Eagles dodge a Gold Coast bullet


Clockwise from above: Sam Day took the biggest grab of the match; Eric Mackenzie made his return from injury; Xavier Ellis crunches the Suns’ Jarrod Garlett; Jack Darling proves strong overhead.
Eagles dodge a Gold Coast bullet
Eagles dodge a Gold Coast bullet
Eagles dodge a Gold Coast bullet
Clockwise from above: Sam Day took the biggest grab of the match; Eric Mackenzie made his return from injury; Xavier Ellis crunches the Suns’ Jarrod Garlett; Jack Darling proves strong overhead.

The young Suns outfit, a shell of their full-strength squad, looked headed for an unlikely triumph having led for most of the match, save for a brief period in the second term.

But in the dying minutes, Eagles swingman Jeremy McGovern marked just inside 50 and kicked truly to give the Eagles the winning lead.

West Coast clawed back an 18-point last-quarter deficit to triumph 0.7.13 (55) to 1.6.7 (52) victory in front of 5021 spectators, significantly down on the 10,373 fans who watched West Coast beat Fremantle in the pre-season contest in Joondalup two years ago.

While conditions on that occasion were sunny and perfect for football, the blustery breeze this time around caused ball movement issues and made for a scrappy contest.

West Coast was particularly wasteful, heading inside 50 more than twice as many times as Gold Coast but taking just nine marks to the Suns’ seven.

Eagles star recruit Lewis Jetta showed electric signs in eight first-quarter disposals with some slick movement through heavy traffic, but left the ground injured early in the second term and did not return.

Supporters cheered the return of champion defender Eric Mackenzie from a knee reconstruction as the ball found its way into his area early in the first quarter.

But his first kick in a competitive environment in more than a year was one for the bloopers reel when it fell awkwardly off the boot and rolled clumsily along the turf.

Mackenzie had his hands full with man-mountain Peter Wright, who kicked two goals in the first term, including the side’s opener just after the 11-minute mark.

As the clash wore on, Mackenzie produced flashes of his renowned defensive strength. He played just 39 per cent of the match.

It took West Coast 23 minutes to get its first goal when Jamie Bennell, again looking comfortable in his experimental role up forward, centred from deep in the pocket to Mark LeCras, who finished in a characteristically silky fashion.

With 25 disposals and two goals, LeCras had claims as West Coast’s best player, though he too was not at his sharpest with three behinds and in the last quarter an out-of-bounds on the full from directly in front.

Former Swan Districts player Ryan Davis kicked two goals for the Suns, playing in the familiar surrounds of Arena Joondalup where he troubled West Perth opponents during his time in the WAFL.

Gold Coast would have been buoyed by the performance of a squad that made the longest trip in the AFL without its top line of players and took it up to a relatively strong selection of last year’s grand finalists.

West Coast, on the other hand, will be glad for the hit-out but won’t be rushing to make the contest available on a commemorative DVD any time soon.