THEY'RE scoring more, handballing less, dominating contested ball, winning the territory battle and punishing opponents' mistakes.

They're the Eagles – and they're flying high, so high only reigning premier Richmond is ahead of them.

West Coast, much like those Kangaroos of Arden St, is making a mockery of the pundits who predicted it to go into freefall in 2018.

Greater tests await, but the logic was flawed in writing off Adam Simpson's men, partly on the basis of the retirements of Matthew Priddis, Sam Mitchell and Drew Petrie.

Their departures, in the eyes of the general public and footy media, ushered in a new era for the Eagles after they, arguably, overachieved in making the second week of finals last year.

West Coast's midfield was one-paced and no good, there were too many middling players past their peak, and a delayed start for dual Coleman medallist Josh Kennedy was the nail in the coffin.

Or so the theory went. But too many ignored the Eagles' genuine star power.

Think Kennedy, Jeremy McGovern, Andrew Gaff, Nic Naitanui, Jack Darling, Elliot Yeo, Shannon Hurn and Luke Shuey.

Doin' the Eagle rock




Shannon Hurn

Effective kicks, marks per game


Andrew Gaff

Effective disposals


Jack Darling

Contested marks (forward half)


Jeremy McGovern

Contested marks (defensive half)


Jamie Cripps

Forward-50 tackles


Jack Darling, Josh Kennedy, Mark LeCras

Goalkicking rating


Five of those are already All Australians and Darling and Hurn are on track to join them. Shuey was flying, too, until he tore a hamstring in Saturday's demolition of Port Adelaide.

It helps that they've played five times in seven rounds at their new fortress, Optus Stadium, but the numbers tell the story of a team getting things right.

Naitanui's strong return after missing all of the 2017 season has surpassed even the most optimistic predictions and helped West Coast buck convention on how to use ruckmen.

Most clubs are pairing their No.1 big man with an agile key-position player or a particularly spring-heeled midfielder, whereas the Eagles operate with two 200cm-plus giants.

They are the sole team with two effective ruckmen this year: Naitanui wins a hit-out 66 per cent of the time (ranked No.1) and Scott Lycett wins one 53 per cent of the time (fifth).

West Coast is No.1 in hit-outs differential (15th in 2017), second in hit-outs to advantage differential (16th), fifth in clearances differential (17th) and second in scores from clearances differential (eighth).

The Eagles are also one of only two sides, with the Western Bulldogs, to have two midfielders rated elite for score involvements (Gaff and Dom Sheed).

Combine all that with Simpson's dedication to fixing West Coast's contested ball woes, what seems a directive to kick more, the reinvigoration of Chris Masten, Jack Redden and co, and the injection of youth and speed.

The results are remarkable.

THE BIG TWEAK: Eagles' off-season planning pays off

How the Eagles gained flight




Contested possession differential


(ranked 2nd)



Inside 50 differential

+7.3 (3rd)

-4.3 (14th)


232.4 (1st)

213.8 (7th)


128.3 (18th)

162.6 (12th)

Time in fwd half diff

+5:31 (3rd)

-4:58 (14th)

Points for

101.6 (2nd)

87.5 (12th)

Defensive 50 to I50

25.7% (2nd)

18.7% (15th)

Defensive 50 to score

14.2% (1st)

9.4% (8th)

Points from intercepts

67.1 (2nd)

49.1 (15th)

The 'other' Curnow deserves plaudits

Much of Carlton's hope is sold on Charlie Curnow's potential, but the 'other' Curnow is getting it done, too.

Ed Curnow is the AFL's No.1-ranked tagger this year – his opponents perform 40 per cent below their season average against him – and he is averaging a career-high 27.1 disposals.

The 28-year-old also leads the competition in tackles with 8.7 per game and is the only player among the top 20 to have a tackle efficiency above 80 per cent.

Bringing back the offence

The collective bemoaning of the state of the game and the lack of scoring took a back seat in the final game of round seven.

Collingwood 19.7 (121) pipped Brisbane 18.6 (114) at the Gabba in a Sunday thriller that equalled the highest combined score of the season with the round two Geelong-Hawthorn clash.

The 37 goals in the contest were not only the most in 2018, but the most since round four last year.