A severely undermanned West Coast Eagles managed to work their way to victory on Sunday afternoon, taking home a 22-point win against Carlton, after a 22-year drought at the SCG.
While big names including Tom Barrass, Dom Sheed and Andrew Gaff stood up and altered the swinging momentum, credit is also due for first-time captain, Nic Naitanui, who coach Adam Simpson believes was the team’s ‘best player of the day’.
Another highlight of the afternoon was debutant Luke Edwards and youngster Luke Foley, who was lining up in his third game for the club.
Medium defender Foley was able to make an impact on both ends of the turf, with a career-best performance of 16 disposals, five marks, one tackle and a goal; while Luke Edwards also racked up 15 disposals, three marks and two tackles.
“It was fantastic to be able to watch, I thought our younger players really had a crack, young Luke Edwards coming into the side, just seeing his composure and his poise, that’s something we’ve noticed in the pre-season when he first rocked up,” Josh Kennedy told 6PR.
“To be able to do that in his first AFL game, it was really cool to watch.
“You also got young kids like ‘Foles’ (Luke Foley) kicking his first goal and doing a good job down back.”
“Nic (Naitanui)… he led really well, then you’ve got guys like Jack Redden and Andrew Gaff who were instrumental in being able to control that momentum, particularly towards the back end, which was great to see.”
The Eagles were also bolstered by Elliot Yeo, in his second game back in the AFL, after a nine month injury hiatus.
His sheer grunt and drive in the midfield provided direction for the youthful Eagles.
“It’s great to be able to see ‘Yeoy’ back, picking the ball up, bursting away from the someone, being able to either kick it or handball.
“It’s really good to see, he’s been pulling up really well, so onwards and upwards for Yeoy which is great.”
In coming weeks, the West Coast outfit are also expected to retain senior players in captain Luke Shuey, all-Australian defender Jeremy McGovern, and Coleman medallist Kennedy.
“We’ve got Oscar Allen, he’ll come back from his concussion protocol, he’s ticked all the boxes, he’ll train fully this week,” Adam Simpson told 7News.
“Josh Kennedy was just a bit sore late last week, so we held him off, he should be okay to play.
“There’s a few guys on the fringe, Liam Duggan, touch-and-go for this week, (Jarrod) Brander’s touch-and-go for this week.
“After the bye, we should get Luke (Shuey), (Jeremy) McGovern and (Tim) Kelly and those types back.
The selection hopefuls returning just in time for Sunday’s clash with Richmond, with this week’s bye moved due to COVID-19 cases in Melbourne.
Both West Coast and Richmond sit with equal wins on the ladder; the Eagles just above them on percentage.
“Sometimes you look at the ladder and it doesn’t really reflect how they’re actually going, they’re a fantastic side, they have been over the last four, five years,” Kennedy said.
“Just seeing a lot of their players, when the game’s up for grabs, they’re able to drop the hammer and put the foot down.
“It is quite hard, you have players like that (Dustin Martin) who you kind of want to shut them down, you put so much effort into tagging them and they still get 30 touches and have a couple of goals.
“Sometimes you just let those players run loose, and hopefully whoever gets them, say it’s Yeoy or someone else, can do a little bit more damage, so it will be interesting to see what match committee do with him this week.
“It’s going to be a massive challenge and we’re really looking forward to it.”