“The last four are not only possible, but probable”

You won’t find many teams with more downturns heading into 2022 than the West Coast.

Although they are still seventh with two rounds to go, their late season form in 2021 had a stink about it, losing their last four games of the year to go without a fight. In fact, if we go back even further, despite coming into the bye with a more than respectable 8-5 record, they went home 2-7, and with some nasty losses.

In round 20, the Eagles were limited to one goal at halftime and ended up losing 45 points to Collingwood, who finished 17th. Round 21 was at least a respectable loss to Melbourne.

In Round 22, with their season on the line, they let eight Fremantle goals past in the first term and never issued a serious challenge. In round 23, they let Brisbane kick seven shots in the first quarter and never threatened. They were a team that couldn’t wait for the end of the season.

The West Coast’s worst defeat in the second half of the year was either a 15 goal at the hands of Sydney or the following week at home when they scored just three three quarters again against the wooden spoons of the North.

All of this hardly speaks to a team on the rise and hitting the next season full of momentum and vigor. The prevailing sentiment is that the Eagles are too old and too stoned to do anything but slide down the ladder.

What’s new

Not heaps, it must be said.

Sam Petrevski-Seton has joined West Coast Carlton, trading a life in Melbourne for a more familiar life in his native surroundings of Perth. He never quite became what he promised the Blues and was too often an anonymous contributor while occasionally offering a glimpse of something more. He agreed that his last game at Carlton was an unused sub.

Premiership striker Willie Rioli will be something new, given he hasn’t played since the 2019 playoff final. We’ll see what kind of impact the 26-year-old can have.

The Eagles forward line will have a new look if Jack Darling doesn’t go over to the dark side, considering he’s only missed nine games in the last six years.

rising star

This is where we run into problems at West Coast. They are *old*, and it’s not easy to see where the next departure is coming from, a light to cling to in dark times.

Tom Cole or Josh Rotham? Both 24 years old and jobbers. Liam Dugan? 25 now, and a decent regular player at best. Jack Pétrucelle? Don’t see it.

Oscar Allen is the clear seed when it comes to the Eagles’ upstart. He will turn 23 the day before the first round of the West Coast, and his time must be right if his team has any chance of contesting the final this year – especially if the Darling saga continues.

Allen started last year like a house on fire, with 16 goals and 17 contested marks in his first six matches. He scored just 12 more goals in his remaining 15 games as he struggled with minor injuries and fluctuations in form.

Pre-season hasn’t been without incident for Allen either, meaning he’ll almost certainly miss the start of the year, so he’ll be trying to make an impact on limited preparation. I hope he can show his best at some point.

(Photo by Michael Dodge/Getty Images)

Who’s under the pump

The West Coast still has 14 premiership players on its 2018 flag roster, plus Nic Naitanui and Andrew Gaff, and each of them is under the pump in one way or another.

The average age of the Eagles top 10 in the B&F last year was north of 27, and that doesn’t include Shannon Hurn, Josh Kennedy, Luke Shuey, Jeremy McGovern and Elliot Yeo.

What does this generation of Eagles players represent? It looks like they’re on the edge of a cliff, like the Brisbane Lions after 2004, except they had at least three flags to show.

Perhaps one premiership is enough. They’ll take out heroes one way or another, since flags are so hard to earn. But this group of players had the talent to compete and win more premierships than them, and will remain in many minds as an unfulfilled talent.

Best case scenario

The West Coast veterans rally for one last tilt at a flag, but even then you’d be hard pressed to make a compelling case for the top four.

Oscar Allen and Jamie Cripps are already missing the first round, Luke Shuey and Liam Duggan are against him, and who knows what Jack Darling will do. Yeo is stoner than a 1984 Holden Commodore, and how long can Hurn and Kennedy really last.

Maybe they can find their way to 10th or something, if other clubs are plagued with injuries and they can somehow put together a competitive team. But they’ll still have to take this team on the road 10 out of 22 weeks, and it won’t always end well for them.

Eagles' Elliot Yeo gives a thumbs up for a goal
(Photo by Daniel Carson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

worst case scenario

It’s dark, but it’s definitely on the cards. The last four are not only possible, but probable. The Eagles know how to hit rock bottom fast, looking back to 2008 – two years after winning the premiership in 2006, they finished second-to-bottom with a 65 percentage mark, just above the one of the worst teams of all time in Melbourne.

West Coast also won the wooden spoon in 2010, before bouncing back into the top four in 2011. Don’t be at all surprised if they drop completely.

Best 22
B Shannon Hurn Tom Barrass Tom Cole
HB Joth Rotham Jeremy McGovern Liam Duggan
C Dom Sheed Elliot Yeo Andrew Gaff
HF Jamie Cripps Jack Darling Jack Petrucelle
F Oscar Allen Josh Kennedy Liam Ryan
Foll Nic Naitanui Luke Shuey Tim Kelly
Int Bailey Williams Jack Redden Zac Langdon Sam Petrevski-Seton

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