the wind out of their sails from the start and the plan was executed perfectly. To such an extent, that the Demons were effectively out of the game at half-time. Goalless.

They became the first team since Carlton in 1927 to be without a major on the board in a final with half the game complete. The Eagles led 10.9 (69) to 0.6 (6) and had effectively booked their place in the grand final with an hour of footy of remaining.

It was a sublime opening where the Demons appeared to be intimidated by the manic pressure of the Eagles, the rabid support of almost 60,000 of local fans and ultimately a scoreboard that was ticking over with the rapidity of a tachometer.

The much-vaunted Melbourne midfield was worked over by a West Coast engine room that continued to be underestimated by those outside the club.

Mark Hutchings went to the Dees’ spiritual leader Jack Viney and blanketed his flame, Jack Redden, Dom Sheed and Elliot Yeo ensured a steady stream of opportunities flowed into the forward 50 and Luke Shuey brushed aside his shadow – aka James Harmes.

When the ball went inside the scoring zone, Josh Kennedy was white hot. Jamie Cripps, Mark LeCras and Jack Darling were similarly imposing and with added defensive pressure – and goals – coming from Liam Ryan and Willie Rioli, the Dees were under siege.

Pressure, both real and perceived, caused the Dees to be nervous and fumbly to such an extent that one of their most experienced defenders, Jordan Lewis, made a couple of uncustomary handball errors that resulted in turnover goals.

Kennedy had four goals to half-time, such was the brilliance of his early start, and with Darling, LeCras and Cripps kicking three each by game’s end, the Eagles won by a rather comfortable 11 goals.

And it could have been more. The first quarter blitz deserved to net better than 4.8. Regardless, it was comprehensive.

Another important element of the triumph was the effort of ruckmen Scott Lycett and Nathan Vardy, who worked in tandem to nullify the influence of Max Gawn. They played directly alongside him and without his usual input the Dees struggled for momentum.

In addition, skipper Shannon Hurn, key backs Tom Barrass and Jeremy McGovern and Lewis Jetta, Tom Cole and Liam Duggan all played strongly. Will Schofield was included as the replacement for Brad Sheppard and also performed his role.

Second Preliminary Final
Optus Stadium, Saturday September 22

West Coast Eagles            4.8          10.9        15.10     18.13     121
Melbourne                         0.3            0.6          5.9          7.13     55
Goals – West Coast Eagles: Kennedy 4; Cripps, LeCras, Darling 3; Ryan, Venables, Hutchings, Rioli, Redden.
Melbourne: Melksham 2; Oliver, Hannan, Smith, Harmes, Weideman.
Crowd: 59,608