WEST Coast produced its version of 2021 football perfection on Saturday night, dominating premiership contender Port Adelaide and reminding the competition of its own flag ambitions.
On a day when back-to-back premier Richmond was knocked over by Sydney, the Eagles trounced the team seen as the Tigers' main rival this season, winning by 37 points at Optus Stadium.
They outclassed and outmuscled a flat Port outfit, building a 52-point lead at half-time and preventing a Power surge in the second half before winning 16.12 (108) to 11.5 (71).
The win came at a cost, however, after captain Luke Shuey suffered another hamstring injury late in the fourth quarter after making a brilliant return from the same injury.
The Norm Smith medallist, who has a long recent history with soft tissue troubles, appeared frustrated as he went to the bench with eight minutes to play and didn't return as medical substitute Zac Langdon was activated.
He had played a big role in a faultless West Coast performance, with the Eagles' ability to dominate in all areas of the ground, particularly in the first half, firing a warning to rivals.
Led by superstar ruckman Nic Naitanui, their centre square weapon was as sharp as ever, winning the clearances 19-10 in the middle and 41-27 overall.
Shuey was best afield with 28 disposals and eight clearances, while Andrew Gaff returned to form with 36 touches and four inside 50s.
In attack, Josh Kennedy (four goals), Jack Darling (three) and Oscar Allen all had their moments and collectively controlled the air.
EAGLES v POWER Full match coverage and stats
Jeremy McGovern (11 marks) and Tom Barrass did likewise in defence, holding Charlie Dixon goalless after the big Power forward booted six goals against them in round four last season.
Buoyed by 50-point-plus wins to open the season against North Melbourne and Essendon, the Power crashed back to Earth.
Coach Ken Hinkley declared pre-game that the key for his team was to limit the Eagles' time with the ball and on that measure their start could hardly have been worse.
West Coast controlled possession in the opening term (100-71), winning the ball at the coalface and moving it with precision, while Port handed it back repeatedly with sloppy turnovers.
The result was a four-goal run to start the game – including Jarrad Brander's first AFL goal with a brilliant snap – as West Coast opened up a 26-point lead at the first break.
The possession game set in during the second quarter and Port had no answer as leading midfielders Ollie Wines, Travis Boak and Zak Butters were outpointed.
They turned the clash into a contest in the second half but never mounted an extended run as the Eagles held them at arm's length until the final siren.
Liam Ryan flies
Liam Ryan has been flying and standing on opponents' shoulders since he was a child, but he still finds a moment to smile when he does it on the biggest stage. The superstar Eagle looked to have gone too early when he leapt over Darcy Byrne-Jones in the second quarter, but he hung in the air as Tim Kelly floated across the front of the pack, and took a magnificent grab with two hands before landing on his back. As the play moved on, the livewire forward had a grin on his face and his grab ignited the home crowd as the Eagles made their big move.
West Coast's main concern early this season has been its injury-hit midfield, but there was no cause for worry against the Power. Shuey's return added class with the ball, hardness at stoppages, and direction to teammates. He was on fire early and appeared to get in his opponents' heads after a tackle from Peter Ladhams slid high. Gaff's return to form was significant after 16 disposals in each of his first two games.
Power pair do their bit
Port's decision to play both Todd Marshall and Mitch Georgiades alongside Charlie Dixon can't be criticised after a midfield domination that left the talls without a chance. Georgiades was their only goalkicker in the first half and Marshall finished with three, with Dixon the player West Coast went out of its way to shut down. Connor Rozee was goalless on return, with Robbie Gray the most dangerous of the small forwards.
WEST COAST 5.4 10.7 13.8 16.12 (108)
PORT ADELAIDE 1.1 2.3 6.3 11.5 (71)
West Coast: Kennedy 4, Darling 3, Cripps 2, Ryan 2, Allen, Brander, Kelly, Petruccelle, Sheed
Port Adelaide: Gray 3, Marshall 3, Fantasia 2, Georgiades 2, Drew
West Coast: Shuey, Gaff, Kennedy, Naitanui, Kelly, McGovern, Redden
Port Adelaide: Duursma, Houston, Boak, Byrne-Jones, Georgiades
West Coast: Shuey (hamstring), Brendon Ah Chee (hamstring) replaced in final team by Jarrod Brander
Port Adelaide: Nil
West Coast: Zac Langdon (replaced Shuey)
Port Adelaide: Miles Bergman (unused)
Crowd: 42,090 at Optus Stadium