WEST Coast is in danger of missing finals after a shock loss to Collingwood on Saturday and coach Adam Simpson admits his side “won’t get far at all” unless it improves rapidly over the final weeks of the season.
The Eagles blew a major opportunity to shore up their spot in the top eight against the lowly Magpies, conceding the first eight goals of the game in the 45-point defeat.
MAGPIES v EAGLES Full match coverage and stats
With a poor percentage and games against premiership contenders Melbourne and Brisbane to come, the Eagles face the possibility of missing September action for the first time since 2014.
Speaking post-game, Simpson said his side was not performing to the standards of a top eight team and would need to review the game thoroughly to see where things went wrong.
He warned that his players were running out of time to recapture something approaching their best form.
“It’s pretty raw at the moment. We have to go through the game, see where we failed, address it with our players and then try and get better,” Simpson said.
“The season is still alive, we’re still thereabouts but we’re not going to get far if we play like that.
“We’re honest about that, we need to own it and we need to get better real quick, otherwise we won’t get far at all.”
The Eagles lost the game despite winning clearances by six and the inside 50s by three.
Simpson put his side’s defeat down to being outrun by the Magpies and failing to execute when it counted.
“I thought the first quarter … we had no efficiency in the front half and an inability to keep it in our front half was really disappointing. We couldn’t stop their uncontested game and run and overlap," he said.
“They made the most of their [opportunities] and we missed our shots. The second quarter was really disappointing. [We were] defensively poor.
“Offensively there were some poor decisions made as well and we chased our tails the rest of the day.”
The loss was all the more disappointing because it came in premiership captain Shannon Hurn’s 300th game.
Simpson said his players felt guilty they weren’t able to perform for the beloved veteran.
“There’s probably a little bit of guilt for a player that’s served us so well for so many years and he played his role again today,” Simpson said.
“So we’re disappointed, disappointed on his behalf and disappointed for our members and fans on how we played."
Meanwhile, Collingwood coach Robert Harvey said he was thrilled his young team got a taste of winning in what has been a lean campaign this season.
He said leaders like Brodie Grundy (one goal and 22 disposals) stood up in the absence of skipper Scott Pendlebury.
He was also full of praise for Steele Sidebottom, who captained the team on Saturday and starred with 33 touches and a goal.
“I think he enjoyed [having the captaincy]. We’ll share those duties as we go, but in the end he looked like he just really enjoyed his footy,” Harvey said.
“He’s relishing that opportunity to lead those young guys and that’s good to see. And it’s good to see him get a bit more reward with the ball as well.”
Saturday’s clash was Jeremy Howe’s first AFL game since recovering from a hamstring injury suffered in round five.
The defender made a solid return with 24 touches and 10 marks and Harvey said Howe injected invaluable experience and leadership into the team.
“I think it’s just having those experienced heads … You can’t buy those games’ experience and Howey is a leader of the team and I know the players love playing with Howey as that leader.
“In the end, it’s really important to balance that youth with leadership and experience on game day.
“Today that was really important and [Howe] is still short of a gallop and will improve as he goes, but I think just having his presence as a leader is what we need.”