Breaking the assignment down to a digestible equation was part of the strategy for Adam Simpson and his match committee as they prepared to battle North Melbourne on a Saturday afternoon at Optus Stadium.
After caretaker coach Rhyce Shaw – who would sign a three-year deal a few days after this clash – had taken over the reins at the Kangaroos, they had won four of seven matches and were among the leading performers in the competition.
So the Eagles were preparing for a top eight team, conscious that their game style had changed and that there was a degree of freedom in their approach under Shaw’s direction.
North, at this time, were regarded as one of the best starting teams, so the Eagles were keen to match them early, particularly after the Roos lived up to the trend and kicked the opening goal of the game inside the first minute.
The Eagles responded, produced some exhilarating football and dominated every facet of the game.
The only blemish was that they failed to establish the appropriate return for that domination on the scoreboard. At half time the advantage was 18 points and that did not reflect the chasm between the teams in general play.
After the break, however, the Eagles began to get a better return for their endeavour, a six-goal term highlighted by Josh Kennedy’s 600th career goal. He had made the most of the absence of North stalwart Scott Thompson, his milestone goal the sixth of seven he posted in a best afield performance.
The champion forward, the first Eagle to ever reach that significant goal tally, was a powerful force up forward, taking eight marks and, in tandem with Jack Darling, was always a menace for the North defence.
In addition, Jake Waterman and Willie Rioli were dangerous, Rioli generating another goal-of-the-year contender when he twice baulked around North Melbourne opponents to kick a stunning first-quarter goal.
While Kennedy’s haul and Rioli’s magic were features, so too was the sublime ball use of veteran Lewis Jetta.
There are few things more pleasant on the eye than seeing Jetta glide out of the back half and using his silky right boot to hit up a teammate further afield. Jetta was among the best afield with 21 possessions, rebounding the ball out of the Eagles’ defensive 50-metre zone seven times, but also sending it inside the forward 50 three times.
He gained an amazing 715 metres with ball in hand and was an architect of the important victory.
Also shining in defence was key defender Tom Barrass who marked with aplomb, but was equally selective around the time to spoil – when he did sink his fist into the footy it was with great authority.
Through the midfield Elliot Yeo produced signature moves, bulldozing his way through the congestion – and sometimes over it – while Dom Sheed and Andrew Gaff also collected an abundance of possessions.
Round 19, 2019
West Coast Eagles 6.5 8.10 14.10 18.13 121
North Melbourne 3.1 6.4 7.6 10.12 72
West Coast Eagles: Kennedy 7; Darling, Waterman, Rioli 2; Yeo, Petruccelle, Ryan, Allen, Hickey
North Melbourne: Zurhaar 3; Brown, Wood 2; Polec, Larkey, Thomas