Preview West Coast Eagles Season 2020 Mega-Preview


Club Legend
Aug 14, 2004
AFL Club
West Coast
Other Teams
Cardiff City
Season 2019


So here we are as supporters in a summer of discontent. Nothing can escape the reality that a premiership defence resulted in a sixth-place finish, with three of the last four matches being losses.

With a slim advantage and the season on the line, a limp final quarter of a singular point in the face of four Geelong goals sealed the club’s elimination at the second hurdle of the post-season.

It was a performance that summarised the season – a poor start, followed by a fightback into ascendancy, only to suffer a disappointing capitulation at the finish.

What started as an aberration in the Queensland humidity quickly became a hangover as after just six matches the club had already suffered three defeats by larger margins than during the entirety of 2018. Despite winning 12 of the next 14, things still seemed “off” – opponents were rarely put to the sword and easy goals were leaked which kept them in the contest. After being a team that could never be counted out in 2018, there was an increasing uncertainty over its ability to run out games. Aside from front-running in perfect weather conditions, the impression was of fragility that could break against stronger opposition.

And with that a change in the weather on a Sunday afternoon late in winter changed the outcome of the season.

A four goal lead under the sun became a six point loss in a downpour against Richmond in arguably the match of the season, costing the chance of a top two finish. Six days later the club was still struggling to recover its condition after that slog when it hosted Hawthorn. The Hawks were conversely in top condition after facing barely training-level intensity the week prior against Gold Coast in the Jarryd Roughead testimonial match – the situation was primed for an upset. Outscored by 13 goals to 5 after quarter time, the loss in the final game of the regular season denied the club a place inside the top four and any realistic chance of defending the premiership.

If that Round 22 clash against the Tigers had occurred on the Saturday, or commenced an hour earlier, would we be looking at a different outcome? Perhaps. The likelihood of a top two finish and fine conditions throughout September point towards another Grand Final appearance. At the same time, Richmond would be entering finals from outside the top four. The magnitude of lost opportunity only increases the more you think about it.

Speculation such as this is disingenuous, however. To be successful, teams obviously need to play well in all conditions, against differing tactical approaches. In 2019 West Coast was, for a number of reasons, unable to do this.

Was 2019 an underachievement? In terms of the quality available, it can only be an overwhelming YES. Never has the club been presented with better circumstances of winning consecutive premierships. Without question more should have been achieved from a squad that was near to full-strength at the end of the season. Chances were not readily taken however and match situations that eventuated as victories in 2018 dwindled into losses.

The 2019 season will be recalled as one of the greatest disappointments and missed opportunities in the history of the club.

What went wrong?

The decline of the Eagles in their 2019 premiership defence can be traced to two major reasons:
  1. The competition adapted and responded to the control-orientated gameplan that proved so successful in 2018.
  2. The club had an unhealthy preference for selecting an overabundance of key talls (particularly up forward), which caused problems elsewhere throughout the team.

The Gameplan

Winning the premiership places a team under intense scrutiny unlike anything else. Suddenly there are 17 other teams who are marking their calendars for an opportunity to take you down – each of them pouring over hours upon hours of footage looking for a weakness that can be exploited. There are no matches in isolation for the premiers – if you stumble, everyone else is watching, studying and learning from it.

So it was for the Eagles in 2019.

As detailed previously here, the static positioning of the defence allowed opponents to push non-key forwards up the ground, creating additional turnover pressure post-stoppage and avenues through which rapid counterattacks could be launched.

The band aid response from the team was to move its own non-key half forwards to a more defensive mindset, spending considerably more time up the ground in the defensive half. This served to stem the ease of opposition scoring, but restricted the options for offensive ball movement and further hampered the team’s ability to win contested situations outside of stoppages.

Thus a team that had seven players averaging over 8 contested possessions per game was also ranked last in the competition for contested possessions overall.


The majority of the team are not impacting upon contested situations.

The aforementioned effect on attacking ball use made the team far more predictable in its movement and opponents set themselves up to ensure that no one-on-one marking contests occurred from the expected kick down the wing to a tall target. Furthermore, this predictability led to an increasing number of opponents fielding Richmond-style counterattacking setups through the midfield corridor in anticipation of the spoil from this contest.

This is reflected in the changes seen in contested marks and turnovers in 2019 compared to 2018:


Average numbers for contested marks have gone down whilst turnovers have gone up.

The most damaging development from a tactical perspective however was the negation of the aerobic sweeper role that had played such an important part in 2018’s success. Indeed, by the close of the season this had become so complete that the role itself had become a liability.

With non-key position forwards curtailing their numbers of aggressive leads ahead of the ball, the onus is increasingly upon the tall forwards as targets in attack – but the predictable ball movement ends up making them play right into the hands of the opposition. Man up the target (usually ruck or third tall) in the corridor and it guarantees that the kick going forward from the defensive half will be towards the key forward that is leading up to the wing. Opponents are also well aware that this no longer represents a dangerous position; even if the ball is marked, if the smalls are not getting into clear space and presenting a short option then the only means left to go forward is to bomb it long in the direction of the remaining key forward. So what does the opposition do? Let the key forward roam up the ground, using the ruckman to check against his marking contests – allowing his defensive counterpart to stay at home as a marking spare. Thus, the ball can be marked, spoiled, roved, whatever – the only way it is getting forward is through a long, high kick to an outnumbered marking contest. It is from this situation that the rot begins.

The kick comes in; it’s a one-vs-two. The forward gets front position but is restrained by his marker just enough to not give away a free kick but allow his teammate to come across as a spare in front and take the intercept mark. The defence then quickly utilises its superior numbers to launch a counterattacking possession chain through the corridor. It is the template that this team introduced to the competition in 2015 – safe to say that it is disappointing to watch the team now be ravaged by it four years later. It gets worse however; in this situation the aerobic sweeper role from the 2018 gameplan actually makes it easier for opposition counteroffensives to break through the defensive zone and concede “cheap” goals.

The defence of the Eagles is a fine-tuned machine. It is able to comprehensively shut down opposition attacks and yet still be aggressively counteroffensive when the game is being played on its terms. That last part is the key piece – when the game is being played on its terms – because increasingly so during matches, that is no longer the case and the consequence is a major factor in the undoing of the defence of the premiership.

Imagine a box stretching from the centre of the ground to 40m from defensive goal one way and the width of the corridor between the wings on the other – that is the no mark zone of the West Coast defence. The entire setup of the defence as a team and its approach is geared towards preventing opposition marks from taking place in this dangerous area and forcing turnovers from intercept marks. To that end it requires the opposition to be forced into rushed decisions to get the ball forward under pressure. Additionally, the aerobic sweeper role adapted from the wing covered the lead-up space ahead of opposition targets in the corridor, ensuring that any attacking kicks coming in would be high and thus to the advantage of the Eagles’ superior marking backmen.

With the intercept mark taken in the corridor, options for counterattack were then readily available to the left, right and centre. That is the foundation behind the success of 2018.

But what happens if the intercept mark is not taken? Indeed what happens if the incoming kick bypasses the defensive trap for intercept marking entirely? That fine-tuned defensive machine becomes very vulnerable outside of its comfort zone.

