analysis

West Coast Eagles blown away by reigning premiers Melbourne in another horror loss at Optus Stadium

Headshot of Braden Quartermaine
Braden QuartermaineThe West Australian
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West Coast were belted by a merciless Melbourne.
Camera IconWest Coast were belted by a merciless Melbourne. Credit: Michael Wilson/The West Australian

West Coast play Foo Fighters hit ‘The Pretender’ at each home game just as the third quarter is about to start.

It’s a nice footy anthem because it contains the line: “What if I say I will never surrender?”

Unfortunately, it also contains the line “It’s never-ending same old story” and so it proved with a case of another game, another unwanted record for the undermanned Eagles.

This time they recorded their lowest ever score in a home game. A late bomb from stand-in captain Jeremy McGovern, his first goal in three years, wasn’t enough to avoid that ignominy as they went down to Melbourne 16.16 (112) to 5.8 (38) at Optus Stadium.

For the Demons, the 74-point margin was the same as in their last visit when they dispatched the Western Bulldogs for premiership glory.

It was a case of you can look but you can’t touch for the Eagles with Luke Jackson, with the young West Australian who grew up idolising Nic Naitanui integral in helping the Demons get the jump and important throughout.

While Jackson gets touted as a white knight for rebuilding West Coast, it would require giving a bucket load of draft picks to Melbourne even if he agreed to move home so is hard to see happening.

Midfielders Tim Kelly and Connor West fought hard, with West’s career-best outing perhaps the most encouraging take away in a season that is now firmly about rebuilding.

Missing 11 of their best 22 after spearhead Josh Kennedy’s late withdrawal, the Eagles had to front up against a Melbourne outfit featuring 21 of their 23 premiership players from last year and it looked every bit a mismatch from the outset.

Connor West fought hard in the midfield for West Coast.
Camera IconConnor West fought hard in the midfield for West Coast. Credit: Michael Wilson/The West Australian

It was just as well Jake Waterman kicked his set shot in the opening minutes because it would be the only goal the Eagles would find in the first half.

Some of the Demons were enjoying a cigar in the middle of the stadium the last time they were over here and they could have brought them out again as they took control early.

Melbourne answered Waterman’s opener in emphatic fashion, getting the next six for the quarter on the back of a 6-1 centre clearance lesson.

The Demons feasted on 20 inside 50 entries to four in the opening term as Clayton Oliver lead the way and the 35-point quarter-time margin pointed to a triple-figure defeat.

The Eagles were able to stabilise around the ball, edging the clearance and supply battles for the second term to hold Melbourne to a single goal through Ben Brown for the second quarter and just three between quarter and three-quarter time.

The margin exploded late though to ensure West Coast copped their fifth-straight thrashing.

Selection table

There might be a handful of senior West Coast players, including captain Luke Shuey and fellow midfielder Elliot Yeo, available to return against Greater Western Sydney next Sunday but the Eagles should think twice before bringing them all back.

Underdone big-names have been a constant through the revolving selection door since last year’s mid-season bye and the Eagles have a 3-15 record to show for it.

With Dom Sheed also closing in on a return from his serious ankle injury, it would certainly be a bizarre sight to see the 2018 premiership midfielders running around together at WAFL level. But it would have to give them a better chance of having a genuine impact at senior level.

Callum Jamieson battles Max Gawn in the ruck.
Camera IconCallum Jamieson battles Max Gawn in the ruck. Credit: Michael Wilson/The West Australian

It would be an ideal chance to pump games into the young midfielders, but who do you give the games to? The cupboard there is depressingly bare, with Xavier O’Neill and Luke Edwards both unavailable.

Mature-age WAFL recruits West and Greg Clark both got to play prime on-ball roles. West was the most encouraging with 29 touches, five clearances, seven tackles and a game-high eight inside-50s.

Who will stop the Dees?

That’s sweet 16 wins in a row for Melbourne and there looks to be another soft kill coming up next week with a date against North Melbourne at Marvel Stadium on Saturday.

It sets the stage for an interesting round 11 tussle between Melbourne and Fremantle at the MCG, because for the Demons playing the competition’s two worst sides back-to-back is probably not the ideal preparation for what looms as a sterner test.

Melbourne’s Jayden Hunt tries to break a tackle from a pair of Eagles.
Camera IconMelbourne’s Jayden Hunt tries to break a tackle from a pair of Eagles. Credit: Michael Wilson/The West Australian

The challengers will then come thick and fast for the reigning champs, with Sydney (MCG) in round 12. The biggest date to circle might be Brisbane in round 15, also at the MCG, in a blockbuster that could pit the top two teams on the ladder.

The longest VFL/AFL winning streak is Geelong’s 23 games in 1952-53 so the all-conquering Dees will have to knock over plenty of contenders if they want to create history. If they keep winning, they will have the chance to set a new record of 24 straight wins when they face Port Adelaide in Alice Springs in round 18.

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