1. We knew this was always an intriguing match-up of contrasting game styles and it lived up to expectations. The high-possession game of the Bulldogs led by a midfield that bats as deep as any in the competition against the more controlled style of the Eagles, built around a rock solid defence and the best assembly of marking forwards in the caper. The Bulldogs had almost 100 more possessions than West Coast, but that equated to just five more inside 50s and a seven-point victory.
2. Questions have been asked whether the flow-on style of game created by rule changes would suit Nic Naitanui. Coach Adam Simpson said he would adjust and he has certainly done that. Naitanui, the reigning John Worsfold medallist had 40 hit outs and was in the thick of the third quarter surge that put the Eagles in a winning position. In that stanza alone he had eight hit-outs to advantage as his capacity to steer the ball to teammates helped counter the ball-winning dominance of the Bulldogs.
3. Defensive pillar Shannon Hurn (288 games) is closing in on the club record for games played, held by Dean Cox (290). And he is maintaining the standards he has set over a stellar career. Again his ball use out of the back half was impeccable, the team gaining an incredible 744 metres from his touches. He had 23 possessions and seven marks, many of those 21 kicks from deep in defence, including bringing the ball back into play after a behind has been kicked.
4. While on the subject of the team’s defence, key back Tom Barrass continued his outstanding start to the season. He hauled in 10 marks, but was equally adept when forced to spoil, getting a strong fist on the footy when required. He also had 17 possessions and was part of the collective defensive effort that kept the Eagles in the game when the Bulldogs were dominant in the first half.
5. As pointed out previously, the Eagles confronted a Bulldogs midfield brimming with talent and it was going to take some exceptional performances to break even in that battle within the battle. Loping left-footer Dom Sheed continued where he left off against Gold Coast, Tim Kelly (29 possessions), Liam Duggan (25 disposals through the middle and back) and Jack Redden (21 touches) had solid contributions but the Bulldogs had some imposing numbers. Not that possessions are everything.