IN THE wake of a crucial and largely impressive win against Collingwood, West Coast coach Adam Simpson needed to reinforce a message to his players: it was five rounds into the season and they were still chasing a four-quarter performance.
The Eagles' season has followed an early pattern of winning at home and losing on the road, but the other trend has been a lack of consistency within games, which has concerned the coach.
The 2018 premiers are yet to win more than two quarters in a match, getting the job done in their wins during devastating one or two-quarter bursts that are not sustainable.
In round one it came late, winning the fourth quarter against Gold Coast by 26 points, and in round three it came early, building a 52-point half-time lead against Port Adelaide.
Last Friday night against Collingwood, the Eagles won the second and third quarters by a combined 56 points but lost the first and fourth by 15 and 14 respectively.
"We've been inconsistent in four-quarter efforts this season and have been in and out of games," champion forward Josh Kennedy said this week.
"Making sure we can be a bit more consistent in giving that effort over four quarters is something we'll be working on."
Kennedy echoed Simpson's post-match comments after the Collingwood win, with the coach admitting he was concerned about the trend.
The Eagles were on the back foot against the Magpies after a slow start but took control of the game after quarter-time, winning the contested ball (+11) and inside 50 count (+10) to turn a 15-point deficit into a 12-point lead.
It was the only quarter in which they won the contested ball count, however, highlighting another trend they will hope to reverse on the road this week.
The Eagles have won the contested ball indicator in seven of 20 quarters this season, winning five of those and losing the other two by a combined seven points.
Competing with Geelong at the coalface and winning the hard ball has been put on the agenda this week and the body of work this season suggests the Eagles will need to win that battle to go 4-2.
It was a glaring weakness in round four when they were overrun by St Kilda, losing the count in every quarter for the only time this season.
Contested ball is also where the game swung in the final term against the Western Bulldogs in round two, losing the indicator by 11 as a 12-point lead became a seven-point loss.
"We've had positions of dominance throughout this year in every game. Every game we've been in front coming into the last quarter almost," Simpson said after the Magpies win.
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"We're probably giving teams too much momentum, so we've got to find a way to lock that down and a lot of the time it's contest driven."
Finding greater consistency in their contest work shapes as a key to West Coast producing its first four-quarter performance of the season.
If that delivers the Eagles their first win at GMHBA Stadium since 2006, any early concerns about their road form can be put to bed.