Disappointed West Coast players leave the ground after losing Adelaide at Adelaide Oval in R11, 2024. Picture: Getty Images

THE THREE phases of the game that West Coast is prioritising through the early stages of its rebuild have all taken a hit on the road in 2024, with Sunday's 99-point loss to Adelaide thrusting the Eagles' travel struggles into the spotlight.

West Coast is measuring itself this year on a game plan that prioritises contest, pressure and front half footy, with the players benefitting from a stripped back approach that brings great clarity to their preparation. 

After the club won its third game of the season against Melbourne at Optus Stadium last week, it was a style worth celebrating as the Eagles continued to wrench back their home ground advantage with a fiercely contested performance. 

Harley Reid celebrates the Eagles' win with the fans after the match between Waalitj Marawar (West Coast) and Narrm (Melbourne) at Optus Stadium in R10, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

But after moving to 0-5 on the road on Sunday with their heaviest defeat of the year, Champion Data stats show the Eagles are not executing at the same level in any of their targeted priorities when they travel. 


Contested Possessions



Contested Possessions - Post-clearance






The contest phase of the game has been arguably the Eagles' most impressive in home wins against Richmond, Fremantle and Melbourne, with midfielders Tim Kelly, Elliot Yeo, Harley Reid and ruckman Bailey Williams driving the standard. 

In the air, defenders Jeremy McGovern and Tom Barrass have returned to being a forceful contested marking combination, with key forward Jake Waterman ranking No.4 in the AFL for contested marks.

Jake Waterman marks the ball during the match between West Coast and Melbourne at Optus Stadium in R10, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

But the collective drop off in the team's contested indicators on the road makes it hard to be competitive, with the Eagles' average contested possessions versus their opponents falling by 25.3 away from Optus Stadium.

"When they started getting on top around the ball the flood gates really opened," Simpson said after the Adelaide loss, which saw the Crows win the contested ball 131-107. 

"It's pretty inconsistent, our home versus away form, so we've got a lot of work to do on our travel in particular and bouncing back next week is going to be important. 

"We put a spotlight on our form when we travel, and it clearly didn't work. We just looked lethargic when we started the game, and there's no excuse for that, so we've got to own it."





Centre Clearances



Points from Clearance

+6.8 points

-30.8 points

With club champion Kelly averaging a career-best 6.0 clearances, Yeo (7.6) doing likewise, and young star Reid (4.7) making an instant midfield impact, there has been a lot to like about the Eagles' clearance game under new stoppages coach Luke Shuey.

But again, the comparison between home and away form is stark in this targeted area of priority, particularly when it comes to points conceded from clearances. 

Tim Kelly in action during the match between West Coast and Melbourne at Optus Stadium in round 10, 2024. Picture: Getty Images

Ruckman Matt Flynn has returned from a serious tendon injury and will be in the mix for senior selection, potentially giving the Eagles a new look at stoppages and allowing Williams to move forward and play as a support ruckman. But bridging the gap in this area when away from home will be a team focus.


Pressure Rating






Forward 50 Tackles 



Simpson has spoken about the connection his players have with their home fans, and the return of 50,000-plus crowds is clearly generating energy among the group. 

They have made it difficult for opposition teams through their pressure this season, but even that is dropping on the road as teams buffer their attempts to pressure by taking uncontested marks (Adelaide had 134 marks to the Eagles' 78, and 269 uncontested possessions to 145).


While impacted by low inside 50s, key forward Jack Darling highlighted the drop off in pressure week-to-week after a brilliant performance against Melbourne with 12 tackles and just one against Adelaide.


Inside 50 Differential



Time in Fwd Half Differential



Points from Forward Half Chains 

43.2 points

24.2 points

All of these priorities are designed to help the Eagles to play the game in their front half, so it adds up that when they travel and don't deliver on them, they are playing on the back foot. 

There is more "honesty" about the Eagles this season, Simpson said, making it easier to have honest conversations after losses like Sundays. 

Adam Simpson leaves the ground after West Coast's loss to Adelaide at Adelaide Oval in round 11, 2024. Picture: Getty Images

The clarity in their game style also makes it obvious when things aren't going right and what needs to happen to respond.

With three of their next four games at Optus Stadium, against St Kilda, North Melbourne and Hawthorn, the Eagles have a golden opportunity to build on their game style and emphasise their strengths at home.

The real test will come against Essendon in round 15, however, when they test those same strengths again on the road at Marvel Stadium and fight for their first away points of the season.