In 2015, it was the ‘Weagles Web’ that powered the Eagles to a grand final.
Now, it’s their dominance of the sky that is giving them an outside shot of causing some damage this September.
West Coast’s midfield has looked slow and one-dimensional for most of the year in the absence of star ruckman Nic Naitanui.
The stats don’t make for pretty reading, and it’s West Coast’s defence that has bore the brunt of the pain.
West Coast rank 15th for centre clearances – an area of the game that is crucial to protecting a team’s back line.
The Eagles rank 13th for inside 50s, averaging just 49.9 a game.
The issue was best highlighted in the round seven clash with the Power at Adelaide Oval.
In that game, Port Adelaide won the inside-50m battle 68-39.
The result? A 10-point win to West Coast.
The reason West Coast were able to pull off that remarkable win was thanks largely to their resolute back line.
And more specifically, their dominance in the air.
In the form of Jeremy McGovern, Elliot Yeo, and Tom Barrass, West Coast boast three expert markers of the ball.
The trio’s reading of the play and willingness to run off their man to take intercept marks has been crucial in papering over the cracks of West Coast’s midfield.
Barrass, who is the most inexperienced of the trio, said the licence to mark was a formula that has worked well.
“It’s a unique style of defence,” Barrass says.
“It comes from pretty natural reading of the play, rather than something you can teach as such.
“You’ve got to trust your natural instincts – whether it be marking, or spoiling, or coming off your bloke. Simmo (coach Adam Simpson) gives you a bit of a licence to be able to do that.
“McGovern and Yeo are great people to learn off. Both were named All-Australians this year.
“They really fly at the ball and attack it.”
SA-born skipper Shannon Hurn is the marshal in defence.
He said having the huge marking power at his disposal was a massive plus.
“It used to be about spoiling and getting it out of bounds,” Hurn says.
“But now if you can mark the ball – intercept – it is such a big weapon.
“We have blokes who can mark the ball and read the ball pretty well.
“But if you’ve got to kill the ball, you’ve got to kill the ball. I think blokes find the balance pretty well.”
West Coast return to Adelaide Oval – where they have won five of six encounters – to take on the Power in a Saturday night elimination final.
Once again, West Coast’s defensive marking power looms as a key.
But Simpson fears his team will lose if they are on the end of another drubbing in the inside 50m count.
“You can’t live off rebounding from your back 50 and conceding 70 inside 50s and hanging these blokes out to dry,” Simpson says.
“We’re not anticipating a victory if that happens again.”
As for the best marker in the team?
“Oh look, I think you’ve got to give it to Gov,” Barrass says.
“Actually, you’ve probably got to give it to Nic Nat really. And then Gov and Josh Kennedy behind that.
“Then Yeo just takes a big hanger every now and then to look good.”
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