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The Stats Files: Eagles up for the contest

Contested-ball beast Dom Sheed has stepped up in Andrew Gaff's absence - Stats Files,West Coast Eagles,AFL,Dom Sheed,Andrew Gaff,Grand Final
Contested-ball beast Dom Sheed has stepped up in Andrew Gaff's absence

LIFE without Andrew Gaff ain't so bad for West Coast.

The Eagles' emergence as the No.1 contested ball team in the finals traces back to midfielder Dom Sheed replacing Gaff in round 21, after he was axed three times this year before that.

Gaff's absence was supposed to be a sledgehammer to their premiership hopes on top of star ruckman Nic Naitanui suffering a season-ending knee injury only three weeks earlier.

Instead, West Coast is fresh from mauling Melbourne's midfield – the AFL's best contested possession team by some way in 2018 – and also beat Collingwood in that statistic in their qualifying final.

The Eagles were ranked only mid-table in contested possession differential when Gaff received an eight-match ban for his infamous strike on first-year Docker Andrew Brayshaw.


That competition ranking climbs to fifth since Sheed moved back into the line-up, and no side has had a bigger positive differential than West Coast in September.

Sheed is averaging 27 disposals (14.5 contested), 7.5 score involvements, six clearances and four inside 50s in his two finals heading into Saturday's Grand Final against the Magpies.

The 23-year-old didn't play against Collingwood in round 17, but Pies coach Nathan Buckley became well aware of his threat in the clubs' absorbing qualifying final battle.

Elliot Yeo (17.5 per game, third), Sheed (14.5, seventh), Luke Shuey (11, 16th) and Jeremy McGovern (10, equal 19th) are in the top 20 for contested possessions in the finals.

Collingwood's best are Taylor Adams (14, eighth), Brayden Sier (12, 14th), and Brodie Grundy, Scott Pendlebury and Adam Treloar (all 10, equal 19th).

Taylor Adams is Collingwood's best for contested ball in the finals. Picture: AFL Photos

But what was supposed to be the Magpies' trump card – they are second overall in the crucial statistic, and second in the finals – is now an area of some concern.

The Eagles also won the groundball-gets (contested possessions, not counting free kicks) by two over Buckley's men in their last meeting, after losing that category by 20 in their round 17 clash.

They average only 88.9 groundballs across the year (ranked 17th), but that rocketed to a season-high 116 in the 16-point qualifying final victory over Collingwood.

West Coast also won 48 per cent of their disposals that day in contested situations, another season high.

That may partly owe to the Magpies denying the Eagles their 'kick-mark' game preference, with Adam Simpson's team managing only 84 marks compared to their League-leading average of 101.

Whatever the reason, West Coast has added to its already-imposing arsenal.

Numbers of note

Provided by Champion Data

Round 17: West Coast 15.12 (102) d Collingwood 9.13 (67) at the MCG

  • Collingwood conceded a season-most 28 free kicks
  • Collingwood laid 42 tackles (21 fewer than West Coast), the fewest in any game this season and six fewer than in any other game
  • West Coast's +53 point differential from intercepts was its third-best result in 2018
  • West Coast was in front for only 51.2 per cent of game time. This was the Eagles' second-lowest percentage in any win this year


  • Nic Naitanui played barely 24 minutes before suffering his season-ending knee injury
  • Will Hoskin-Elliott finished with seven disposals, six pressure acts, three score assists and -0.9 rating points in his worst game for the year
  • Jack Redden starred with 30 disposals (21 uncontested), nine groundball-gets, seven tackles, five clearances, four score launches and 18.4 rating points (second-most in 2018)
  • Jordan De Goey kicked four goals (three on Will Schofield; one on Brad Sheppard), spending 86 per cent of his time up forward

Nic Naitanui suffered a torn ACL against the Magpies in round 17. Picture: AFL Photos

Major match-ups

  • Darcy Moore v Josh Kennedy (75 minutes)
  • Matt Scharenberg v Jack Darling (72 minutes)
  • Jeremy McGovern v Brody Mihocek (68 minutes)
  • Mark Hutchings v Steele Sidebottom (68 minutes)

Qualifying final: West Coast 12.14 (86) d Collingwood 10.10 (70) at Optus Stadium

  • Collingwood's pressure rating was 192. That was the Pies' equal third-highest this season, but also the most pressure the Eagles have faced
  • Collingwood scored only 16 points from clearances, its fourth-fewest in any game in 2018
  • West Coast kicked 18 points (to one) after the 20-minute mark of the last quarter, its second most from that time this season
  • West Coast loves to kick against the Magpies. The Eagles' kick-to-handball ratio was 2.10:1 (third-highest in 2018) after being 2.14:1 (highest) in round 17


  • Elliot Yeo racked up an enormous 36 disposals, 664 metres gained, 18 groundball-gets (most of any Eagle in 2018), nine tackles and eight intercept possessions
  • Jeremy McGovern won 18 disposals and 12 intercept possessions
  • Brownlow Medal runner up Steele Sidebottom had 10 touches in 55 minutes against Mark Hutchings. His other 17 came in the 48 minutes the West Coast tagger wasn't on him
  • Seventeen of Brayden Sier's 26 disposals were contested, to go with an equal team-high six clearances

Elliot Yeo was enormous in the qualifying final. Picture: AFL Photos

Major match-ups

  • Jeremy Howe v Jack Darling (77 minutes)
  • Tyson Goldsack v Josh Kennedy (100 minutes)
  • Brodie Grundy v Nathan Vardy (56 minutes)
  • Brodie Grundy v Scott Lycett (55 minutes)