Jack Darling was on fire for the Eagles in the first half
IT MIGHT be a stretch to say the Eagles are flying again, but several key pieces of the West Coast puzzle fell into place during the convincing 70-point win against the Western Bulldogs on Sunday.
With Nic Naitanui and Sharrod Wellingham getting through their first games of the year, the Eagles were far too strong for the Dogs at Patersons Stadium, winning 21.11 (137) to 10.7 (67) in front of a 36,163-strong home crowd.
West Coast's accurate kicking was crucial. The Eagles had kicked 17.42 in their past two outings, but they scored 6.3 in the opening term to lead by 21 points at the first change.Five talking points: Eagles v Bulldogs
Dean Cox and Jack Darling set the tone early.
The pair nailed four goals between them in the first quarter from four opportunities.
Eagles coach John Worsfold could not explain his side's improvement in front of goal.
"I can't tell you what we did," Worsfold said.
"I can't release my secrets. Confidence is a big thing.
"Mindset and technique is a big thing in goalkicking as well."
Along with Josh Kennedy, they stretched the inexperienced Bulldogs defence.
Darling had five goals to half-time as West Coast was able to isolate him deep on a number of occasions.
Kennedy and Cox bagged four apiece for the match, with the Eagles' power forward triumvirate kicking a remarkable 13.2 between them in a sublime display.
Kennedy and Darling collided with each other in a potentially horrifying marking contest late in the last quarter but both walked away unscathed.
"You hate to see that at that time in the game but you also like to think they can commit to the contest ... they look like they both pulled up pretty well from that," Worsfold said.
Despite the scoreboard discrepancy, the Western Bulldogs were never comprehensively blown away.
The visitors won the clearances, the inside 50s, and the contested possession counts but could not put the scores on the board.
"We’ll get there, but we need our leaders to show the right way and we need our young people to not lose confidence and know that it’s the right way to play and the correct way to play."
Adam Cooney and Clay Smith were outstanding for the Bulldogs and Matthew Boyd worked hard all day but they lacked the depth and class of West Coast.
The Eagles' experienced defence provided a lot of rebound from defensive 50 and the midfield's work-rate in transition was a feature throughout the afternoon.
Luke Shuey was extremely damaging collecting 25 possessions, with five inside 50s and two goals before spending the last quarter on the bench with a calf problem.
"His calf tightened up, Scott Selwood did as well late," Worsfold said.
"They both had sharp cramps.
"Scott stayed out there, Luke came off and iced up, so we'll have to wait and see."
Wellingham showed what a valuable acquisition he could be, with the ex-Magpie amassing 26 disposals.
"He was a bit scratchy with a couple of things he did, but a lot of the stuff he did was classy," Worsfold said.
The Eagles lost Beau Waters pre-game when the vice-captain was withdrawn with an adductor strain and replaced by Will Schofield.
"He had a tight adductor post the game last week and did a fitness test yesterday morning and wasn't quite right," Worsfold said, but added he was confident he would recover for next week.
West Coast's Chris Masten gets tackled by Bulldog Clay Smith. Picture: AFL Media
WEST COAST 6.3 10.4 16.7 21.11 (137)
WESTERN BULLDOGS 3.0 5.2 8.3 10.7 (67)
West Coast: Darling 5, Cox 4, Kennedy 4, LeCras 3, Shuey 2, Masten, Priddis, Hill
Western Bulldogs: Smith 2, Addison, Cooney, Lower, Macrae, Stringer, Tutt, Wallis, Jones
West Coast: Cox, Shuey, S Selwood, Masten, Darling, Wellingham, Priddis
Western Bulldogs: Smith, Boyd, Cooney, Addison, Minson
West Coast: Waters (adductor, replaced in selected side by Schofield), Shuey (calf)
Western Bulldogs: Lower (eye), Stringer (corked leg)
West Coast: Nic Naitanui replaced Callum Sinclair during the third quarter
Western Bulldogs: Mitch Wallis replaced Jake Stringer during the third quarter
Umpires: Farmer, Hosking, Findlay
Official crowd: 36,163 at the Patersons Stadium