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Five things we learned: West Coast v Melbourne

Highlights: West Coast v Melbourne The Eagles and Demons clash in the second preliminary final

1. Kennedy's cobwebs are gone
Two weeks ago when the Eagles won through to a preliminary final, Josh Kennedy couldn't get anything to stick. For three quarters he mistimed his leaps, fumbled his marks and looked liked a player struggling to get back in the groove after almost seven weeks sidelined with a hairline fracture in his shin. He stamped himself on the game with some big moments in the fourth quarter, but Saturday's four-goal performance was a much bigger statement from the three-time All Australian. The Eagles are now 12-0 this season when both Kennedy and Darling play, and Collingwood will know Kennedy shapes as a different proposition than the player defender Tyson Goldsack matched in the qualifying final.

EAGLES' DEE-MOLITION JOB Full match coverage and stats

2. West Coast is capable of football perfection
West Coast's first half on Saturday was as close to flawless football as you could hope to produce against an opponent that had earned the right to play off for a Grand Final berth. Billed as a battle between Melbourne's dominant midfield and the Eagles' key posts, West Coast took away the Demons’ biggest strength from the start, beating them up at the coalface to win the contested ball 87-73 in the first two quarters. With their defence remaining impassable, and Josh Kennedy and Jack Darling spearheading a dominant forward line, the result was football perfection, with Melbourne kept to 0.6 while the Eagles piled on 10.9 themselves to settle the result before half-time. The Demons first-half score was the lowest in a final since 1960 and the first time a team had been kept goalless to the main break in a final since 1927. It was a powerful statement from the Eagles going into their seventh Grand Final.  

THE MOMENT Lewis opens gates of Hell on Demons


3. Fresh legs do count for something
There is a temptation to blame the pre-finals bye when teams take the direct path to a preliminary final but get bundled out, as happened to Richmond on Friday night. But the Eagles showed on Saturday that having two weeks off in a four-week period should not always be considered a hindrance. Their first-quarter blitz was fearsome and suggested the Eagles had used their break wisely, training this group to perfection. Since the pre-finals bye was introduced for the 2016 season, the Grand Finalists have either both taken the long road as the Western Bulldogs and Sydney did in 2016, or both enjoyed the double week off, as Richmond and Adelaide did last year. It will be fascinating to see if West Coast's fresh legs remain an advantage against the Magpies, who have played every week of this year's finals series.

GOLDEN EAGLES Every West Coast player rated from the prelimminary final


4. The Viney tag was a winner
If the Eagles were going to tag, the popular tip was for Mark Hutchings to sidle up against Clayton Oliver. But coach Adam Simpson pulled a surprise by sending his stopper to Melbourne co-captain Jack Viney in what proved to be an influential move when the game was on the line. Viney had just three possessions in the opening quarter as the Demons' spirit was broken. At half-time he had nine touches, recovering in the second half to finish with 21 and 11 clearances. Given Viney's strength at stoppages, it was a significant scalp for Hutchings going into the Grand Final, setting up a likely battle against star Magpie Steele Sidebottom, who has been arguably the player of the finals so far. 

HELL OF A DAY Every Demon rated from the preliminary final

5. The Demons need to add some care to their chaos
The glaring weakness in Melbourne's game on Saturday was its lack of care with the ball, particularly by hand. With Simon Goodwin's men beaten to the ball, taking away their major strength, looking after the footy was an even bigger priority against a West Coast backline that had time to get set up. They weren't able to, with a glut of sloppy handballs in the first half bringing them unstuck. The Demons entered the match with faith their contested brand would hold up in finals, and it had for two weeks. But they could take something from the Eagles' more methodical, careful style when they plot their return in 2019 after what has been an exciting year for the club.