So now we have an opposition possession chain counterattacking from defence with the aid of numerical supremacy from spares stationed deep behind the ball. The opposition also know to avoid that first option long kick against the Eagles in order to avoid McGovern, Barrass, Hurn, Sheppard etc. Instead they look to handball and run rather than kick. Remember 2006? The way to beat the flood was run and receive – “happy handball” as it was termed at the time. The same can be said of zones; use running chains to pull it out of shape, allowing a position where it can then be rendered useless by kicking over it. Think of it like basketball and the deployment of a compact zone being undone through the execution of play via the high-post.

When the long kick does not come, it places the entire defence on its heels. McGovern and Barrass have already pushed up and assumed the space ahead of their opponent in preparation to intercept – with the kick not coming, they are now scrambling to get back on their marks with the disadvantage of running towards goal and limited view of where the ball is. The aerobic sweeper continues to cover the lead-up space ahead of targets in the corridor, but all that does now is provide additional space for the opposition to continue the possession chain and progress into a dangerous attacking area forward of centre. When the kick does come it is deep and beyond where the defensive zone was set. In the resulting confusion to cover tall forwards, opposing non-key forwards are often able to find space behind the defence and get easy goals. All the while half the crowd boos whilst the other half are screaming out “How the %#@& did that happen?!”.

003-001sweeper.jpg 003-002sweeper.jpg 003-002Asweeper.jpg 003-003sweeper.jpg
Negation of the aerobic sweeper role:
1. Aerobic sweeper is set in position covering opposition forward lead-up space.
2. Opposition creates short possession chain out of defence;

A: The defence is waiting for a long kick such as this.
B: Defenders already pushing up ahead of their opponents, positioning for the intercept opportunity.
C: The disposal instead goes to a runner in the corridor that is able to exploit the open space in front of the aerobic sweeper.
D: Players still more concerned about preventing the potential lead than arresting the movement of the ball.
2A. Conversely, if the intercept mark were to be taken in such a position, the team would be well-placed to counterattack.
3. Instead the kick comes in long and bypasses the zone. Defenders are left scrambling whilst opposition forwards get behind them and gain easy goals.

With the aerobic sweeper role a liability, Masten, who had specialised himself within it to the point that he was unable to hold down any other role, was made redundant. That he was subsequently delisted at the end of the season may or may not be coincidental.

It leaves one of the catalysts behind the tactical triumph of 2018 on the scrap heap with a question mark hanging over what will be adapted as its replacement.

The Talls

The club has at its disposal the best collection of key position players in the competition. With that array of riches however comes the temptation to play too many of them, upsetting the balance of the team.

Those who are familiar with my musings will know that this is a particular theme that I have raised on numerous occasions previously, most recently at length here.

Later in this piece it shall be discussed that the biggest tactical development in the competition over the past two seasons has been the emphasis upon rebounding and attacking from defence. Such tactics favour players with pace and overlap running ability, typically not characteristics of key-position types. Turning that around, the conclusion is the more key talls that are fielded on the ground, the greater the disadvantage against the overall trend of the competition.

In 2019 this conclusion proved true for the club, especially so up forward.

Starting with four tall forwards and two rucks in Round 1 against Brisbane, throughout the season a preference for marking advantage in attack drove the selection of the team for a negative return:


Average score differential across quarters for numbers of KPP used up forward.
Fewer numbers correlate with both greater scoring overall and in the later periods of matches.

2018 demonstrated without question that two specialist key forwards in addition to a resting ruck/forward was a platform for success – namely premiership success. It has also had the most success this season out of varying forward arrangements.

It remains to be answered why on earth anybody would deviate from it, when it is by far the best option available?

Combined, these factors resulted in the team having the following shortcomings in season 2019:
  • Unable to apply pressure to opposition ball-carriers
  • Unable to force opponents into making turnovers
  • Unable to move the ball forward effectively when in possession
  • Unable to win contests outside of stoppages

The statistics in these areas are pretty damning:


There is work that needs to be done before the club can lift up the Cup again in September.


Club Legend
Aug 14, 2004
AFL Club
West Coast
Other Teams
Cardiff City
The Positives


Despite the negatives listed previously, the club did do some things very well in season 2019.


Genuine Inside 50s refer to team inside 50s minus opposition rebound 50 totals.

The control-orientated gameplan was still largely effective during matches – the team were able to retain possession and dictate play for large periods. But it was the efficiency of the attack that stands out.


When other parts of the team faltered at times, it was the potency of the forward line that led the charge and kept the team ahead of the bulk of the competition in 2019. The Kennedy-Darling axis combined to kick 100+ goals in a season for the sixth time in the club’s history and for the second consecutive season, four other players were able to contribute 20+ goals (Cripps, Ryan, Petruccelle and Allen) – that three of those four were playing in just their second season is very promising for the longer term future of the club. More than any other team in the competition, West Coast was able to convert territory gains into goals.

The opposition may have opened up some wounds, but the defence still maintained its functionality from 2018. McGovern still led the league for intercepts in spite opposition tactics against him and Hurn also placed inside the top ten for that statistic. The defensive unit still remains very strong if the opposition ball movement further up the ground can be thwarted.

The top-line quality of the Eagles’ midfield rated as arguably the strongest in the competition during the 2019 season. Shuey, Yeo, Sheed and Gaff each excelled and drove the team forward – but apart from Redden there was insufficient support for their efforts. The addition of Kelly for the coming season may be what the group needs to go to the next level.

The Squad

2018 Premiership player Chris Masten has been delisted into early retirement, whilst the fringe has seen a clean-out with M.Allen, Bines, Brooksby, McInnes, Mutimer, Riach and Smith each cut from the squad. Ah Chee and Brayshaw were also removed with the assurance they would be given spots on the rookie list.

One of the biggest trade events in a decade finally brought Tim Kelly to his desired home at West Coast. With business done early, the rest of the exchange period was quiet with no other players going in or out.

By virtue of the Kelly trade, the club’s first selection in the draft was not until the third round. The new additions came as follows:
  • Pick 49: Callum Jamieson – raw, mobile ruckman from Claremont.
  • Pick 58: Ben Johnson – small half back from West Perth with reputation for impressive disposal by foot.
  • (Rookie) Pick 11: Anthony Treacy – mature-aged livewire small forward from Cable Beach via Claremont.
  • (Rookie) Pick 25: Mitch O’Neill – dual U18 All-Australian midfielder from Tasmania.
Ah Chee and Brayshaw were picked up with Rookie selections 33 and 39 respectively as previously assured by the club.

With Rioli likely due to miss the season due to his ASADA infraction and Venables still struggling to recover from the severe concussion injury that prematurely ended his 2019, it remains probable there will be two list spots available for the supplementary and mid-season drafts – with a replacement small forward being the priority.

Hurn made the surprise move to step down from the captaincy in order to focus more on his own game in a year where he will be turning 33. Shuey, as expected, was elevated to the role – a move that perhaps also aligns with a potential refocus of team approach from the defence to the midfield for the coming season.

The squad was strong and has been strengthened further. Defence, midfield and attack all have very high quality. The club should certainly be in the premiership race this year.

Uncertainties Going Into Season 2020

There remain several points of uncertainty as we approach the 2020 season. Some are regarding the performance of individuals, whilst others are more generalised, relating to how the team can be optimally pieced together. I shall discuss some of these in this next section.

