It’s 72 hours, or thereabouts, since the West Coast Eagles’ victory against Sydney at Metricon Stadium – our home away from home.
In the scheme of things it’s probably not a big deal, other than being important in the context of our first win while relocated to the Gold Coast for a month.
In the lapsed time after the 34-point win the game has been reviewed. The performance analysed, the significant contributions acknowledged, ticks placed alongside the critical key performance indicators.
A couple of details unable to receive the public acclaim they would normally be afforded have also been highlighted. The West Coast Eagles won back the HMAS Sydney Trophy and Nic Naitanui won best on ground honours.
Because of the climate created by COVID-19 with no external parties on the ground, no shaking of hands, a post-game celebration could not be convened. Throw in the logistical issues revolving around the fact the game was announced with five days to prepare and it was some week.
The lead up to the game was positive, there had been a prod from the coaching staff, led by senior coach Adam Simpson, about the team’s output in three previous games. The numbers were significantly short of West Coast benchmarks.
Simpson is a man with a rare ability to read the room. He knows when his players need a cuddle and when they need a needle. This time he had to be blunt about what he expected.
The vibe around the hub was positive, but that had not been an issue since arriving at the Royal Pines Resort. The facility is amazing, the staff more than accommodating, the service first class.
So getting a handle on what to expect on game day was difficult. If the mood among players and staff was the only indicator to go by, the Eagles would have beaten Gold Coast, Brisbane and Port as well.
Training had been sharp and upbeat.
We got to game day. We’re at Metricon Stadium. It feels like home, we’re even in the home rooms thanks to the hospitality of Gold Coast.
The warm-up has a certain verve. The players look ‘up’.
After they have filed out of the door onto the ground to the club’s theme song, Simmo wanders past ‘it’s over to them,’ he offers on his way to the coaches box.
When Sydney kicks the first two goals off missed handballs and midfield turnovers, it wasn’t the start anyone in the Eagles camp had anticipated. But at the back end of the quarter, with tyro forwards Oscar Allen and Jack Waterman oozing energy, the Eagles fight back.
A long bomb from outside 50 from Waterman after the quarter-time bell is a real fillip. Jakey is a popular teammate, they swarm him on the way to the huddle. The boys are definitely up.
West Coast controls the second quarter, if not on the scoreboard. They lead by five points but have looked in charge. In the third term that dominance, particularly off the back of Naitanui’s sublime tap work, starts to create scoreboard pressure.
They have the game on their terms and in the last quarter do not relinquish their hold. They win by 34 points.
For the first time in a month there are smiles in the room. From coaches and staff before the players make their way off the ground.
The players circle up for the club song; the question is asked whether it was appropriate to douse Jamaine Jones in Powerade. It might feel like home, but it’s not.
The question has not been answered as they look to Waterman, a prominent figure in the win, to lead the way with the chant. After some coaxing and coaching, the words come and it is a raucous rendition.
The ritual of the Powerade shower is completed. Jones is a sticky mess after playing his second game, his first win. A hamstring strain is not bothering him in that moment, as all the colours of the rainbow are poured over his head, or vaguely in his general direction.
That celebration has become as spontaneous as committing to a contest on the field.
Hope the Suns and the cleaners are not annoyed. We won’t do it again … not on this trip anyway. The final game in the hub against Adelaide will be an hour up the Pacific Highway at the Gabba.