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After the siren: Meltdown torches Eagles' credibility

Ashley Browne  July 23, 2017 9:28 PM

The 10: round 18's best moments We countdown the best highlights after a fantastic weekend of footy

AS FAR as costly meltdowns go, what we saw from West Coast late Sunday afternoon at Etihad Stadium was a doozy.

Allowing Collingwood the last five goals of the game, the last four of which came inside time-on, resulted in an eight-point loss that exposed West Coast's frailties once and for all.

It was an awful collapse, one which knocked the Eagles out of the eight and put the clamps on any sort of excitement over Josh Kennedy's six-goal haul in what was his 200th game.

Adding to the tale of woe is that the Pies were down to two men on the bench throughout the second half, with Darcy Moore and Travis Varcoe both injured. The Pies were plucky and they took their chances.

West Coast is the flakiest team in the competition and in a season such as this, that is saying something. Kennedy is a star, Elliott Yeo has had an All Australian year, Jeremy McGovern, Andrew Gaff and Luke Shuey are generally excellent and Shannon Hurn is a good captain and solid defender, but then the question marks begin to hover over a team that supposedly should be playing finals.

Selection this week was telling. Sam Mitchell was 'managed' despite the importance of the game, while Matt Priddis played. Priddis had 16 touches and 11 tackles on Sunday, but by half-time, he had more tackles than possessions. Given that Priddis has a playing deal for 2018 and Mitchell does not, it would seem likely that Mitchell's move into full-time coaching will start next year. It is becoming increasingly difficult for the Eagles to play them both.

But do you reckon if the Eagles had their time again, they might squeeze another year out of Mitchell and instead bring down the curtain on Priddis's magnificent career? And what of Mark LeCras, Will Schofield, Lewis Jetta and others who are consistently inconsistent?

Around the state leagues: Who starred in your club's twos?

The Eagles have been a bit short-sticked given that the mercurial Nic Naitanui hasn't played all year, but irrespective, they have shown on the odd occasion that their best is very good. Just not often enough. At this stage, now they're out of the eight, they don't really deserve to get back in. Not when, with the game on the line in the final term, none of Luke Shuey, Andrew Gaff, Matt Priddis and Dom Sheed could win a contested possession. 

You can't argue with Adam Simpson, when he said afterwards, "Your will to win, in the end, will win you some games." West Coast, when it really mattered on Sunday, had none.

As for the Pies, it was a stirring win, particularly with Scott Pendlebury on the sidelines. Adam Treloar played a monstrous game in his absence although the star was Jordan De Goey who kicked four goals.

WATCH: De Goey drags Pies over the line

They threw caution to the wind late – win narrowly or lose by a lot was the mentality – and while this sort of approach doesn't always get the right results, you can't fault the resolve and as the various reviews into Collingwood's operations continue, a result like this is a tick for the coach and his future.

Giants need more grit to stay alive

And while we're thinking about putting a line through sides, it's awfully tempting to do the same to Greater Western Sydney.

The Giants might still be third on the ladder but their premiership hopes are hanging by a thread now, and while injuries have doubtlessly played their part in a season that is starting to unravel, so too has continued ill-discipline and an inability to get down and dirty. All of it was on show in a 19-point loss to Richmond on Sunday that might have been the club's worst for the year. 

The revolving door in the medical room appears set to continue. This week, it could be Stephen Coniglio in, but Dylan Shiel out. Perhaps the best news of the weekend was that Brett Deledio got through his first game of footy for the year, half a game in the NEAFL.

But Toby Greene is now the clubhouse leader for the dumbest footballer in the AFL. Having sailed close to the wind all year – and despite a pledge to clean up his act – he collected Alex Rance with a jumper punch to the chin, and given his priors, he is facing two weeks on the sidelines. There will be not a hint of sympathy for him.

Like most of his teammates, he started brightly enough on Sunday and the 20-point lead at the first change should have been upwards of five goals. But when the weather turned in the second term the Giants curled up their toes and it has become an all-too-familiar trait. Poor decision making, no real plan B and no ability to scrap as well as their opponents.

Is the season salvageable? Absolutely. The Western Bulldogs proved that last year. But there is a lack of grit with GWS and the switch might not necessarily be flicked even when the reinforcements return. Leon Cameron, contract extension and all, has plenty of work to do and what the security of the contract extension does allow for is for a big call at selection if need be.

Nine things we learned from round 18

For Richmond, meanwhile, this was a grand win. Yes, it was redemption for the round nine heartbreaker against the Giants, but it was more than that. The Tigers worked their way back into the game after their poor start and it was driven by, of course, Dustin Martin and Trent Cotchin. But the rest of the side also lifted their work rate and the middle two quarters were most impressive, not necessarily for the highlights reel but certainly because of the resolve and the appetite for the contest.

The Tigers are going to play finals in 2017 and that is a wonderful thing. And if they happen to play on the MCG in September, where else in the world would you rather be?

Stars go from hobbled to heroic in seven days

A week ago, in Darwin, a dazed and confused Rory Sloane had to be ordered off Darwin's TIO Stadium by his very own captain.

At around the same time. Jack Viney was still getting around with the assistance of crutches.

Yet there they were on the weekend, leading from the front and helping their teams to arguably their most critically important wins of the season.

Sloane was magnificent Friday night for Adelaide against Geelong. The Crows were pretty sure all week he would pass the various concussion protocols in order to play and he was masterful with 28 possessions and three goals.

WATCH: Super Sloane sets the tone

His brief for the game appeared simple – see ball, get ball. Use his wonderful ball-winning abilities and take it from there. The Cats didn’t tag him, at least not early when the game was hot and up for grabs and Sloane made them pay for that decision.