Nic Naitanui


He is an icon of the sport; probably the most recognisable player in the competition and in marketing terms is the face of the club. He is also one of the most polarising of players in regard to people’s opinions. After all, we are describing a player that is averaging less than 12 disposals and 2 marks per game since 2012. A record that also over the same period only averages a goal for every second match played. Even Jack Watts easily outperforms him across each when considered like this.

I don’t consider Naitanui to be overrated – he has an outsized impact upon the game when on the ground that benefits his team-mates and improves the overall output of the team. I do however consider him to have not reached near what his potential could have delivered though. It is this perceived underachievement upon potential I believe, which drives much of the ire of his detractors rather than the actual output of his performances.

There was once the promise of a modern-day Polly Farmer that could have redefined the sport itself. However, he never developed his football brain, on-field smarts, situational awareness – whatever you want to call it, in addition to technical ability – he remains the same player, just bigger and older. For example, he is about to enter his 12th season in the AFL system yet still exhibits the following going back to the day he was drafted:
  • Gets lost in general play away from the stoppage
  • Provides very little on the outside running through the midfield
  • Simplistic forward craft – straight line leads towards ball
  • Unable to make effective use of his body strength in one-on-one marking contests
  • Kicking on the run resembles a baby giraffe taking its first steps
The result is a player who may have peaked at just 22 years of age before being impacted by injury. Even if fully fit, it is folly to expect for Naitanui to improve his game to a new level – the best that can be hoped is for a return of his form pre-ACL #1

On the contrary, he is now approaching 30 with a history of two ACLs, having played only 20 games over the last three years – spending less than 60% time on ground across those matches when he has played. It’s likely that Naitanui is in decline and will require careful management over the season in order to prevent injury and burnout prior to the end of the season.

That said, despite injury and aging, Naitanui remains the most impactful player in the competition when he is on the ground:


And that impact has a direct effect upon the outcomes of the team:


The problem of course, is keeping him involved – his average time on ground figures have been declining steadily since 2012. This trend has accelerated after 2015 to such an extent that his overall impact is becoming severely limited:


In addition, there is a knock-on effect elsewhere that negatively impacts the team and its rotations when it must carry a player that is spending almost half of each match on the bench.

Without question, finding a means of having Naitanui fit and available for longer durations within matches will be a major priority and factor in the coming season.

Tim Kelly


Two first round picks and two second round picks, with a couple of third round picks coming back – that is the high price the club paid for Tim Kelly.

The farm has been sold and the future mortgaged in order to get him in blue and gold and bring one of the most drawn out and controversial trade sagas of recent times to an end.

But is the price paid worthwhile? Only time will tell. If the club goes on to win the premiership this year then it will be (rightly) argued that the end justifies the means. On the other hand, they will be judged to have passed up access to four good opportunities to secure new talent in exchange for a player who is turning 26 in July, thus limiting the regeneration of the squad for seasons to come.

There are also other considerations worth noting that may factor into acquiring Kelly at such a price:
  • Gaff’s impending free agency at the end of this season with Kelly doubling as an insurance policy against the worst
  • The delisting of Masten, combined with Naitanui’s renewed terms allowed the club the opportunity to offer a sizeable contract for a player of Kelly’s ability without needing to sacrifice too much.
  • It is without precedent for a top-level midfield talent to be traded to a club that is already established within a “premiership window” – particularly when it is an interstate club.
  • After last season’s prolonged debacle, (and the disappointing end to the season on the field) the club may have been willing to pay more in order to ensure the deal was completed without delay.
So how good is Tim Kelly?

In his two years at AFL level, Kelly has been a revelation. In seasons 2018 and 2019 he was a 22/22 player (i.e. averaged 22+ disposals per game and totalled 22+ goals for the season) – only two other players managed that feat in both years – P.Dangerfield and D.Martin.

This is a significant indicator for elite ability – since 2000 players with multiple 22/22 seasons have a 75% likelihood of also being a premiership player.

Just three Eagles players have managed this since 2000: Cousins, Judd and Shuey – with Judd being the sole multiple entrant. Each are premiership players and have won Brownlow or Norm Smith medals (in Judd’s case both) – not a bad list. Kelly in as many seasons has already managed this level twice – he has demonstrated both consistency in addition to ability – there is no better candidate in all the competition currently that can demonstrate this output at his age profile. To put it in Moneyball terms “Because he gets ball and kicks goals”.

Here is a list of every 22/22 player from the past 20 seasons:

Gold dots denote premiership.
Black dots denote trade.

In 14 of those 20 years, the premiers had at least one player that went 22/22 that season – and all of the remaining 6 had players that had achieved 22/22 in a prior season.

The game may shift and evolve tactically, but the fundamentals remain the same: “Because he gets ball and kicks goals”.

If one considers comparable players (at least two 22/22 seasons in the last four and under the age of 30) who have changed clubs, then there are only four other instances since 2000 where this has occurred. In none of those exchanges was the receiving club placed in the top half of the competition. Kelly also represents just the second time a player has changed clubs directly after consecutive 22/22 seasons – Ablett leaving Geelong to join Gold Coast’s inaugural season being the only other example.


Kelly joining the West Coast Eagles is thus unprecedented in the footballing modern era – a player that has gets high possessions and hits the scoreboard, and has done so over multiple seasons, joining a club that was already placed highly among the premiership favourites.

It’s hard not to get excited about that.

Furthermore, the club already had in place a strong midfield prior to Kelly’s addition. The six comprising of Shuey, Yeo, Kelly, Sheed, Gaff and Redden is arguably (on paper) the strongest in the competition by some margin and is comparable to midfields that have brought dynastic success in the past.

The club has invested in the recruitment of Kelly, a consecutive 22/22 player that is in the group most likely to accomplish it in 2020 – and may potentially continue to do so for another 3-4 years again thereafter. In this context, gaining Kelly may be a bargain despite the initial cost.

He may have taken a long time in coming, but all the signs are pointing to Kelly being very much well worth the wait.

“Because he gets ball and kicks goals”.
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Club Legend
Aug 14, 2004
AFL Club
West Coast
Other Teams
Cardiff City
Josh Kennedy


Kennedy is the oldest member of the West Coast squad. Both he and Hurn will be 33 when finals come along this year. Whilst Hurn continues to live his own version of Benjamin Button, there were times during 2019 when age appeared to be distinctly catching up on the club’s all-time leading goalkicker.

Excluding his injury-ravaged 2012, the 2019 season marked the first time since 2010 that Kennedy had averaged less than 2.5 goals per game. Thankfully, his key-position partner up forward, Darling has improved markedly over the past two years, mitigating much of the impact of Kennedy’s decline.


Darling's improvement has taken the load of responsibility off Kennedy as he gets closer to the end of his career.

The decline from Kennedy is most pronounced during the periods of matches where players are generally at their most fatigued, prior to the end of the 2nd and 4th quarters. From 2017 to 2019 there has been an almost 60% fall in the average number of scoring shots Kennedy has during a final quarter.


In 2017 Kennedy kicked more last quarter goals than he did during final quarters in 2018 and 2019 combined.

