The warm up
This match had a very 'Groundhog Day' feel to it. With the Eagles facing up against an opponent they were expected to beat by some 40 odd plus points. Especially at home, even taking into account a much improved St Kilda outfit. Three changes for the Eagles coming off last week victory due to injury. Lewis Jetta and Drew Petrie replaced by 'my boy' Tommy Barrass, Dom Sheed and the only true, healthy, ruckman left on the list, Jonathon Giles.
Groundhog Day matchup turned into a Groundhog Day game. The Saints were coming out of the blocks fast in the 1st quarter. Their midfield operated at will. Owning the quarter by repeatedly putting pressure on the Eagles defence with a 13 to 4 scoring attempts. Much like North, the Saints had some wasted opportunities. Three realistically makeable missed shots at goal but a late goal due to an unlucky bounce. Sharrod did send some luck their way from the footy gods.
The forward pressure seemed to start to take its toll on the Eagles defenders. With usually reliable kickers in Hurn and McGovern giving up three intercept marks inside 50. In my best 22, I was tempted to put Barrass in for Hurn but held back as it may have been a little premature. However, Hurn's age and a slight decline in skills should see his spot in the side come under fire sooner than people may think. My concern is he will get a longer rope being the captain even though it will be to the detriment of the team.
Midway through the 2nd in an attempt to get Josh Kennedy a touch, yes his first touch, the Eagles moved him up the ground. Although not entirely his fault as the delivery was sat on his head a majority of the time. Vardy took advantage of his much less fleet of foot opponent Tom Hickey drifting forward and kicking a goal. Vardy has a significant advantage over defenders. His mobility for a man of his height, solid overhead marking and textbook kicking style could be a massive weapon for the Eagles this season. Contrary to last week, it was the Eagles with Hill scoring a goal in the last minute to swing the quarter to the Eagles advantage. Bringing them to within nine at the half.
The third was almost a carbon copy of the previous quarter. The Eagles were scoring efficiency to keep them in the game. As great as it is to see I worry about the days where if the kicks are not going straight are they going to finish with enough attempts to kick a winning score. Again the Eagles kicked a goal in the final minute of the quarter keeping well within striking distance.
The Saints had five real attempts over the game that should have been converted to majors. The Eagles have the legs under them. Recently, known for running downhill in the second half they relentlessly ran the Saints off their feet in the final period. After being held to a single goal the entire match Kennedy kicked three in the final 11 mins of the quarter. Also spilling a mark close to the top of the goal rectangle that would have surely seen him slot his 5th.
With whispers starting to grow louder of Kennedy's ability to perform in close or big games. It was good to see him persist the entire game and somewhat quiet the murmurs for the time being.
I am a little unsure as to the reason behind the love for Jackson Nelson. He does have supreme pace for a man of his height. I assume it is to try and have some run and carry off the backline. Although I think this is hurting Sharrod Wellingham's production. Sharrod was a lot better than the previous week but disposal and decision making was questionable at times. I'm of the opinion that Wellingham has a much higher ceiling than Nelson for this season. He still has the ability to swing a game. As I mentioned in my best 22 article he needs touches to be effective. This will help him cement his place in the side. I'd prefer seeing Eric Mckenzie come back in for Nelson keeping Barrass in the side. Giving more opportunity to Wellingham to get more touches to create.
With 5 minutes left in 3rd quarter, Giles took a mark about 5 metres out just to the left of the goal rectangle (yes it is actually a rectangle why is it not called as such?). Either he was unsure whether it was touched or going to be paid a mark. He turned over his right shoulder to snap through a goal that I'm sure he couldn't replicate again all season. A great replay from behind the goal showed the acute angle Giles had to work with.
Yeo was a standout with a team-leading 13 marks. Making me look like I knew what I was talking about in my best 22 article. With his ability to read the play with intercept marks, delivery into the forwards and switch from back to forward and kick a goal. He is the type of player that can change a game even when only gathering limited possessions.
Pressure on the Saints midfield was the Eagles glaring weakness. Consistently opponents were allowed time to access options going forward. The eagles seem to be trying to inject a zone defence. Rotations after the initial kick to a particular player or part of the ground need attention. I understand it is also a process and there is a learning phase. There is no need to be firing on all cylinders at this point of the season.
It will be a real test vs Richmond and Dustin Martin next week. Assuming he plays. He has the potential to shred apart the Eagles through the midfield and his long kicking ability to deliver the ball to the forwards over the heads of the Eagles defenders is the biggest weakness in a small sample size of the Eagles defence thus far.
The momentum changer
At a pivotal stage in the 3rd quarter, Sam Gilbert lost complete awareness as he headed for the interchange. Running straight through the mark after Luke Shoey received a free kick. Resulting in a 50m penalty and goal to bring the Eagles to within a goal.
The ice bath
This week's inclusions; Giles, Sheed, Barrass should have shown enough to hold their spot. Not that Giles has any pressure without a potential replacement. Although Sheed's disposal numbers weren't outstanding 3 inside 50s, 2 goal assists and 4 tackles were a solid contribution. Barrass was solid down back. 2nd in marks with a team-leading 95.5% effective disposal rating.
I went to the East Perth game and nothing made me believe any changes will come this week. Jetta showed flashes with pinpoint passing during limited minutes. Will Schofield and Liam Duggan were solid but not outstanding. Duggan also seemed to cop a left shoulder stinger which will not help his case. Sam Butler was probably the pick of the list.
Names to watch in the future will be Tom Lamb and Francis Watson. Watson, a tall midfielder slight of build, will need to put on 10 maybe 15 kilos before he plays consistently at AFL level. He has blistering speed that almost looks like he is on ice skates. He caught my attention with a very impressive goal saving chase down bump.
As a Swan Districts player ran inside 50 on a 45-degree angle from goal. Watson gave chase from the corner of the centre square. The Swans player looked across to check the time and space he had up his sleeve. As he took a bounce to settle himself for a shot on goal. Watson seemed to flip a switch once he saw the players eyes divert away from him. Watson covered close 20m in what seemed to be barely over 2 seconds. This type of speed combined with his height in the modern game should see a bright future for the young 21-year-old from Balgo Hills.