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Where it all went wrong for fallen Eagles

Highlights: Geelong v West Coast The Cats and Eagles clash in the semi final

WEST Coast's failed premiership defence can be traced back to a shock loss to Hawthorn in round 23 in Perth.

That defeat cost the reigning premiers a top-four berth and meant they would need to win three games on the road to claim back-to-back flags for the first time in the club's history.

At worst, the Eagles should have been playing a sudden-death semi-final this weekend at Optus Stadium for the right to play in a preliminary final.

Lewis Jetta leads shattered teammates off the MCG for the last time this year. Picture: AFL Photos

Instead, they're now planning their end of season trips a couple of weeks earlier than they would have hoped after a 20-point loss to Geelong at the MCG on Friday night.

Toppling the minor premier was never going to be an easy task and it looked all but impossible when the Cats burst out of the blocks to take a commanding 32-point lead early in the second quarter.

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However, what the Eagles have shown in the past two years is they possess plenty of resilience.

West Coast lifted its intensity, started winning the ground balls and surged back into the contest.

Quick goals to All-Australian winger Andrew Gaff in the third quarter put the Eagles in front 53-51, the first time they had been ahead all night.

The game was evenly poised at three-quarter time, with the Eagles leading 10.7 (67) to 9.9 (63).

A tweet from Geelong's social media team summed up the Cats' confidence – "Geelong has outscored its opposition by 118 points in final quarters this season, ranked No. 1. Hopefully this is a good omen for tonight."

That proved to be accurate, the Cats running over the top of the Eagles to kick the only four goals of the last term.

The Eagles were smashed in contested possessions (-23) and lost marks inside 50 by 12 (17-5), with key forwards Tom Hawkins and Esava Ratugolea proving to be a handful in the air.

Willie Rioli's shock absence with a provisional doping suspension on the eve of the game hurt the Eagles with their forward pressure, but would have also had a significant impact on their mental preparation.

This season will be remembered as one of promise, yet unfulfilled potential.

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The Eagles went 15-7 in the home and away season and didn't lose more than two games in a row, however defeats to Port Adelaide, Sydney and Hawthorn would prove costly.

Potentially adding Cats star Tim Kelly – who showed his class with two goals and 18 disposals – during the upcoming AFL Trade Period keeps the Eagles firmly in the premiership window next year.

While this season didn't deliver the ultimate prize, the Eagles can enter the off-season knowing they're not far off from lifting the premiership cup for a fifth time.

The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of the AFL or its clubs