Another facet of his entry into the sunset of his career is the decrease in “explosive” goal scoring episodes (scoring 3 or more goals in a single quarter). In 2019 he only managed this feat once, during the 1st quarter in Round 19 against North Melbourne.


Regardless of his level of fitness at the start of the season (although having him complete a full preseason for a change is certainly helpful), it is obvious that he will need to be managed carefully throughout the season to ensure that he is fit to be playing at its conclusion.

It also means the way he play in his role may need to be reconsidered – perhaps those long leads high up the wing will need to be curtailed in order to sustain four quarters of performance, making him a far more stay-at-home type of forward.

Of course, that consideration would be in addition to rest periods during the season, which would also aid the club in succession planning for the years ahead beyond Kennedy.

It will be interesting to see who from Allen, Williams, Brander, Waterman and Vardy is given the first option to take that spot.

Mark Hutchings


Hutchings has proven himself to be one of the best taggers in the league. His complete takedown of Player of the Finals Series Sidebottom in the 2018 Grand Final remains one of the best shutouts in recent history and almost single-handedly reminded the competition how much impact a good tagger can have on the game. But with Kelly arriving and a midfield stacked with talent, is there still room for a run-with player?

2019 was a low-water mark for Hutchings. Impacted by injury, he suffered career-low outputs in disposals, tackles, goals, clearances, inside 50s and metres gained. During 2018 he was able to fly under the radar – his tagging efforts were acknowledged, but they were on the periphery of opposition planning. The Grand Final changed that. Suddenly it was no longer just “How do we stop Shuey and Yeo”, it was “How do we stop Shuey and Yeo – and prevent Hutchings from tagging us out”. In 2019 there was a lot more attention, more blocking, more decoy running, more effort put in to expose his limitations – and they were evident.

Hutchings is not a big player – he isn’t a brute from the same mould as Stenglein (Jetta is the same height as him) and he has always lacked any distinctive burst of pace – these factors restrict what he can do as a tagger. During the 2018 Finals he was presented with opponents that were perfectly suited to him in Sidebottom and Viney (184cm and 179cm respectively) and teams in Collingwood and Melbourne that did very little to counteract against run-with players. The next year he was not so fortunate. At his size, he cannot compete against the 190cm+ midfield gorillas of the league. Opponents found they could use those bigger bodies at stoppages to block him out and allow his mark to run off and gain possession. The further the season progressed, the less influential he became around the stoppages – to the point where he was ultimately moved away from them and redeployed as an alternative to Masten in the aerobic sweeper role (with similar outcomes). By the end of the season he was being used in a different way again, as a negating “forward” marking opposition rebound defenders.

His 2019 Finals campaign was a disaster: an assignment on quick-running Saad in the Elimination Final resulted in the Essendon player having his highest metres gained total as a Bomber and multiple goals for the first time in his career. This was followed up by a task upon Stewart of Geelong – the 190cm Cat had 8 intercepts and gained over 500 metres at 83% efficiency, quarterbacking the game decisively in his team’s favour. Across these two matches where he was comprehensively beaten by his opponents, Hutchings managed a paltry total of just 11 disposals of his own (7 and 4 respectively).

If he can no longer be effective at the stoppages and has been ineffective in his attempts away from stoppages – then it begs the question: is there still a place for him in the first-choice team?

In 2019 it could be argued that the team was hindered by his selection greater than it was aided:


Number of matches detailed within closed brackets [].

With Kelly’s addition the club may now be justified in pursuing a more aggressive midfield approach – an approach that may no longer see Hutchings with a purposeful role to play in the team.

The Midfield Balance


As mentioned previously, the “Super 6” in the West Coast midfield of Shuey, Yeo, Gaff, Sheed, Redden and now Kelly is (on paper at least) the strongest in the competition by a significant margin.

The key however will be to put paper into practice and get the most out of each player without compromising others.

If one considers the past performances of the five other than Kelly (as they have played together for multiple seasons), observations can be made of statistical markers for each that correlate with strong positive outcomes for the team. These are as follows:


From this the balance for the positioning of these five within the midfield setup that has the best potential outcome for the team can be loosely inferred. Hence Gaff and Redden correlate best with the available space on the wings where those marks can be taken; whilst Sheed and Yeo are more productive for the team when placed closer to the contest; and Shuey as the outlet from stoppages to move the ball into attack.

With the obvious exception of Gaff due to suspension, the above describes the ball-winning midfield unit from the 2018 premiership team. With Masten and his specialist role now gone, perhaps these four could assume their September 2018 positions, with Gaff taking a more orthodox wing position in Masten's place?

As for where to deploy Kelly alongside his new team-mates – don’t risk breaking a diamond by polishing it too much – Kelly is that good he can play in the midfield wherever his game takes him. If Hutchings is moved out, Kelly can move in and do as he pleases.

Who is Going to Put Their Hand Up?


On the final day of the 2018 season there were three Eagles receiving premiership medals that a year earlier had not played a single senior game between them. Things can change immensely over the course of a season and player development can play a significant part in that.

In 2019, Allen and Petruccelle led the charge of the next generation of talent, playing over 20 games each and gaining Rising Star nominations. Cameron, Watson and Rotham also made impressive showings after being handed debuts in the senior team.

With Rioli and Venables unavailable for the foreseeable future, there is opportunity up forward to stake a first-team place from the first round of the season. If fit, Cameron will own this opportunity – I believe he could easily become an automatic team selection well before the season ends.

In defence, any moves to emphasise counterattacking rebound could improve Watson’s chances as his leg-speed and willingness to run and carry the ball offer a point of difference against other options that can play down back.

With Kennedy and Naitanui both likely to be heavily managed throughout the year, Williams will no doubt be given a debut this season and have ample opportunity to prove himself at senior level. I rate him very highly and would not be surprised if he were to manage a Rising Star nomination. I still feel that 2021 will be the year that Williams will start to announce himself on the competition however – this year will be laying the foundation for that step up.

With opportunities up forward and freed from the trauma of having me as his player sponsor, could Ah Chee make a case for selection? If the club decides to go down the aggressive route in the midfield, having a 189cm mature body ready to throw into the stoppage contests as a rotation may present as an attractive option.

As for the midfield, it is going to be very difficult to displace the talent already there in its ranks. Either injury or something quite extraordinary will need to happen to see new blood breakout in this area. X.O’Neill and Brander do appear to doing everything they can in a positive way to be next in line. Brander in particular appears to be adapting a midfield capability well beyond my expectations of what he could possibly deliver – his recent intraclub footage is very impressive for such a newcomer to the position. If he is able to maintain and continue to build upon his current improvement trajectory, that something quite extraordinary may just happen.

Can the 2018 Gameplan be Salvaged for 2020?

We have discussed previously on where the premiership gameplan had its failings during 2019 and where it has remained robust. Clearly it retains merit as a sound foundation and can be repurposed in order to address those failings. Such an endeavour would need to include the following issues:
  • Provide cover for the defence without the aerobic sweeper
  • Prevent the opposition from counterattacking rapidly through the corridor
  • Apply greater pressure upon opposition ball-carriers
  • Force the opposition into making more turnovers
  • Improve the effectiveness of ball movement
  • Improve the method of converting opposition turnovers into goals

This repurposing will require a change in attitude as much as approach and shall be described within the next coming section.
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Club Legend
Aug 14, 2004
AFL Club
West Coast
Other Teams
Cardiff City


Competition Trends

The AFL Premiership is constantly evolving. Novel methods are tried, with successes copied and elaborated upon, moving the game forward in its tactical use.

