Perhaps the only thing harder than achieving a meteoric rise up the ladder is backing it up the following year. Yet that’s what West Coast have in mind as they take on 2012 with a fit list and an attitude that anything, maybe even a premiership, is attainable.
Many fans were shocked by the Eagles’ sudden change of fortune, but there seems to be a whole new mindset at Subiaco Oval. Even John Worsfold, one of the league’s most experienced coaches, has experienced a second coming of sorts.
West Coast proved their worth after toppling Geelong at home mid-season and then capped off their year with an epic semi-final win over the Blues, but no longer can clubs expect a sub-standard performance from this resurgent lineup.
Now that West Coast are a top four contender, their weaknesses will be targeted more than ever by opposing clubs. However, this task may prove a hard one as it is challenging to pick an area where the Eagles lack class.
The defensive line could be classified as a list of quiet but important achievers; the midfield a young group bursting with talent; the forward line bulky and hard to overpower; and the ruck duopoly of Cox and Naitanui arguably the best in the league.
Over the off-season the Eagles picked up maligned Bulldog Josh Hill in an audacious bid to recruit a player who can feed the crumbs off the tall timber up forward. Hill’s explosive pace is undeniable, yet his consistency leaves a lot to be desired. Brad Dick can also fit into this category, however due to his ongoing injuries and inexperience he may struggle for a position.
Eric Mackenzie: Just 23 years old but entering his sixth season this year, Mackenzie is again a play that flies under the radar. Yet with captain Glass beginning to age, Mackenzie has started to carry the load a lot more often down back. Great repelling skills and a solid punch from behind.
Dean Cox: Cox is one of those dependable players that every coach loves to have – the ones where if he’s playing well, the team’s playing well. A fit and firing Cox is one of the most dangerous and intimidating sights in the competition, and his tap work still rates in the top three. Cox’s mobility across the wing and up forward is also a massive boon.
Mark LeCras: The Frenchman has upped his output significantly over the last three seasons to the point where he has become one of the most efficient mid-sized forwards in the game. A B&F winner, two-time club leading goal kicker and All-Australian, LeCras’ deadly ability to score goals at will (as he showed with 12 goals against Essendon two years ago) is a huge asset for the club.
Andrew Gaff: Another gun midfielder off the West Coast Eagles production line set to explode into elite status in the next two or three years. After a promising first season, Gaff will be looking to avoid the second year blues as he slots into the crucial midfield spot. The Eagles must also make a solid play to keep him at the club for a few more years.
Luke Shuey: If Gaff has anyone to look up to, it’s this man. Shuey won the hearts of Eagles supporters with consistently solid performances across the ground culminating in a Rising Star runner-up award. Will lead the midfield charge with Kerr and Priddis.
Scott Lycett: Could this be Lycett’s breakout year? His solitary game last season showed plenty of promise, and while the 200cm big man is still raw, he looks to be an adequate backup to Cox and Naitanui. Lycett also has the versatility to push forward and kick goals, adding to the Eagles’ height in the front half.
Have to prove that 2011 wasn’t a flash in the pan, and with the improvements that the club has made it shouldn’t be a challenge. Need to start thinking about flag chances if not this year, then definitely the next. A contender.
3rd – 6th