Where and When: Patersons Stadium, Sunday 6 May, 4:40 pm
A potentially classic is on the cards as West Coast host North Melbourne over in Perth tonight.
West Coast remain the only undefeated team so far in 2012, but North Melbourne come into the game in strong form.
They also come in with a brilliant injury run, with only rookie forward Tom Curran absent at this stage.
On the other side, West Coast, after losing three of their four top goalkickers from 2011 in Mark LeCras, Mark Nicoski and Andrew Embley, lost their best key forward Josh Kennedy last week to a serious ankle injury.
West Coast currently sit on top of the ladder and their percentage is so great that even with a loss, they should remain there.
This sparks from the resilience and leadership of their experienced group – Darren Glass, Quinten Lynch and Daniel Kerr are all in brilliant form – combined with the skill of their youth in Scott Selwood, Luke Shuey and Jack Darling.
They also have the dominance of ruck duo Dean Cox and Nic Naitanui and with their vast group of game-breaking players on their day, West Coast in Perth looks nightmarish for any side.
However, they are hampered by the loss of four top goalkickers, but luckily for them, Lynch is rediscovering himself, Darling is in great form and Josh Hill has proven to be a valuable asset as a small forward, as the trio has kicked 33 goals for the year so far.
North Melbourne’s last performance against the Eagles in Perth was a three-point loss that went from being a disappointing performance to a great one as West Coast improved throughout 2011.
Now, they ride on that as inspiration to go one further and the improvement of their youngsters and their gameplan.
Their handball-happy style through the middle works a treat – they score 120 points per game and lead the competition in disposals per game – and with nine players kicking a goal at game at least it’s difficult to stop. Aaron Edwards tops the list currently with 14 goals.
The flaw in the plan is how quick other teams can double back. Michael Firrito, Scott Thompson and Scott McMahon have found themselves winning plenty of the footy because of this but stopping the flow in the other direction will be the key for them.
As long as Daniel Wells, Jack Ziebell, Liam Anthony, Andrew Swallow and Ryan Bastinac can tackle hard through the midfield and stop the Eagles’ run, then we could have a close game on our hands.
Players to Watch:
Jack Darling: With the absence of Josh Kennedy, Darling becomes much more of a focal point throughout the forward line, will take more experienced defenders and will have a bigger task ahead of him. He’s been in great form but how he will respond to this will be interesting.
Hamish McIntosh: With Todd Goldstein listed as an emergency, McIntosh finds himself with a huge task on his hands, rucking solo against Dean Cox and Nic Naitanui. Cam Pedersen will chip in, as will Drew Petrie but the big man will need to give his midfielders as much opportunity as he can.
West Coast, on current form, are scintillating. They are currently the team to beat and have dismantled a few teams to date, but North will want this one.
It will be close and the intensity will be high. Don’t write the Roos off but it’s borderline insanity to tip against the Eagles at home this year.
West Coast by 19 points
B: Ashley Smith, Darren Glass, Sam Butler
HB: Beau Waters, Eric Mackenzie, Shannon Hurn
C: Andrew Gaff, Matthew Priddis, Matthew Rosa
HF: Chris Masten, Jack Darling, Josh Hill
F: Nic Naitanui, Quinten Lynch, Ashton Hams
Foll: Dean Cox, Scott Selwood, Daniel Kerr
I/C: Adam Selwood, Luke Shuey, Patrick McGinnity, Jacob Brennan
Emg: Brad Sheppard, Scott Lycett, Murray Newman
In: Eric Mackenzie, Patrick McGinnity, Jacob Brennan
Out: Mitch Brown, Will Schofield, Josh Kennedy
New: Jacob Brennan (East Fremantle)
B: Jamie Macmillan, Scott Thompson, Shaun Atley
HB: Cameron Pedersen, Michael Firrito, Luke Delaney
C: Aaron Mullett, Andrew Swallow, Samuel Wright
HF: Leigh Adams, Robert Tarrant, Brent Harvey
F: Daniel Wells, Drew Petrie, Lindsay Thomas
Foll: Hamish McIntosh, Jack Ziebell, Ryan Bastinac
I/C: Aaron Edwards, Liam Anthony, Ben Cunnington, Kieran Harper
Emg: Todd Goldstein, Cruize Garlett, Brad McKenzie
In: Cameron Pedersen
Out: Levi Greenwood
Milestones: Leigh Adams (50 games)