If the West Coast view themselves as top 4 material they needed to get off on the right foot by beating an inferior opponent away from home. Which they did. But did the scoreline tell the entire story?
I'm sure Drew Petrie's Saturday night dream about facing his old club didn't involve injuring his hand less than 3 minutes in. Not long after Nathan Vardy went to the bench after taking a knee to the back. Which had fans in disbelief that the entire ruck squad could potentially be on the injury list. North came out of the gates early with the first 2 goals of the match. West coast responded wth the next 3 to swing the momentum of the first quarter. However, this was short-lived. Forward pressure from North held play almost entirely in their half of the ground for the last 10 minutes of the quarter. But inaccurate kicking didn't finish off their efforts. Only managing 2 goals. 4:6 to 3:3
The second quarter swung like a pendulum. An early goal to Mark Lecras pulled the Eagles to almost even. The Eagles tried to impose their will on North with forward pressure of their own. Kicking 4 of the first 5 goals of the quarter. 3 from Mark LeCras. The Kangeroos broke the forward pressure by leaving the forward line open and running forward getting over the back of the Eagles defence on multiple occasions taking back the momentum. Much to the frustration of supporter. Makeable shots on goal by Shaun Atley and Jarrad Waite were wasted. Along with a kick over the head, and out of bounds, of a Kangeroo's player wide open at the top of the square squandered a potential halftime lead. The two Jacks combined as Jack Redden marked and hit Jack Darling for a settler with 3 minutes left. 2 of the last 3 goals went to North and more than likely would have had another if the clock did not run out on them. Realistically, North should have been up 3 or 4 majors at the half. 8:8 to 9:8
The over the back marks were clearly addressed at the half. The eagles adjusted. Putting an extra man back which doubled into helping create off the backline and through the middle.
Eagles came out of the gates, taking command with 5 of the first 6 goals. Kicking efficient told the story. A massive 91% to 55% difference in the quarter blew the game open. West Coast took advantage when kicking for goal. 7 straight in the quarter. Capped by 3 goals from Coleman medalist Josh Kennedy. North left the door slightly ajar with yet another late goal. 11:10 to 16:8
A clearance from North ended with a Jarrad Waite miss from the corner of the goal square indicating things were not going to change for the blue and white in the fourth. Petrie slotted his first goal as an Eagle to the delight of his teammates and respectful Roo supporters. Another over the back goal to North may have planted some seeds for upcoming opponents. More of the same from both sides as Josh Kennedy slotted his 7th straight from the boundary line to open the box of nails. Followed by Yeo grabbing his hammer with a hardball get and feed to Hill to put the nail in the coffin. Waite capping off his 1.7 day with another miss to go along with Higgins out of bounds on the full summed up the day of 'what ifs' for North. 13:15 to 21:10
What the score didn't show
Although the scoreboard didn't indicate wild inaccuracy from North. At least 5 behinds should have been goals more often than not. The 'over the back' goals by North will be something that needs to be addressed for the Eagles. Along with staying focused to finish off quarters strong. North kicked the last goal of every quarter in this match. The Eagles shouldn't take any more away from this game other than it being one that they should have won based on their (and maybe fans) expectations.
Mitchell slotted in comfortably with 38 touches, 22 in the first half. His ability to settle the team and create through the centre, even at 34 years of age, he will be the biggest influence to the Eagle's success on the road.
I was high on Elliot Yeo coming into the season. For the time being, he made me look like I knew what I was talking about. An all round game from Yeo. 2 goals, 11 score involvements, 10 intercept and 4 contested marks. None better than when he bodied Goldstein to out mark him and delivered a pass to Mitchell inside 50. Who sadly missed the shot on goal.
A sensational outing from Josh Kennedy. His marking and kicking on full display. But we, as fans, need to limit expectations. He isn't going to kick 7.0 every game or 100 for the season. Never the less it was great to see him firing.
Another big man down. Petrie's hand injury saw the Eagles forced to use Darling in the ruck. Which won't be sustainable against anybody let alone a top 8 side. Petrie's injury perhaps could be a blessing in disguise. I feel he may not have made the side if it weren't for Lycett's injury and the fact they were playing his old club. Petrie, Darling or McGoven don't cut it as second string ruckman in a top 4 side.
The Eagles phoned East Perth as soon as Petrie's injury occurred and pulled Giles from the game. Indicating he will be the likely candidate to replacement next week vs the Saints. As I touched on in the best 22 article and mentioned by Adam Simpson. Selections may come down to be purely match-up based.