Saturday, 26th September 2015
Words: Tiana Bergmans – Photography: Danielle Micalizzi
The Eagles have survived a very persistent North Melbourne to soar into the 2015 AFL Grand Final. Despite being down 20 points at quarter time, the Eagles rose to the challenge presented by the Roos, to come back and win by 25 points on Saturday night at Domain Stadium, creating their first Grand Final berth since 2006.
The first quarter was totally dominated by the Roos. Both teams were slow to get started, with the first goal occurring after the 17th minute, off the boot of North Melbourne’s Sam Gibson. Ben Brown and Jack Ziebell quickly followed his example, as both slotted a goal each. North Melbourne’s incredible pressure kept the Eagles to a pretty dismal 2 points, making it the Eagles’ lowest quarter time score at Domain Stadium in the club’s history.
The Kangaroos were simply the better team in the first quarter, with 3 more hitouts, 7 more contested possessions, two more clearances and 2 more tackles. North’s defence was impenetrable, as they managed to shutdown many powerful Eagles, especially Josh Kennedy, who when let loose, can do serious damage to the scoreboard.
The second quarter was quite scrappy, with the Eagles kicking 3.6 and North 1.3. Despite their success on the scoreboard, the Eagles were not playing their best footy. Their kicking efficiency was at a woeful 52% by half time, the lowest half time figure recorded throughout the season. Nevertheless, the Eagles had managed to narrow the margin to a mere 5 points, leaving all 43,080 in the crowd feeling very nervous.
The last goal of the quarter, from Luke Shuey, sparked a copious amount of controversy, as it was the result of a questionable free kick, a result of what was very minimal high contact. The goal that cut the margin to 5, in the eyes of many was a gift from the umpires.
Once the third quarter started, the controversial goal didn’t matter anymore, as the Eagles got going. They kicked 5 sensational goals, from Priddis, Wellingham, Darling, Sheed and Shuey, whilst North Melbourne only managed to muster one goal from Shaun Higgins. Another arguable decision was handed down by the umpires yet again, as they handed a relatively harsh penalty to North’s Robbie Tarrant for holding Jack Darling as he tried to make a lead, a call that is rarely made by umpires. Darling’s set shot saw the Eagles gain a 10 point lead at a crucial point of the game.
Scoring efficiency was woeful for both sides, with the Eagles kicking 6 behinds, whilst North Melbourne kicked 4. West Coast now led by 21 points, allowing their nervous fans to breathe a sigh of relief.
As the night continued, so did the questionable umpiring calls. At the beginning of the last quarter, Jacobs was tripped at a devastatingly close proximity to goal, yet the umpires failed to acknowledge this. As a consequence for North Melbourne, the Eagles went on to kick 2 more goals for the quarter, which sealed the win. The Eagles will definitely have to work on scoring in order to beat the dangerously accurate Hawks in the Grand Final, after kicking 10.20.
Sharrod Wellingham and Matt Priddis both worked very hard for the Eagles, gathering 27 and 26 disposals each, respectively. Both also topped off their stellar efforts with a goal each. Priddis, alongside Yeo and Hutchings were also superb in the pressure they put on North Melbourne, each laying 7 tackles each, contributing to West Coast’s fantastic pressure throughout most of the game.
Brent Harvey and skipper Andrew Swallow were both outstanding for the Kangaroos, collecting 26 and 25 possessions each, respectively. Higgins was fantastic with 2 goals and Swallow was also prolific in terms of his pressure, making 7 tackles throughout the game. Wright and Cunnington laid 6 tackles each.
Despite an inconsistent season, North Melbourne played sensationally throughout the finals series, becoming the first team to play a preliminary final coming from 8th position. The Eagles will now be carrying the Grand Final hopes and dreams of their fans and of Western Australia. They will go on to play the reigning premiers, Hawthorn, who are on a quest to acquire their 3rd consecutive premiership.