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Eagles hope to avoid premiership hangover

West Coast were shock winners of last year's premiership, but they will become the hunted this season as they attempt to go back-to-back.

Eagles hope to avoid premiership hangover

West Coast were shock winners of last year's premiership, but they will become the hunted this season as they attempt to go back-to-back.

DOM SHEED of the Eagles is tackled by DARCY TUCKER of the Dockers during the 2018 AFL match between the Fremantle Dockers and the West Coast Eagles at Optus Stadium in Perth, Australia.
DOM SHEED of the Eagles is tackled by DARCY TUCKER of the Dockers during the 2018 AFL match between the Fremantle Dockers and the West Coast Eagles at Optus Stadium in Perth, Australia. Picture:Photo by Daniel Carson/AFL Media/Getty Images

Summertime alarm bells turned into post-season flag fiestas for West Coast in 2018, but will they suffer from a premiership hangover?

Eagles coach Adam Simpson was a worried man after watching his team cop a 62-point pre-season thumping at the hands of Fremantle last year.


West Coast's list was rated so poor that AFL legend Robert Walls tipped them to finish last.

Suffice to say Walls was left with egg on his face by the end of the season.

West Coast overcame injuries and off-field dramas to claim a memorable premiership, beating Collingwood by five points in a grand final for the ages.

Dom Sheed's match-winning goal from deep in the pocket is now part of AFL folklore.

But West Coast's premiership campaign was far from smooth.

Liam Ryan's early-morning car crash resulted in a club-imposed suspension and question marks about what exactly happened.

Eagles integrity officer Peter Staples landed in hot water after getting involved in a push-and-shove with TV cameramen at Perth Airport.

And Andrew Gaff copped an eight-week ban and widespread criticism for his punch that broke the jaw of young Docker Andrew Brayshaw.

Season-ending injuries to Brad Sheppard (hamstring) and Nic Naitanui (knee) further hampered West Coast's cause, but the depth of the squad shone through when the going got tough.

Friends, Family, Flags. That was West Coast's theme last year, and they ticked all three boxes.

The premiership win was further proof of Simpson's tactical nous.

His 'Weagles Web' in 2015 expertly covered the loss of key defenders Eric Mackenzie and Mitch Brown.

And Simpson's entertaining attacking style in 2018 won many admirers, with the mix of youth and experience combining perfectly.

The Eagles will start 2019 as one of the flag favourites, but they now have to deal with the fact that they will be the hunted.

The Bulldogs suffered a big premiership hangover after their 2016 success, but Simpson is confident his team won't suffer the same fate.

"It's a pretty humble group. I don't think they've got ahead of themselves," Simpson says.

"The training standards and all the indicators look good.

"We've been working on 2019 since November.

"We've still got a job to do and there's a season in front of us.

"That's the challenge for our players mentally. Physically they've ticked all the boxes, now it's the next step."

On paper West Coast only have one glaring weakness - their ruck department.

With Naitanui to miss the first half of the season and Scott Lycett now at Port Adelaide, it leaves Nathan Vardy and Tom Hickey to battle it out for the lead ruck role.

Both are solid workhorses, but they will probably be exposed by the competition's elite tap specialists.

The rest of West Coast's list looks rock solid.

Defenders Jeremy McGovern and Tom Barrass have become two of the AFL's best intercept markers, while backman Shannon Hurn enjoyed his finest season to date in 2018.

Jack Redden joined Elliot Yeo, Luke Shuey and Gaff as A-grade midfielders last season.

And Jack Darling and Josh Kennedy are one of the premier spearhead combinations in the AFL.

The retirement of goalsneak Mark LeCras leaves a hole, but the upside of small forwards Willie Rioli, Daniel Venables, and Liam Ryan should help cover that loss.

Naitanui's return in the second half of the season will be a huge boost, and he'll be hoping the rest of the squad is just as hungry as he is for flag success.

WEST COAST

Coach: Adam Simpson

Captain: Shannon Hurn

Last five years: 9-2-7-6-1

Premierships: 4 (1992, 1994, 2006, 2018).

Key five: Elliot Yeo, Jeremy McGovern, Luke Shuey, Jack Darling, Nic Naitanui.

One to watch: Oscar Allen. The 19-year-old swingman notched two games last season, and is now ready to match it with the big boys following an impressive pre-season. Standing at 191cm, Allen can play as a key defender or a spearhead in attack. His three goals in the pre-season win over Geelong impressed coach Adam Simpson.

Ins: Patrick Bines (Category B rookie), Keegan Brooksby (Gold Coast), Jarrod Cameron (Swan Districts), Harry Edwards (Swan Districts), Luke Foley (Subiaco), Tom Hickey (St Kilda), Xavier O'Neill (Oakleigh Chargers), Brody Riach (Category B rookie), Josh Smith (Collingwood), Bailey Williams (Dandenong Stingrays).

Outs: Tarir Bayok (delisted), Ryan Burrows (delisted), Callan England (delisted), Malcolm Karpany (delisted), Mark LeCras (retired), Scott Lycett (Port Adelaide), Eric Mackenzie (retired), Tony Olango (delisted), Luke Partington (delisted).

Best line-up:

B: Brad Sheppard, Tom Barrass, Shannon Hurn

HB: Lewis Jetta, Jeremy McGovern, Liam Duggan

C: Dom Sheed, Jack Redden, Andrew Gaff

HF: Jamie Cripps, Jack Darling, Willie Rioli

F: Daniel Venables, Josh Kennedy, Liam Ryan

R: Nic Naitanui, Elliot Yeo, Luke Shuey

I: Tom Cole, Nathan Vardy, Mark Hutchings, Chris Masten

Predicted finish: 2nd

AAP


AAP




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