Overwhelmingly, there have been two factors which have influenced the overall trend of the competition in recent seasons: perceived pressure application and the conversion of opposition turnovers into scoring opportunities.

These influences have acted as an invisible hand, steering the progression of the competition. Increased stoppage congestion led itself to greater forward pressure which has in turn created the environment for the current counterattacking movement.

Some insights are the following:
  • In 2019 the average total number of Clangers per game stabilised, decreasing for the first time since 2014, having undertaken an increase by almost 30% in the previous five years.
  • Tackles inside forward 50 continue to decline after peaking in 2017. (Down 12% over the past two seasons)
  • Running bounces continued their trend towards extinction – the number of bounces per game is now half of what it was in 2013.
  • Despite rule changes to inspire the contrary, the number of goals per game is declining – down by more than 10% over the past two seasons.
  • The number of average kicks, metres gained and metres gained per disposal have been increasing steadily since 2015.
  • The number of Rebound 50s per game has increased by almost 20% since 2013, with more than half of that increase occurring over the past two seasons – whilst the numbers for Inside 50s per game have remained relatively unchanged.
  • The number of “Genuine Inside 50s” (team inside 50s minus opposition rebound 50s) per game has dropped by 19% between 2018 and 2019 alone.
  • The average total per game of marks, contested marks, mark inside forward 50, tackles, contested possessions and clearances have not deviated from typical numbers over the past decade.
What we are seeing here could be summarised as fitter, faster, further.

Players continue to get fitter, covering more ground and pushing back defensively harder than ever before. Ball movement and ball-carriers are getting faster as pace is increasingly weaponised. Disposals (especially kicks) are going further as teams attempt to negate presses and zones.

I expect to see the counterattacking movement continue in 2020. “Quarterback” types with elite disposal and pace in addition to intercept marking capability will grow more valuable and gain more attention from the media than they have previously.

An Approach For Season 2020

So we’ve now covered a lot of things:
  • the squad – it’s weakness and it’s strengths;
  • what has gone wrong and the root causes behind them;
  • what is working well and how it can be maintained;
  • uncertainties concerning the use of key individuals and optimal composition.
With this considered, work can be undertaken to develop a potential approach for season 2020 that provides the club with the best chance for success.

Safe to say, it’s not just a case of replacing Masten with Kelly and away we go.

I have a preference for the deployment of aggressive tactics that emphasise upon the use of the team’s key strengths to overwhelm the opposition. An overview of the proposed approach is below:


An onfield 6-7-5 utilising an extra stoppage midfielder at the expense of a forward position.

Characteristics of its components are as follows:

  • +1 stoppage extra
  • No specialist tagger
  • No aerobic sweeper
  • x2 orthodox wings with a remit to run forward of ball and attack
  • x2 stoppage midfielders given freedom to play in “all-out attack” mode
This is an exceptionally aggressive setup for an exceptionally talented midfield unit. Fielding an extra ball-winner around the stoppages maximises the impact of this midfield and places the opposition on the back foot immediately – either they are forced to commit additional resources to their own midfield (weakening themselves in other areas of the ground) or risk being dominated for first possession. The composition of this group in the midfield is complete with ball-winners – there is no involvement of taggers or defensive sweepers as that would be contrary to the mentality of its approach; the default setting is of ruthlessness with an arrogance driving it that the opponent does not have the capacity within it to stop all of them. This is a midfield to be feared – let’s make it so.

By mothballing the aerobic sweeper, the wings are free to be restored to a more orthodox role. With the additional support of a +1 around the stoppages, these orthodox wings can be instructed to place themselves ahead of the ball more often and get involved in attacking moves. Gaff and Redden shall occupy these roles.

Further driving the aggressive nature of this midfield is the allowance of two of its contributors being granted additional freedom in their accountability to the opposition to hunt the ball and push forward as a goalscoring threat. The club has two players who will be suited to such a role: Kelly and Sheed. It provides Kelly with the perfect opportunity to play his own game whilst adapting to the team and allows Sheed to focus upon the most damaging part of his game, whilst minimising his biggest point of weakness.
These two kicked a combined 40 goals in 2019 - once again "because he gets ball and kicks goals".

Midfield elites Shuey and Yeo, shall continue to operate in the same manner. When both are successfully operating at such a high level, there is no need to tinker with their roles.

The Stoppages
Without question, one of the greatest sources of frustration I have with the club is the way it conducts itself around stoppages. Far too often, the team wins a stoppage clearance that results in an ill-directed dump kick that is easily intercepted by the opposition and creates a foundation for their counterattacking efforts. This is nothing new – it is a symptom that existed prior to the Simpson era – indeed you need to go back a decade for the last time the Eagles had an Inside 50s to Clearances ratio within the top half of the competition.
Scores from turnovers are the number one source for points scored in the competition – even the bottom ranked team for points generated from turnovers in 2019 still had more than half of their total points scored from this source.
With the competition becoming progressively more geared towards “Richmond-style” setups outside of the stoppage, such reckless disposal resulting in turnover is becoming an increasing liability.
There appears to be no identity or guiding philosophy behind the club’s stoppage application. Overwhelmingly, it seems to be opportunism based on individual events in isolation. Why for example, should a clearance winner if they are moving towards their own goal be executing a high-risk kick over their shoulder when teammates are available in space for a standard handball receive?
The answer points towards the appearance at least, of a lack of stoppage planning at the team level and a mentality among the players to “get it forward” as soon as possible. This becomes especially prevalent in wet and non-ideal conditions, as the controlled gameplan breaks down and players become overly focussed upon trying to gain territory.
Stoppage outcomes vs Port Adelaide, Round 5, 2019.
I can’t imagine the club not instigating at the very least some very basic stoppage philosophy; such as:
  • if you are not pointing towards attacking goal, always try to handball rather than kick
  • if you are running towards “A”, your teammate will be at “B” – look for them
  • if you are outside the stoppage and not moving – GTFO
  • it is better to concede a repeat stoppage than to concede a turnover of possession
If I can convince a group of half-interested schoolkids and weekend warriors of the merit in implementing this, my natural expectation is that a group of very highly paid professionals would be incorporating something vastly more involved and drilled.
That the observation of performances suggests otherwise remains a mystery to me.
Ideally, with the dominant tap ruckman of the competition providing first opportunity to an elite group of stoppage players, the club should have a number of “set plays” that it can refer to and implement, given the match situation.
An example of how I would envisage a typical stoppage setup under the proposed approach is as follows:
Players on the move behind and ahead of the ball, providing both support and attacking threat in addition to overlapping width. That to me is a better outcome than an individual dump kick over the shoulder to no particular target.
Getting smarter around the stoppages will make the Eagles a far more productive (and destructive) team.

Each of the players involved here are playing to their individual strengths and complementing the others. The combination of ball-winning ability, tackling, pace, clearances, spread, ball-use and goal threat should be a terrifying prospect to match-up on for any potential opponent.

