- Oct 2, 2019
- AFL Club
- West Coast
The West Coast Eagles nominating Gold Coast as their eastern base for a period of the 2020 AFL season is a masterstroke in terms of forward planning.
You’ve got to hand it to the West Coast Eagles – they’re a cluey bunch.
Faced with the daunting prospect of moving East for the first part of the AFL season relaunch, the Eagles pulled a fast one, and one that would have had Victorian club honchos either shaking their heads in frustration, or nodding their head in a gesture of respect.
Rather than packing up their bags and moving to Victoria, as many expected they would in the wake of the West Australian government refusing to budge on their tough border restrictions, the Eagles threw a curveball at the Vics, with a mooted move to the Gold Coast floated as a genuine option.
The proposed move is a masterstroke from West Coast, which now places itself in a position of power once again, despite not having a genuine home ground advantage for at least the first month of the restart.
What West Coast has been able to do is ensure games against Brisbane, which should be a belter, and Gold Coast, which should be a belting, whilst also possibly playing Fremantle, Port Adelaide and Adelaide should those teams follow suit and head to Queensland as their base as well.
In doing so, they avoid dates with the big Melbourne teams on foreign soil. If the AFL wants those match-ups, those Victorian teams will have to travel to Queensland – it won’t happen.
So, let’s imagine that the Eagles’ plan works perfectly, and they settle up there in the Sunshine State for a month or so. Can you actually see them having a record of worse than 4-2 after six games? 5-1 is a huge possibility, and if they can navigate the Brisbane Lions at the GABBA, a 6-0 record to start the season, in a 17-game year, would almost assure them of finals as they head home (perhaps) to entertain some of the Victorian teams later in the season.
But is it that simple?
Will the AFL allow the teams based in Queensland to simply play amongst themselves, perhaps with GWS and Sydney thrust into the mix, whilst the Victorian clubs battle it out for the first 5-6 weeks of the restart?
It makes a lot of sense, doesn’t it?
With non-essential travel still frowned upon in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, isolating teams and having them playing amongst themselves without travel seems the most logical idea. If that is the case, the Eagles have set themselves up for success. In what could have been a devastating blow to their chances – being forced away from home and into a hostile Victorian setting, West Coast has managed to get on the front foot and put the competition on notice – they will not be pushed into a bad situation here. They are the hunters this season, and asterisk or not, another flag beckons.
Over the years, I have come to admire the way West Coast runs their business. It was interesting to hear James Brayshaw praising the club earlier this week, calling them the biggest club in the competition by a long way. Indeed, the Eagles are starting to carry themselves that way. The last couple of days have confirmed that they are as switched on as any team in the caper. And they just may be the best.
We will have no Richmond v West Coast, or Collingwood v West Coast blockbusters until later in the season, and by the time the dust settles, these games may be able to be played at Optus Stadium instead of the MCG. It’s a wonderful plan – by the time the Eagles are done with their Queensland stint, both Collingwood and Richmond will have had all their games played in Melbourne. Time for them to travel.
It is only when you look forward, and what will happen once all states lift their strict restrictions that you realise just what a brilliant move this was by West Coast to get on the front foot and state their relocation plans before other teams had even hinted at it.
Firstly, it forces the AFL to be responsive. They will now be fixturing with the likelihood of Fremantle, Port Adelaide and Adelaide following the Eagles’ move.
Secondly, they will travel once – to a venue nowhere near as menacing as the MCG in footy-mad Melbourne… although the MCG holds no legitimate fears for this Eagles team.
Thirdly, they go from a state with two new cases in the past week to a state with two new cases of COVID-19 in the last week, avoiding Victoria, which has had 75 in the last seven days (damn Cedar Meats screwing it up for everyone!)
And thirdly, they will generate a very favourable fixture, both initially, and later in the season.
This season is still a work in significant progress. How it plays out will be almost as enthralling as the games themselves, but right now, if you are asking me who won the lockdown, the potential move to the Gold Coast would make the decision close to undisputable.
West Coast on the Gold Coast is the sort of move that sets up a top-two finish, and you don’t have to be a big club to make moves like that – just a smart one.
The West Coast Eagles have stated their intentions, and as much as this is about a move to the Gold Coast, this is more about setting up for a tilt at the flag. And in that race, they have given themselves a nice little headstart.