Glendinning-Allan medallist Tim Kelly felt the onus on West Coast’s midfield group, rather than himself individually, to step up in the absence of some big names in Sunday’s 59-point victory over Fremantle.
Heading into the RAC Derby, many expected the Dockers’ in-form engine room to pose the biggest threat to the Eagles without skipper Luke Shuey and bull Elliot Yeo.
But West Coast’s onball brigade ensured a 58-47 edge in inside 50s, 40-31 advantage in clearances and +15 contested possession count as the side bounced back from a horror show in Geelong.
Kelly relished the freedom of not being tagged for the first time in several matches and led the charge with a career-best 42 disposals and 13 clearances, and collected his first RAC Derby best afield medal – which he promptly shared with his family.
“I got home and put it on my oldest son’s (Tykeem's) head, around his neck, and then he threw it off. It’s somewhere at home,” Kelly laughed.
While Kelly received the plaudits he credited the outstanding effort from Andrew Gaff (35 disposals, one goal), Dom Sheed (30), Jack Redden (29) and commanding ruck Nic Naitanui (eight clearances) in a gritty midfield display.
“I think as a collective we do (feel responsibility without Shuey and Yeo). Personally, I don’t try and go out there and make it all about myself and stand taller than I have to,” Kelly said.
“No doubt we’re missing Shuey and Yeo, we’d love to have those players in there, but with the guys we’ve got out there with our mids we’ve got such good depth.
“Dom Sheed is becoming a star and Redden and Gaff have been consistent for a long period of time as well, and Nic in there and the other guys we have floating through there at times.
“I feel like as a collective we share that load and I thought we did that yesterday.
“It was probably our first game this year where we’ve had a four-quarter performance. We’ve been lacking in that area of just being consistent in each quarter.
“I thought we got that yesterday. It was important that we bounced back after disappointing last week.
“I felt like we started getting on top around the ball (in the second half) and it wasn’t necessarily pretty football. It wasn’t Nic hitting the perfect tap and Sheed getting it clean and breaking free.
“I think we made it a bit of a scrap and I felt like the more we did that the better we looked and we were winning those scraps.”
At 4-3, the Eagles have climbed back into the top eight and face a massive clash with Hawthorn at the MCG to stay in touch with the League’s leading pack.
“The biggest thing for us is to generate our own energy and celebrate team actions on the field. We had to do that yesterday because we didn’t have our fans there,” Kelly said.
“That’s the challenge, obviously playing the way we play but I think it’s important – especially when you’re away – you’ve got to celebrate the little things, which I think we do really well here with our crowd.”