There is more to this setup than attack, attack, attack, however. Playing a spare through the midfield is the best way to impede counterattacking ball movement from the opposition defence. With rebounding counterattack the most significant trend in the competition over recent seasons, it can be expected that a large number of opponents this season will be applying it. An effective countermeasure could provide an important advantage in many matches.

Dealing with opposition defensive spares.

Furthermore, additional numbers through the centre aid in creating avenues for the team to facilitate its own counterattacking movements.

Dominance in the midfield also allows a team to assert the terms of play. For example, situations where the opponent is aggressively setup can be effectively shut down through the forcing of a stoppage.


The defence remains little changed from previous seasons. With orthodox wings occupying positions on either side of the ground however, the halfbacks can provide overlap far more often and higher up the ground – effectively operating as additional midfielders in attack.

The ensuing interoperability of the wings, halfbacks and defence considerably improves the ball movement and counterattacking options available to the team:

Ball movement options.

Jetta is the quintessential player for overlapping off halfback with his range of ball use. On the other flank, Watson has been displayed in the prospective selections due to his pace and willingness to overlap run – however there are a number of candidates for this position (Duggan, Cole, Nelson, Rotham) who could be selected and perform effectively.

The key marking talls in McGovern and Barrass are complemented by the high-quality “smalls that can play tall” in Hurn and Sheppard.

There is no place for a specialist third key-sized defender in this approach.


The key to this forward setup is the maximum of just two key talls on the ground at all times. Already down a number due to the extra in the midfield, playing three (or more) key-sized players out of a total of five up forward is an open invitation for the opposition to simply slalom the ball back out on the rebound time after time.

With at least three pressure forward roles on the ground being heavily rotated to extend their pressure throughout the match, this situation can be overcome.

Having Kennedy located at full forward in a more traditional role, staying closer to goal to aid in his preservation, also encourages space for attacking midfielders to lead into and exploit.

Darling takes the other key position at centre half forward, with Cripps and Ryan automatic selections for two of the small forward roles. Without Rioli, the remaining position becomes a toss-up between Cameron and Petruccelle. Given that Cameron averages more goals and twice the amount of tackles per game than Petruccelle, I would be inclined to give him the first option.

Naitanui is rather awful as a forward and should be maximising his time in the ruck. Thus, the rotations of the key forwards are dependent upon the utility of the secondary ruck.


There are two avenues in regard to how the club plays the ruck this season – either with or without Naitanui.

If Naitanui is unavailable for selection, Hickey gets the primary ruck role and is capable of playing as a single ruck, negating the necessity of a secondary ruck-forward role. Conversely, if Naitanui is fit and available, he plays; but is also unable to hold down the ruck position for the entire match by himself – the secondary ruck-forward is required.

There are three candidates vying for this role: Allen, Williams and Vardy.

Allen would seemingly be the front-runner with his greater mobility and kicking 20 goals during 2019; Williams however, is the strongest ruck of the three with his size and leap; whilst Vardy, a hero from 2018 had a catastrophic loss of form during 2019 and has shown no signs of recovery in this year’s preseason. With Nic already selected, if one of the three plays, the others do not.

Of the two leading contenders, Allen and Williams, here are comparative positional and time on ground rotations that could be expected for each if they are selected:


An advantage that Allen can provide is his capability in defence as well as attack. Having such a player that can go back during periods of opposition momentum or at the end of quarters would be of benefit to the team. With this in mind, Allen is given the nod.


So Allen as the secondary ruck option receives a place among the substitutes, but who else gets a place on the bench? Ideally, the composition of the bench should be second ruck/forward, rebounding halfback/outside midfield, pressure forward/outside midfield and inside midfield to facilitate sufficient rotations of the team.

Duggan is given a place as the halfback, but as described previously this could easily be any of the multiple candidates in the running for this position. Petruccelle, edged out by Cameron for the third pressure forward spot, gets the small forward spot on the bench. The final position is the most difficult to place – outside of the top six there is very little in the way of ball-winning or accumulating ability in the squad. The best developing midfield prospect X.O’Neill, only managed a single game over 20 disposals at WAFL level last year. Considering its position as a premiership contender, the club would have been well-served by the recruitment of a mature-aged midfielder that could provide ready support around the stoppages if called upon. For example, a player like Jye Bolton would be certainly be an improvement as a midfield rotation over the current options in the squad beyond Redden. In the absence of this however, Ah Chee is presented with the final spot due to his duality of being able to play around stoppages and up forward.

Inevitably in a quality team, good players will end up missing out. The likes of Schofield, Waterman and Brander may not make this particular team, but will no doubt feature during the coming season as the club manages injuries and rest periods.

A Tiger Economy
Richmond are clearly the greatest challenge that lies between the club and another premiership. With premierships bookending the Eagles’ 2018 triumph, since Round 14, 2017 the Tigers have a 35-4 record at the MCG (10-0 against interstate teams at the MCG, by an average margin of 47 points).
So what is it that differentiates them from the rest of the competition and brings such success? Three things: risk, discipline and opposition fear.
Richmond are the greatest gamblers in football – on-field that is (I’ll leave it to the Bay to cover off-field gambling matters). They play with a near reckless amount of defensive risk, pushing players up the ground away from their marks and abandoning multiple players from stoppages entirely in order to maximise the conversion of any possible turnover into a scoring opportunity. This method of play would fall apart entirely if it were not for the Tigers being the most disciplined team in the league for both movement off the ball and trust in their teammates. Everyone knows where to position when the team is without the ball and everyone knows where they and their teammates are running to once they do gain possession. A plan that is defensively spread, attacks through the middle, yields a high proportion of scoring shots from the corridor and becomes more efficient to execute on wider grounds – it’s an incredibly ambitious and devastatingly effective approach to playing on the ground that is guaranteed to be hosting the final match of the season.
As mentioned, Richmond have a third card up their sleeve in the form of fear by the opposition. The Tigers generated almost two thirds of all their points scored in 2019 from opposition turnovers – yet their opponents keep trying to focus upon defensive mechanisms and negative tactics, when it is clearly apparent that attack and retention of possession is what they should be trying to address. Teams fear the Richmond counterattack and take a reserved approach – which ends up playing directly into the Tigers’ hands.
Hence, it is a product that is becoming increasingly emulated within the competition. But it does have its weaknesses.
Typical Richmond setup for the kick going up the wing.
Negating Richmond-style defensive and stoppage setups.
Once players start second-guessing their positioning, the system implodes – that is how to defeat Richmond and any wannabe Richmond-lite copies.

The approach I have outlined is designed to absolutely dictate the terms of play:
  • win clearances and contested ball
  • control ball movement
  • make the opponent fearful to the extent they become entirely reactive in their own tactical deployment

In 2019 the team had a habit of landing blows on opponents and then allowing them the opportunity to get back up – this is about knocking those opponents over and stamping a foot down on their throat. Upping the aggression and getting back the swagger. Adding a sledgehammer capability to the existing scalpel.

This is the tactical approach I wish to see from the club this year.
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Club Legend
Aug 14, 2004
AFL Club
West Coast
Other Teams
Cardiff City


Obviously the competition is now adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, with the league administration releasing that the competition for 2020 at this point in time will be impacted as follows:

The length of the season will be reduced from 23 rounds to a maximum of 17, with clubs to face each other once.
The first four rounds will go ahead as fixtured, but the remaining 13 rounds will be adjusted. The four-week finals structure will remain as scheduled.

