WEST Coast might not have the bodies, but it still has the fight.
A brave 15-point victory over St Kilda on Thursday night means Adam Simpson's side cannot be caught in the race for the top eight.
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It's enough to celebrate for now, at least, even if Jeremy McGovern's hamstring injury will leave the club with another question to answer.
McGovern limped from the field on the stroke of half-time in a 9.11 (65) to 6.14 (50) victory at the Gabba, clutching at his right hamstring. Although he wasn't seen again, the Eagles proved they still have the will and the skill to overcome another legitimate finals contender.
Having fallen eight points behind in the early stages of the final term, an undermanned West Coast could be forgiven for sinking to its knees. Instead, it produced a stirring comeback that included the game's final four goals to end the evening inside the top four.
Tim Kelly's brilliance, which included 29 disposals and a goal, was pivotal in the win. But this was a victory more about the collective, as the Eagles soared to victory without eight of their best 22 and a ninth who didn't feature in a minute of the second half.
Any concern around McGovern can wait until tomorrow, though. As Simpson slapped the bench in the coaches' box in celebration at the full-time siren, the importance of an enormous four points was fully felt.
The wait to end St Kilda's nine-year finals drought will go on another week, though, as the Saints coughed up a sensational chance to finally book their long-awaited ticket to the next phase of the season.
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Scoreless in the second quarter and goalless in the third, St Kilda had absorbed large periods of frustration before counter-attacking with the opening three goals of the final term. But its momentum was halted, and its rear-guard action ceased as West Coast stormed home.
Forget about the elimination final the Saints have long dreamed of in a fortnight's time. The Saints now have a mini-elimination final as soon as next week. Beat the Giants in round 17, and the real finals await. Lose, and it could still be curtains.
Gov blow adds to Eagles woes
Just how crucial could this be? With just 20 days remaining until the finals start, West Coast lost four-time Virgin Australia AFL All-Australian defender Jeremy McGovern to a hamstring injury on the stroke of half-time. It makes McGovern the sixth Eagle to be battling a soft-tissue complaint on the eve of post-season football, and the ninth Eagle considered a best 22 player to succumb to injury, with the latest blow perhaps the most important loss for Adam Simpson's side. McGovern rallied to support his teammates at the half-time interval, but the frustration of both the player and the coach couldn't be hid in the immediate aftermath of the incident that saw him clutch at his right hamstring. West Coast will undoubtedly be hoping for the best when it comes to McGovern's scans later this week.
Tim's got every tool to boost Eagles
West Coast's midfield was barely recognisable from the group that led the side to the 2018 premiership, but Tim Kelly's presence ensured it didn't miss its familiar faces on Thursday night. Kelly was outstanding in every facet of the game, winning 29 disposals, 15 contested possessions, nine clearances, nine score involvements and kicking a crucial late goal. His kicking was superb, his ball-winning nous was excellent and his effectiveness forward of centre was damaging. Kelly's impact ensured the Eagles weren't too hurt by the loss of Mark Hutchings (hamstring), Jack Redden (thumb), Dom Sheed (hamstring), Luke Shuey (hamstrings) and Elliot Yeo (groin), with the high-profile recruit leading an inexperienced midfield that also featured relatively untried youngsters like Hamish Brayshaw, Xavier O'Neill and Brayden Ainsworth.
Nic Nat gets around negating Ryder
It was the battle we had all hoped for. Two of the game's most athletic and enjoyable ruckmen, Nic Naitanui and Paddy Ryder, went head-to-head for almost the entirety of Thursday night's contest. Both figured among their team's best players, as well. The veteran 32-year-old Ryder had, for large parts, negated Naitanui's influence. Although by full-time, the Eagle had just about won the points. Naitanui had 18 disposals to Ryder's 13, nine clearances to his three, and 33 hitouts to his 22. It was an engaging contest and a thoroughly absorbing one as well, with both players deserving of credit for their output.
ST KILDA 3.5 3.5 3.9 6.14 (50)
WEST COAST 2.1 5.6 5.9 9.11 (65)
St Kilda: Ryder, Membrey, Lonie, Ross, Butler, Marshall
West Coast: Darling 2, Allen 2, Ryan, Gaff, Kennedy, Kelly, Cole
St Kilda: Clark, Steele, Ryder, Sinclair, Howard, Ross
West Coast: Kelly, Gaff, Naitanui, Ryan, Barrass, Darling
St Kilda: Nil
West Coast: McGovern (hamstring)