West Coast Eagles 2012 Season Preview

INS: Josh Hill (Western Bulldogs), Fraser McInnes (national draft), Murray Newman (national draft).

OUTS: Brad Ebert (Port Adelaide), Brett Jones (retired), Jordan Jones (delisted), Callum Wilson (delisted).

YEAR IN REVIEW: The 2010 wooden-spooners pulled off one of the most incredible revivals in AFL history, winning 18 games – including a final – on their way to a preliminary final appearance against the eventual premiers at the MCG. Everything John Worsfold’s side touched turned to gold. Veterans Dean Cox, Daniel Kerr, Darren Glass and Andrew Embley wound back the clock, while young guns Luke Shuey, Jack Darling and Andrew Gaff arrived ahead of schedule. Key forward Josh Kennedy emerged as a genuine star and big man Nic Naitanui progressively silenced his doubters.

RISING STAR: Some Eagles fans freely admit that they had given up on former No.3 draft pick Chris Masten. But, after four years in the system, the heavily-inked midfielder suddenly found his feet towards the end of last season – including two outstanding performances in rounds 23 and 24. Was lively in the NAB Cup and could be set for a breakout year.

KEY ARRIVAL: West Coast won’t be able to replace the class of injured star Mark LeCras up forward, but Josh Hill’s arrival from Western Bulldogs is timely. Hill is elusive, strong overhead and will surely slip under the radar alongside the likes of Kennedy, Lynch and Darling. He booted 2.6 from 16 disposals and six marks in the NAB Cup decider.

COACH FACTOR: Hands up those who sniggered when John Worsfold was talking premierships a couple of years back. Well, it turns out Woosha wasn’t delusional after all. The 2011 AFL Coaches’ Association Coach of the Year deserves plenty of credit for implementing a defensive press that quickly became the envy of all AFL clubs – with the possible exception of Collingwood. His reward was a two-year contract extension and a sniff of more premiership success. The challenge now is to maintain that trajectory.

STATS THAT MATTER: Contested footy and time in the forward half were the two key planks upon which West Coast thrived in 2011, finishing second and third in the competition for those respective statistical categories. The Eagles were also No.2 in the comp for percentage of scores that originated from a clearance. More impressive still was the fact that Woosha’s men scored from 53 per cent of their inside-50s, ranking No.1 in the league for the first time since the premiership-winning campaign of 2006.

THE VERDICT: 4th. 2011 wasn’t a fluke, the Eagles are the real deal. With 10 home games, not including the two derbys against the Dockers, its hard to imagine the vastly improved Eagles not featuring prominently again this year. Thats why I’ve picked them in the top four. Losing LeCras for the season is a massive loss but, in Shuey, Gaff, Darling and Naitanui it would be difficult enough to find a more talented quartet with such upside. Add in Cox, Kerr, Glass, Waters, Embley and Kennedy and you have a very competitive football team once again.

BEST 22

B: Hurn Glass Butler

HB: Schofield Mackenzie Waters

C: Rosa, Priddis Embley

HF: Nicoski Kennedy Darling

F: Hill Lynch Naitanui

Foll: Cox Shuey Kerr

I/C: Gaff, A.Selwood, S.Selwood

SUB: McGinnity

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