When further information is released, this entry shall be updated accordingly with the revised fixture assessed.

Should the season go ahead with clubs facing each other once, the Eagles are set to be the biggest beneficiary due to how uneven the original 2020 fixture was.

Take the equivalent in 2019 for example, a season far less challenging in its fixture demand than 2020:

The original preview of the fixture prior to the pandemic disruption is listed below.

The Hard Road

Most elite levels of competition have a premise of fairness sown into them through the equalised fixturing of matches – clubs face each other an equal number of times, minimising the likelihood of an individual club gaining advantage over others due to scheduling alone.

The AFL is not such a competition.

A league consisting of 18 clubs would be fairly fixtured by each team playing all others twice, once home and once away – for a total season of 34 matches.

However, with the length of season constrained by cricketing interests at its end and a southern aversion to playing during summer at its start, increasing the number of matches does not appear to be an option. Perhaps most importantly, the current fixture format of 22 matches for each club is viewed by many as tradition, and thus like the hosting of the Grand Final, it must be set in stone for all time (i.e. tradition = Victorian tradition).

The result is an abortive attempt at objectivity, with clubs playing return matches against just one third of the competition, profitable matchups (“rivalries”) given priority and amplifies the existing geographical disparity of having 10 of 18 clubs based within Victoria.

It also allows a situation where transparency in the development of the fixture is lacking.

Has anyone else queried the timing of the fixture release after the trade period is concluded rather than after the season’s matches have finished? Earlier publication would place it under higher scrutiny. The subsequent delay and changes in rosters provide a cover to any inequalities that are identified. This combined lack of transparency, accountability and delayed release permits manipulation to potentially occur – indeed one could argue there is far too much inequality going on for there not to be some active manipulation involved.

The West Coast Eagles fixture for season 2020 is a response by the administration to the Tim Kelly trade.

Despite finishing the 2019 season in 6th, the club have been punished with the toughest schedule in terms of opposition strength – significantly harder than what could be expected for such a finish.

The Eagles play seven matches against top-four opponents from 2019, more than any other club. Indeed, this is just the fourth such occurrence since the addition of Gold Coast and GWS.


Tallying the totals of opponents by their finishing positions from last season equals a total that is the same to that which derailed Melbourne’s season in 2019.


It gets worse however; the expected fatigue buildup during the season will affect the club worse than any other also.

Fatigue Factor
This is a metric I have developed to better ascertain the impact of travel and short-day breaks on clubs over the season.
The method of calculation is described within the below quotation.​
Let’s make a presumption that it takes say, 8 days to recover from playing an AFL match and execute at a similar level without consequence. With that presumption in place, it can be said a break between matches of 8 days would provide a fatigue addition of 0. A 7 day break would thus equate to a fatigue addition of +1, and a 6 day break +2; whereas a 9 day break would be a -1 reduction to fatigue etc. This figure continues to compound over the season.
Travel adds to fatigue. The way it is calculated is the following:
{ [Distance one-way (km)]^1.1 } /1000 and then rounded upwards to the next whole number.
For example, WA clubs making the trip to Melbourne (2727km) gain 7 points of fatigue that particular round due to their travel.
Post-travel fatigue. As any person who has required to travel for business purposes would relate, travel fatigue doesn’t go away instantly. It is taken into account by the calculation:
(Previous week travel fatigue) * (Days break fatigue this week /4) and then rounded upwards to the next whole number.
This further to the example above, WA teams returning from Melbourne with a 7 day break before their next match receive 2 points for post travel fatigue that particular round. (i.e. 7 * (1/4) = 1.75 = 2)
These calculations are added for each round over the season to a maximum level of 30.
This results in a quantifiable total that I have termed as Fatigue Factor.
An image of this over a season looks like this:
Note Richmond’s end of the season dream run.​

The average Fatigue Factor calculated for the Eagles over the 2020 season is the worst in the competition by a considerable margin.

This is made more apparent by comparison of the resulting differential for matches during the season:


It also presents contrary evidence to the notion that home advantage of interstate teams cancels out the challenge of additional travel.


The combined impacts of opposition strength and calculated fatigue place the 2020 fixture for the West Coast Eagles as arguably the toughest any team has faced in 20 years.


An outcome like this did not occur after winning the premiership in 2018. The prevailing view in Victoria remains that it was a Bradbury premiership due to Richmond choking in the Preliminary Final. The team was seen to be good, but not that good. The recruitment of Kelly has completely changed that east coast perception – the team is now viewed as a real threat to the Victorian hegemony – ask any Melbourne taxi driver what they are worried about and you’ll hear about the Eagles. It is in this panicked context that the fixture has been devised – a disproportionate response to control the menace of a foreign superpower.


Manual Approach

The fixture for the West Coast Eagles in season 2020 is the following:


As you can see there is little margin to get the season back on track if an unexpected loss were to occur.

The first half of the season is critical – in order to attain a top 4 finish, the club likely needs to have a 9-2 or better record by the time of the midseason bye. This includes away wins against St Kilda and Hawthorn (in Tasmania) and home wins against fellow premiership contenders Richmond and GWS.

The second half of the season is brutal. The top 4 scenario finishing with a 15-7 record loses 5 of the 11 matches fixtured after the bye.

Away matches against three of the top four from last year before finals; the Bulldogs away after successive matches against Brisbane and Collingwood, a period in which the club will total over 12,000km travelled in 21 days; a six day break to host North Melbourne after playing away against Richmond, giving the Kangaroos the advantage of an additional eight days of rest.

Any additional upset losses during this period could easily derail the entire season.

With that considered, I still see no reason for the club to not be able to achieve the top 4 scenario at minimum if it is able to perform from the very start.

The fixture is cruel, but the team should still be able to position itself well for September football.

Model Approach

Alternatively, we could try a relatively simple modelling exercise to forecast the outcome of the coming season.

The following in the below quotation is an abridged description of the method for the sake of brevity and clarity.

First up we require a baseline for each club that removes much of the impact from previous fixture distortions. This is done by taking the two highest end of regular season premiership points totals from the past three seasons and finding the average between them. (i.e. for West Coast this would be the average of 64 and 60, which is 62).

Then we require a means of basing team performance where player movements/retirements can be factored in. For this we’ll utilise SuperCoach figures on the following basis:
  • No. of club players in top 10%
  • No. of club players in top 30%
  • No. of club players in top 50%
These are tallied by 15, 5 and 3 respectively.

The ratio of change in the tallied totals for each club from end of season to the end of the trade/delisting period is then applied to the averaged end of season premiership points total identified earlier.

This results in an estimate of the club’s end of season premiership points total if the fixture were perfectly neutral. This neutral estimate for 2020 places the Eagles on top with 71.5 points, well ahead of Richmond in second on 63.8 points.

The neutral points total then has the combined opposition strength and fatigue factor calculation applied to it, providing a forecast premiership points total for the coming season. The difficulty of West Coast’s 2020 fixture causes the neutral points total to drop by more than 11 to 60.3.
The output modelled for season 2020 appears as this:


This is a simple output with some questionable results, but it provides another piece that independently places the Eagles firmly inside the top 4, in spite of the difficulty of the schedule.

