The West Coast Eagles are in strife.
Premiers just two years ago, the Eagles have one win from four matches and find themselves languishing in 16th on the ladder.
And the reality is, in a truncated season, they’re already on the verge of falling off a cliff.
Sure, you can solely blame the hub situation for West Coast’s early season demise, but that’s a simplistic view. The Eagles are the most well-versed team in the competition when it comes to travelling.
Yet, they’ve failed to fire a shot since the season restart, making for the club’s worst start to season since 2013 – John Worsfold’s last year at the helm.
West Coast needs to turn a corner and turn it NOW. With two more games to come on the Gold Coast, the Eagles are on the precipice of going 1-5 from the opening six rounds, an almost impossible position from which to reach finals in a 17 game season.
Yes, the Eagles will have a streak of matches at home in Perth to look forward to, but winning form is good form and that’s non-existent for West Coast at the moment.
So, what’s happened to a team that was again expected to be a threat in 2020?
Well, to put it bluntly, their skills and execution have been, at best, ordinary.
When the Eagles won the flag in 2018, their disposal efficiency was an impressive 73.4 per cent. Last year, it dropped slightly to 72.6 per cent. From the opening four rounds this year, it’s dropped to 68.4 per cent, ranked 17th in the competition.
In other words, the players have a better chance of pinning the tail on the donkey than they do hitting a target this season. Too often leads are missed and handballs end up a metre behind the teammate running past.
It’s uncharacteristic of how the Eagles play and it’s hurting them. Big time.
Some problems can be swept under the carpet when a team is still getting a score on the board and winning. But the Eagles are losing. Badly.
Failure in the midfield means the goals aren’t coming. In their three games since the season restart, the Eagles have kicked exactly six goals in each game, ranked 14th in the AFL.
Josh Kennedy and Jack Darling – the cornerstones of the Eagles forward fortress – are failing to have the desired impact, while general accuracy in front of goal is the third-worst in the competition.
Brad Sheppard admitted on 6PR after Saturday’s loss to Port Adelaide, there was “anger for the way we played. We’ve gotta get better”. Ain’t that the truth!
The hunger and desire typical of the West Coast Eagles has completely disappeared. It seems some players have forgotten they’ve gone to the Gold Coast to work, not for a mid-winter sojourn.
Tim Kelly – the recruit of the off-season – is yet to deliver the goods, while Shannon Hurn, one who never shirks from a contest, has lacked the ferocity we’ve come to expect.
Then there are the undisciplined acts; Will Schofield’s headbutt on Zak Butters and Jeremy McGovern’s clenched fist to the chin of Alex Sexton, which provided unwanted attention for a team struggling as it is.
Both were given one game bans for selfish acts in moments of frustration. No, they weren’t overtly violent; rather, acts of stupidity which nonetheless represent a team off its game.
When it comes to hubs, the Gold Coast is a five-star resort. The Eagles have had no restrictions while in South-East Queensland.
When Geelong and Collingwood travel to Perth in two weeks time, they’ll be subjected to strict quarantine. No pool. No golfing. No surfing. Training and football only.
Maybe the Eagles have enjoyed the hub too much? Maybe it’s the holiday vibe that’s been too great a distraction? Well, the holiday’s over!
The Eagles have been given a reprieve this weekend. Instead of playing the reigning premiers, Richmond, on Thursday night, West Coast now plays Sydney on Saturday afternoon.
A less daunting task, but a still significant challenge. A challenge that should the Eagles fail, all but ends their bid to play finals in 2020.
Shane McInnes is an AFL commentator and sports broadcaster with 3AW, 6PR and Nine Radio. You can follow him on Twitter: @shanemcinnes.