West Coast were touted for big things after their performance last season. After a resounding win against North Melbourne in their first final last season, they crashed out at the hands of Collingwood in the Semi Finals, but were impressive in the process.
Much was expected of West Coast come this season. They recruited highly touted Collingwood midfielder Sharrod Wellingham as well as snaring Jamie Cripps from the Saints in last year’s trade period.
After a few inconsistent seasons, the Eagles were widely tipped to challenge for a top four birth this year, but as teams across the country prepare to usher in the mid-season byes, West Coast’s finals aspirations are still shrouded in doubt.
Questions have and will continue to be asked as to how and why it’s gone so pear-shaped thus far. Both the Dockers and Eagles share a distinct home ground fortress that is the envy of Melbourne-based clubs, with Fremantle only losing once at Patersons Stadium thus far in 2013.
As much as Fremantle have soared so far this season, the Eagles fortunes in Perth have fell flat on their head. West Coast have only triumphed in two of their six games at home this season, notching up wins against North Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs.
One wonders what the predicament may have been if it wasn’t for that now infamous game against North Melbourne, when Nic Naitanui snatched victory at the final moment.
When looking at the Eagles fortunes at home point to their slide in 2013, their current quagmire is in fact more complicated than just that.
They have been ravaged with injuries so far this season, as Naitanui has played just half of the season’s games so far. Coupled with Wellingham, Mark LeCras, Beau Waters, Daniel Kerr, Matt Rosa and Andrew Embley missing significant game time thus far, it is no wonder that the Eagles haven’t met their lofty expectations as of yet.
Some critics have even gone as far as saying that premiership winning coach John Worsfold should depart the club if the Eagles don’t make finals. Worsfold publicly asserted that top four was the goal after the culmination of last season’s finals campaign and if the Eagles miss out on finals, let alone top four, questions will be asked.
As they approach the bye, it is important that they reflect on their season and look to rectify their mistakes. Games that the Eagles have lost to the likes of Carlton, Richmond and Port Adelaide has stifled their expectations and if the West Coast are to turn around their slump, they must capitalise against the teams that they will ultimately be competing against for spots in the lower half of the eight.
Effective disposal is key in our game and is often looked at as an indicator to the fortunes of teams. While Hawthorn sit number one at an average of 286 effective disposals per game, the Eagles rank 17th with an average of 232 per match.
As a comparison, West Coast averaged 265 in 2012, which highlights the drop in overall form by the club. This ultimately points to a lack of urgency and efficiency in the Eagles game at present. Instead of working together, they are becoming an increasingly more lazy side.
The positive for them is that we are only in round 11, and as we know, things change very quickly in football.
If one thing is for sure, it is that they must respond against St Kilda. If the surprise loss to the Tigers was the setback, then the Saints game must be the redemption. Momentum is key in our game and if the Eagles return to the winners list, they have a chance to build a run and challenge for an all important finals spot.
If they are to make finals, they would have deserved it. In the second half of the season, West Coast come up against current top eight sides Hawthorn, Sydney, Fremantle, Geelong and Essendon. All those sides have shown some exquisite form in 2013 and will present a very real challenge for the Eagles.
The critics may come but the boys from the west must turn their season around before it’s too late. An out of form St Kilda outfit presents an opportunity for them to start to rekindle their aspirations in 2013.
The Eagles can take heart from Fremantle’s performance in 2012. At the same point in 2012, they also had notched up five wins and finished the season off in seventh spot, amassing 14 victories.
The season is far from over for West Coast but the time to start their charge is now. Lose this week, and players could be asking come season’s end “what if?”, rather that celebrating another successful year.