The win was Adelaide's first over Geelong in six attempts and leaves them in the box seat for a top-two finish and the various benefits that flow on from there. The Crows appear to have regained their slashing form from the start of the year and while the 'do they have a plan B?' query remains, they won't need it if they get after teams from the start as they did Geelong.

Viney's first term, after two weeks on the sidelines because of plantar fasciitis was magnificent. With the Demons keen to make a fast start, addressing a perceived weakness, he had 12 disposals and four clearances. By the first change, with their midfield totally dominant, they led 4.4 to 0.3 and the game was effectively over.

As Simon Goodwin noted, Viney’s effort spoke volumes for his leadership and character and as a result, he appears set to take part in the finals for the first time.

And it doesn't take much to figure that Viney is a player who will thrive in the pressure-cooker atmosphere in September.

The run home: Your club's road to September

The Saints might be going backwards

Two weeks ago, we were all fulsomely singing the praises of the Saints after their virtuoso performance against Richmond. No team has put together a better half of football this year.

Ten quarters of football later the Saints are out of the eight – admittedly on percentage only – and licking their wounds after having their pants handed to them by Essendon and Sydney. They were brutalised by the Swans at stages on Saturday night and just couldn't work their way through the well-organised Sydney backline. By three-quarter time, they had been inside 50 just 23 times. No wonder they are desperate to get the signature of Josh Kelly because of the class and outside run he will provide.

They lost Leigh Montagna to a hamstring injury on Saturday night and will probably leave Nick Riewoldt at home for next week’s trip to Port Adelaide. It will be eye-opening for the Saints, a real glimpse into how they stack up once the two great champions of the club move on.

The Saints won 12 games last year, but amid all the external expectations about 2017, did say they might be an improved team but win fewer games. They’re tracking for an 11-win season, but have they improved? Probably not.

And they can't even bank on that bonus top three or so draft pick come November. The Saints are sitting on Hawthorn's first-round pick as part of the Jaeger O'Meara trade, but the Hawks' revival over the second half of the season means that pick will likely be between six and eight in the draft. Heck, at this rate, the Hawks might even finish the season ahead of the Saints. 

Other observations

1. Here's why the round 23 clash with Greater Western Sydney is likely to be so critical for Geelong. The Cats haven't been great on the road this year, with three of their five defeats – Gold Coast, West Coast and Adelaide – coming outside Victoria. Beat the Giants in the final game and they can stay home for September, whether that be Simonds Stadium or the MCG. There has to be questions over whether the Cats are good enough to go on the road to win a final – they'll need better efforts across the ground from the entire team than they're getting at the moment. 

2. Thanks to the Lions and Blues for one of the more entertaining games of the season, even if it was the first of the season which had no bearing on the final eight. The takeaway? The Lions might not win the wooden spoon while the Blues, for all their promise, still might.

Fantasy form watch: Pigs shouldn't be allowed to tag

3. Dale Morris has been a super footballer for the Western Bulldogs, one of those players to be particularly delighted for when the Bulldogs snapped their premiership drought in 2016. But if this is to be the end, then he deserved a better stage than being helped from the field nursing a badly broken arm in Cairns. At age 34, he would have been no good thing to play on next year, but this is his second major injury of the season and it might spell the end. Hopefully he will still get a rousing send-off at some stage in front of the Bulldogs’ faithful. 

4. I'm not sure Liam Picken will maker anyone's Hall of Fame, but if he does, surely Luke Beveridge is the first person he thanks. It was as incoming Bulldogs coach in 2015 that Beveridge took Picken, then aged 28 and seemingly pigeonholed in the backline and turned him into a midfielder-cum-forward. Picken may have played better and more important games for the Dogs butnever before has he kicked six goals in a game

WATCH: Rich Pickens for record-breaker

5. Conor Glass stepped in for his first game for Hawthorn on Saturday night and the Irishman looked comfortable from the start across half-back. The Hawks have been bullish on him from the time they signed him when he was a star junior multi-sport athlete in Northern Ireland. But what the Hawks were able to do with Glass was introduce him to the Australian game in relative comfort at the VFL development level, an option that will be closed when that competition is shut down by AFL Victoria at the end of the year. It is a puzzling decision from the outside and one that has outraged many involved in the coalface of football in Victoria. The introduction to AFL football for players such as Glass would be that bit more problematic if it meant starting out straight in the VFL.

6. Saturday afternoon at Etihad Stadium was one of those days when both clubs walked away feeling like winners. Yes, the Bombers got the chocolate and four important premiership points en route to the finals. But North Melbourne, depleted by injury, with the skipper resting and best defender a late withdrawal, made the Bombers earn the win. North went into the game with seven players with fewer than 10 games experience, including two more debutants. The Kangaroos stood accused in the past of not bringing through the kids, but that is no longer the case. Absolutely, it is the right move at this stage of the season and for their list development, to pick the kids and see which of them can play.

7. Gold Coast couldn't be faulted for its effort for the most part against the Bulldogs in Cairns. Ben Ainsworth imposed himself on the game with two great goals in as many minutes in the second term. The team belongs to him and his mates now, not Gary Ablett who seemingly picks and choose when he wants to play. It’s not going to happen because the charade of the trade period still needs to take place, but the Suns should make a stand with Ablett now. That’s three straight away games he has missed and what are the odds he makes it a fourth when the Suns travels to Perth for the Fremantle game in a fortnight? 

LADDER PREDICTOR

Forecast the road to the flag with the AFL Ladder and Finals Predictor