Sport Wounded Eagles aim for belated road win
West Coast and Fremantle have been on different AFL paths in 2021, but this western derby could accelerate things
The Fremantle Dockers and West Coast Eagles have been charting in different directions so far in 2021, and will cross paths this weekend in a western derby that could lay down a marker for their respective futures.Snap lockdowns, looming COVID outbreaks, borders slammed shut and thrown open again, all within the space of a few days and a handful of frantic press conferences.
Injury-hit West Coast will attempt to shake off their road kill tag when they take on Hawthorn at the MCG on Sunday.
The Eagles have produced a perfect 4-0 record at home this AFL season, including last week's 59-point demolition of Fremantle.
But their patchy form on the road has raised major question marks about their premiership credentials.
The Eagles' seven-point loss to the Bulldogs in round two was a brave showing, but they gave up a 33-point third-quarter lead against St Kilda in round four on the way to a 20-point defeat.
Eagles caught in awkward war room moment following selection of Milton Williams in 2021 NFL Draft
Not everyone seemed happy with the Birds' third-round pick.Eagles general manager Howie Roseman was shown fist-bumping everyone like a 12-year-old hopped up on FunDip and Monster Energy drinks following the selection of defensive tackle Milton Williams in Round 3 of the 2021 NFL Draft on Friday.
Their worst display was the 97-point defeat to Geelong a fortnight ago, with the Cats booting 19 goals to two after quarter time.
Hawthorn (2-5) are expected to miss the finals for the third straight year.
If West Coast are unable to come away with the win on Sunday, their top-four hopes would already be on thin ice.
Video: Swans stun Cats in thriller (Wide World of Sports)
The Eagles are missing seven A-grade players, with Luke Shuey, Elliot Yeo, Tom Barrass, Jeremy McGovern, Willie Rioli, Shannon Hurn, and Liam Ryan all unavailable.
Defender Liam Duggan (knee) and back-up ruckman Nathan Vardy (foot) have joined the injury list this week, meaning West Coast's depth will be put to the test.
Eagles coach Adam Simpson wants to see his team put in a brave performance.
Six talking points from AFL Round 7
What a weekend of footy.
"Winning's important. We just want to play consistently everywhere," Simpson said.
"We're desperate to play well, play four quarters and hopefully have a win. We're also aware of the situation we're in with our personnel.
"We thought we were really brave on the weekend and that's what we expect this week."
Hawthorn copped a 69-point flogging from St Kilda last week, but could be boosted by the return of star duo Chad Wingard and Jaeger O'Meara.
Veteran Shaun Burgoyne (ankle) will spend at least another week on the sidelines.
"They've been a bit like us, really. Their best is really damaging," Simpson said of the Hawks.
"They've kicked multiple goals in a row, they've come back from big deficits twice this year and that tells us that their momentum swings are a bit like us.
"On the positive note, they can score quickly and they're very dangerous. They've got some good soldiers coming back in and they're playing at the MCG."
‘There's limits': Simpson keeps door ajar for Rioli to return to Eagles .
West Coast coach Adam Simpson said the club would consult its players, stakeholders and the AFL before it decides the fate of Willie Rioli next week.West Coast Eagles coach Adam Simpson says the club will consult its players, stakeholders and the AFL before it decides Willie Rioli's fate next week.