A QUICK GLANCE AT 2010:
Coming off two below-par seasons in 2008 and 2009, West Coast appeared full of promise before the start of 2010. Coupled with a strong finish to the prior season, the emergence of young talent on the list filled club supporters with optimism.
Unfortunately for Eagles fans, the 2010 season could hardly have gone any worse for their team. Injuries to key players derailed their season and left them languishing in the doldrums for the majority of the year. The season ended with the Eagles planted on the bottom of the AFL ladder, meaning they claimed the dreaded Wooden Spoon.
But out of the 2010, some promise did shine through for West Coast. Mark Lecras was outstanding all year, kicking 63 goals and taking out the club’s best and fairest award in the process. While budding young superstar Nic Naitanui provided some amazing highlights and gave fans a glimpse of what he might produce in the future.
The Eagles picked up Andrew Gaff with their first selection of the 2010 NAB Draft and, by all accounts, it looks like they haven’t put their pick to waste. The 18-year-old has looked fantastic during his first AFL preseason and should get plenty of chances to shine in 2011. Throughout the 2010 NAB Under-18 Championships, Gaff imposed himself on the competition, averaging 27 possessions with a 79% efficiency rating. He is an exceptionally gifted midfielder who possesses a sublime left-foot and great awareness. His hard-running and great pace will be a welcome addition to the Eagles’ midfield.
Daniel Kerr will also be a welcome return for West Coast this season. After struggling for much of 2010 with a hamstring injury, the 27-year-old is another Eagle said to have had an outstanding preseason. It’s hardly coincidental that when the Eagles were on top of the competition a few years ago, Kerr was at his mercurial best, operating at one of the highest levels in the league. If he is able to stay fit for the majority of the season, watch out!
THREE MOST IMPORTANT GAMES IN 2011
Round 1 – v North Melbourne, Sunday 27 March at Patersons Stadium
West Coast’s first crucial match of the season is its very first game of the season against North Melbourne at home. The Eagles will be keen to come out and prove to their home crowd they have forgotten all about their disastrous 2010 season and are a completely different team. Getting the season off to a positive start is so vital for this young Eagles outfit.
Round 8 – v Fremantle, Sunday 15 May at Patersons Stadium
Round 18 – v Fremantle, Sunday 24 July at Patersons Stadium
All West Coast players, staff and fans would have drawn multiple red circles around their meetings with fierce rivals Fremantle this season. These matches are always epic and hard-fought encounters, regardless of where either team is positioned on the ladder. Don’t be surprised to see extra tension and emotion boil over into some heated confrontations at some stage throughout the two games.
WHAT TO EXPECT IN 2011:
Just five seasons ago, West Coast reached the AFL’s summit. After suffering a gut-wrenching loss at the hands of Sydney the previous September, the Eagles were crowned premiers for the 2006 season.
They were a dominant line up. Names like Judd, Cousins, Cox, Kerr and Fletcher gave the Eagles tremendous class and skill, backed by an undeniable swagger bred from the belief in their sublime talents.
But as they prepare to begin the 2011 campaign, the Eagles couldn’t be further removed from those glory days.
While not getting carried away, this season should be a dramatic improvement on the previous one for the Eagles. Due to the struggles they endured, many young players were given the chance to perform at the top level last season. That extra experience and an off-season’s worth of hard training, combined with a list that possesses some great talent, should give the Eagles a great base to build upon for the future, while showing immediate improvement.
On top of all of this, the Eagles still have a great home-field advantage playing at Patersons Stadium. It’s endless how often players from other clubs admit travelling to Perth is the hardest interstate trip you have to do as an AFL player.
It would be too great a stretch for the Eagles to make the jump to the finals this season, but they should climb up the ladder nonetheless.
FINAL LADDER PREDICTION