September 29, 2018 18:05:04
West Coast Eagles have won their fourth AFL premiership, beating Collingwood at the MCG to take the flag west for the first time since 2006.
Adam Simpson’s men were jumped by Collingwood early, trailing by as much as 29 points in the first quarter.
But the Eagles slowly gained a foothold in the game, and trailed by only two goals at half-time before getting on top in the final quarter and sealing victory with a Dom Sheed goal to win 11.13 (79) to 11.8 (74).
The Magpies — who were attempting to match Richmond’s achievement in going from 13th on the ladder to premiers — looked like winners for most of the day, but they couldn’t take enough of their chances, and ran out of run at the wrong time.
This was the seventh consecutive grand final between a team from Victoria and an interstate side.
Victorian sides had won the previous five editions. West Coast was appearing in the grand final for the seventh time in the AFL era (since 1991), the joint-most along with Geelong.
Vics v the Rest in Grand Finals
- 2012: Sydney beat Hawthorn by 10 pts
- 2013: Hawthorn beat Fremantle by 15 pts
- 2014: Hawthorn beat Sydney by 63 pts
- 2015: Hawthorn beat West Coast by 46 pts
- 2016: Western Bulldogs beat Sydney by 22 pts
- 2017: Richmond beat Adelaide by 48 pts
- 2018: West Coast beat Collingwood by 5 pts
It was a sixth time in the decider in the AFL era for the Magpies.
Twelve of the Eagles’ side had played in the 2015 grand final when Hawthorn thumped West Coast by 46 points.
The big query going into the day was the fitness of West Coast key defender Jeremy McGovern, who had been slowly recovering from a bump to the hip from Melbourne’s Christian Petracca in last week’s preliminary final.
Coach Adam Simpson had declared himself “extremely hopeful” that McGovern would play — the Eagles’ swingman took his place at the captain’s run on Friday afternoon, but the acid test came on the MCG a day later, and he passed.
Josh Kennedy had the first chance 90 seconds in after a solid move, but he missed a set shot from 25m out.
At the other end, the first storyline of the day came when Travis Varcoe — whose sister died after a head injury in a local football game in Adelaide — ran inside 50 and slotted the opening goal for Collingwood five minutes in.
The Eagles were under the pump, and Collingwood made a break around the 10-minute mark when Rising Star Jaidyn Stephenson kicked a couple in quick succession — first a snap from the right forward pocket, and then a dribble kick as the Pies fans roared in the stands.
The Magpies were forcing West Coast out of their usual game — and when Jordan De Goey spun out of two tackles and snapped another from the left forward pocket Collingwood led by 23 points at the mid-point of the quarter.
West Coast was looking desperate on the MCG, and Will Hoskin-Elliott added to the Eagles’ problems when he drilled a set shot to make it 5.0 – 0.2.
Things were looking reminiscent of the Magpies’ first-half demolition of Richmond last week, but deep into time on West Coast finally managed to get on the board with an unlikely effort, as the ball bobbled in the goal square, and Willie Rioli managed to get the back of his shin to it before it crossed the line.
Then with a minute to go, Luke Shuey found Kennedy for a mark close to goal and he converted, to leave the Magpies’ lead at 17 points at quarter-time.
Scoring dries up as the pressure goes on
The second quarter started as an arm-wrestle, with neither side capable of putting goals on the board.
The Magpies had chosen Levi Greenwood to tag the dangerous Elliott Yeo, and Yeo was still on less than a handful of disposals midway through the second term, looking very frustrated.
Jack Darling and Kennedy were struggling to get hold of the ball up forward for the Eagles, while down back it was the intercept marking of McGovern, Tom Barrass and Tom Cole that was keeping West Coast in it.
Collingwood’s Brayden Maynard came off with what looked like a dislocated shoulder after he tried to contest a ball inside defensive 50 just before time on. He did not return to the game, leaving the Pies one down for rotations.
The game then burst open in a space of two minutes. First the Pies burst down the right wing, and Will Hoskin-Elliott dove full-length to take a mark 60m out — he passed to De Goey who brought the crowd to their feet with a perfect shot from outside 50.
But then the Eagles finally broke open the Magpies defence and were able to raffle it — the ball was marked inside 50 and handballed over the top to Mark Hutchings who ran in and goaled.
At the break, the Magpies led by just two straight goals but had laid an incredible 58 tackles to the Eagles’ 34.
With Yeo being tagged, Luke Shuey stepped up with 18 disposals, and fellow midfielder Sheed had 20 touches.
On the Collingwood side, Mason Cox was not the same factor he had been in the prelim, whole Brodie Grundy was not dominating in the ruck.
The Eagles then made the perfect start to the third term, with Kennedy marking and then slotting the set shot from 45m out in the first 45 seconds to bring the margin back to just six points.
Collingwood had responded by switching Greenwood to Shuey from Yeo.
West Coast was on the march, but Willie Rioli was run down by Travis Varcoe in the centre square and the Magpies made them pay, attacking down the right and finding Mason Cox for his first big mark of the day and a great finish.
The teams were going goal for goal, as Jamie Cripps produced a great snap for the Eagles, only for Taylor Adams to answer at the other end.
The Eagles were lifting, and Lycett found Darling near the goalsquare for a fiercely contested mark. He kicked West Coast’s third of the quarter.
Then near the 20-minute mark, with Collingwood feeling the pressure, Yeo intercepted a kick out of defensive 50 and slotted the set shot to give the Eagles the lead.
An exchange of behinds left the scores level at three quarter-time for the first time in a VFL/AFL grand final since 1937.
September 29, 2018 17:20:22