Here are forecasts for the previous five seasons by the same method for comparison.



There is no doubt the season ahead will be challenging, the administration and its fixture have guaranteed that. However, the club has arguably more quality than any other in the competition and if it plays to its capabilities should be able to claim a finishing position inside the top 4, with no reason that it cannot be the top 2 - which based on history equates to a Grand Final appearance.

The West Coast Eagles already had the talent and experience to mount a genuine premiership challenge in season 2020. The recruitment of Tim Kelly has now improved them arguably by more than any other club.

This year isn’t about enjoying the ride and seeing what happens like 2018. 2020 is about winning that premiership back from the very first round.

And I believe this team is very capable of doing just that.
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Brownlow Medallist
Aug 13, 2014
AFL Club
West Coast
Woosha dislikes Dylan82 post.

Really enjoyable analysis that I agree with by and large. That we were too tall, too often was really obvious. I think the defence generally held up really well. It would be interesting to see the repeat i50 numbers against us last year. I really felt like it was the collapse of our ability to transition into attack effectively that created the "dam wall breaking" effect that we saw in second halves. We repelled plenty but couldn't move the ball and contain it in our attacking half to spell the defenders and create our own pressure.

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kranky al

Brownlow Medallist
Jun 30, 2009
AFL Club
West Coast
Other Teams
east perth
Also felt like the fitness levels werent there this year - hard for us to back up two years in a row with all the travel

i feel like it takes an extra effort for our guys to get up and its too much to back up two years in a row.
With regards to the too tall thing - we dont have a lot of choice there - with nn playing half a game we need a second ruck which the year before was offset by vardys ability up forward.

also we have to get games into oallen for when kennedy drops off the perch

perhaps this year its oallens time to step up and in away matches vs bottom teams we leave kennedy home. We need kennedy to not limp into finals and we need oallen to have serious gametime. Tadaaaaa problem partially solved.


Oct 5, 2019
AFL Club
West Coast
Would we contemplate going into games with NN as the ruck and Oallen as the 2nd. Obviously not a genuine 2nd ruck but has the ability to do vardys role and be more useful when resting forward.

With this thinking I guess there would be some real competition for 2nd ruck/resting forward position. Oallen, Vardy, Hickey and Williams. Not sure what his leap is like and if he has grown but could Brander even fit into this pinch hit role (same height or similar to Oallen). Would offer a lot at a ruck contest when the ball hits the ground as it sounds like he has genuine midfield type qualities.

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Norm Smith Medallist
Apr 2, 2015
AFL Club
West Coast
Would we contemplate going into games with NN as the ruck and Oallen as the 2nd. Obviously not a genuine 2nd ruck but has the ability to do vardys role and be more useful when resting forward.
Simmo said recently it's not possible with how little time on ground NN plays. We could do it when Hickey was holding down 80% ruck as Oscar would take 10-15% and one of the key forwards or backs would pinch hit as well. Oz is not able to do it in partnership with NN and I get the impression he's too valuable elsewhere at the moment and we want to settle him into a role for continuity - at least as a season by season prospect instead of game by game. He's handled the challenges very well so far in his career.


Club Legend
Dec 19, 2007
AFL Club
West Coast
Other Teams
soccer rugby union and le
To some extent i agree on the too many talls thing but there are talls and there are talls.We won a premiership with Lycett and Vardy as our main big men.Both were very mobile,good marks and tough as nails.Hickey came in and is a totally different kettle of fish.Hes more your genuine ruckman, more ungainly,and far less physicality.He was still a good contributor...but!
Without that physicality players like Yo were required to take up the slack.This he did admirably but it takes its toll.When the teams rolling along at 90% we got by. But when things get harder big men dont get any smaller.Without the big men then the whole team has to lift and take their share of the load;something we struggled to do in 2019.
We lost that belief in the players coming through [ was it 8 newbies in '18 ?] combined with a lack of muscle and we had ourselves a premiership hangover.
Rioli was just the icing on the cake!

Feeling Groovy

Club Legend
Apr 8, 2016
AFL Club
West Coast
Other Teams
East Perth
I could see us going with the three tall backs (Gov, Barrass and Allen), with Allen effectively replacing Schoey (even though we didn't play three tall backs always) and Schoey being pure back up. Brander on a wing and then either Hickey or Williams as second ruck, with second ruck playing forward with Kennedy and Darling or resting on the bench (depending on who it is). My preference is Williams for the second ruck role as it allows us to keep him on the ground playing forward and develop options for when Kennedy retires.

That gets games into our young guys and some flexibility, with Allen likely to go forward in due course when Kennedy retires but with the ability to swing back.

I am not sure where that leaves Waterman though, even though he isn't a true tall, we become pretty tall with him playing as a high half forward (assuming the above).


Club Legend
Aug 14, 2004
AFL Club
West Coast
Other Teams
Cardiff City
Thanks all for the positive feedback.

Many of the points being raised will be discussed in parts to come.

The proposed tactical approach that shall be put forward sees Naitanui to spend 75-80 minutes in the ruck, with Allen and Darling providing about 25-30 minutes and 10-15 minutes respectively.

Allen would be conserved through rotating solely within the defence when not rucking and reducing his total time on ground to about 70%.

That Simpson came out recently to the press and stated that Nic will ruck for 85 minutes helps to validate the potential viability of this.


Club Legend
Dec 19, 2007
AFL Club
West Coast
Other Teams
soccer rugby union and le
Thanks all for the positive feedback.

Many of the points being raised will be discussed in parts to come.

The proposed tactical approach that shall be put forward sees Naitanui to spend 75-80 minutes in the ruck, with Allen and Darling providing about 25-30 minutes and 10-15 minutes respectively.

Allen would be conserved through rotating solely within the defence when not rucking and reducing his total time on ground to about 70%.

That Simpson came out recently to the press and stated that Nic will ruck for 85 minutes helps to validate the potential viability of this.
Dylan; i really dont like Oallen in the ruck.Hes too lean and green.He did a good job last year because hes just so talented.But when the season gets into full swing and we look like serious contenders [ which i think we rarely did last year ] teams will look to places we can be exploited any way possible.I dont want to see big lumbering oxes looking to bruise him at every opportunity.I agree with Groovy that Williams is our best bet.He really is a talent and harking back to '18 having faith in our emerging talent paid off in spades.Allen is going to be a jet.Its rare you see a big fella so good in the air yet possessing the Rioli touches at ground level.Future superstar and captain!Can he ruck? Yes! Do we want him rucking? No!If the truth be told id rather [and ive been shitcanned for saying this before] ruck Gov and play Allen at CHB.Yeh yeh i know hes AA.That just shows how high i rate Allen.

Hangover Noir

Team Captain
Sep 10, 2015
AFL Club
West Coast
Keen to see if Brander seemingly being trained for a wing is discussed at some point. And what type of winger would he be - obviously the aerobic sweeper has had its day.


Club Legend
Nov 4, 2010
AFL Club
West Coast
I hope Brander to the wing works out, big challenge for him with all the extra running but gee we could destroy teams with that aerial advantage.

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