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Season review: West Coast

Travis King  September 19, 2017 7:00 AM

The Eagles whose 'time is up' We dissect the highs and lows of West Coast's 2017 in The Wash-Up
AFL 2017 First Semi Final - GWS v West Coast

Elliot Yeo was a huge surprise packet for the Eagles

In a nutshell

It was a frustrating campaign marred by inconsistency within matches and costly fadeouts. The Eagles snuck into eighth spot in the dying minutes of the season and won an epic elimination final but their lack of midfield running power was exposed in a crushing semi-final loss to Greater Western Sydney.  


Have your say: Give your season verdict on the Eagles using the form at the bottom of this article.


What we said in the pre-season  

We expected the Eagles to be in the top-four hunt and potentially play-off in the Grand Final, with many tipping Sam Mitchell to be the recruit of the year who could guide West Coast to the promised land. Mitchell had a solid final season, but it didn't quite work out as the Eagles hoped.

What worked 

Settling utility Elliot Yeo at half-back was a masterstroke and he earned his first All Australian gong, while Jeremy McGovern and Josh Kennedy enhanced their status as arguably the AFL's best key defender/forward combo. Recruiting Nathan Vardy and Drew Petrie deserves a tick. The Eagles would've been in strife without them.

What failed

The Eagles lacked midfield run and adding Mitchell tipped the scales even further, with an ageing line-up struggling to finish off games. West Coast couldn't command field position in the absence of a genuine ruckman or supply a hungry forward line, ranking 13th for inside 50s. Failing to win back-to-back games in the home and away season after round eight was extremely costly.

Overall rating: C

Winning a final just makes the season a pass but the Eagles never really hit their straps.    

The coach

Adam Simpson copped genuine heat for the first time in his four-season coaching career after West Coast blew a lead against Collingwood in round 18. Despite calls for his head, Simpson maintained his focus and led West Coast to a third-straight finals campaign. He is contracted until 2019 and must now oversee a tricky list transition.

The leaders 

Shannon Hurn had another consistent individual season but, like Simpson, faced the music several times when the Eagles' leadership was questioned. With the list heading down a younger path, there is likely to be speculation whether Hurn should retain the captaincy for a fourth season or if Luke Shuey is ready to take the reins. 

MVP

Josh Kennedy

The season really started to derail when Kennedy went down with a calf strain late in the close round 10 loss to the Giants. His return saved West Coast's finals bid. Despite missing five games, the spearhead almost won a third-straight Coleman Medal, booting 31 goals in the last seven games. 

Josh Kennedy was superb in the run home to the finals. Picture: AFL Photos

Surprise packet

Elliot Yeo

Catapulted himself towards the game's elite bracket with a stunning first half of the season across half-back. Stints in the engine room mid-year were less effective but the Eagles hope he can develop into an explosive midfielder.

Get excited

Dom Sheed

Was given more inside midfield time at Matt Priddis and Sam Mitchell's expenses and flourished in the second half of the season. Needs to go to another level with more responsibility in 2018.

Disappointment

Chris Masten

Is contracted until 2019 but might be on the trade table. The Eagles could have used his run but skill errors saw him spend most of the second half of the season in the WAFL.

Best win

Elimination Final: Port Adelaide 10.16 (76) def by West Coast 12.6 (78) at Adelaide Oval

The Eagles dug deep to fight back from 13 points down in extra time and Luke Shuey etched his name into finals folklore with an after-the-siren goal. An instant classic.  

Low point

The Eagles led an injury-hit Collingwood by four goals early in the fourth quarter in round 18 and, with a friendly fixture to come, finally looked like getting on a roll. But they were overrun and blew any hope of a top-four finish.  

The big questions

Can Nic Naitanui return at his best in 2018?
It will be 18 months since he last played and it remains to be seen if the star ruckman has the same leap and athleticism.

The Eagles will have high hopes for Nic Nat's comeback. Picture: AFL Photos

What can the Eagles do about their midfield?
Naitanui's comeback will help but outside run is a huge issue and not many youngsters, apart from untried Daniel Venables, boast explosive speed.

How many veterans should West Coast move on?
It feels like the end of an era but the Eagles need to keep some experienced players. Who out of Mark LeCras, Sharrod Wellingham, Eric Mackenzie and Josh Hill deserve new deals?

Season in a song

Time to move on – Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers 

Premiership window

Half open: Could also be half-closed, depending on your point of view.

Who's done?

Retirements: Paddy Brophy, Sam Butler, Sam Mitchell, Drew Petrie, Matt Priddis
Delistings: TBC
Unsigned free agents: Mark LeCras, Eric Mackenzie

How should they approach trade and draft period?

There are clear areas of need – damaging midfielders with explosive pace and zippy small forwards who can hit the scoreboard and apply pressure. The Eagles have high hopes for Venables and goalsneak Willie Rioli, but trading for those types should be top of the agenda.

Early call for 2018

Whether the Eagles will drop back with a transitioning list will be the lingering question, but if Nic Naitanui returns at his best West Coast could be around the mark for finals again. 

Eagles fans: what's your season verdict? 

Share your views via the form below and we'll publish the best responses on Wednesday, September 27. 

Having trouble on the app? Click here to open the form in a web view

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The Wash-Up: more season reviews