The following is a preview from a Bigfooty West Coast supporter. Worth a read.
Saturday 5.40pm at Subiaco Oval we get to see the next instalment in the mystery that's become our 2017 season as we wait to see what the real Eagle's side is. The meek and mild nice guys like this and this Or the unsociable campaigners that we've seen every now and then like this and this So who do we have to beat into submission or roll over and let rub our tummy?Melbourne (7-5, 115.7%, 5th)The Demons come into this game as one of the two form sides of the competition along with Sydney winning 4 of their last 5 matches with wins over Adelaide (in Adelaide), Gold Coast, Collingwood and the Bulldogs interrupted by a loss to North Melbourne. They hold the current longest unbeaten streak having won their last 3, a run that was capped with their best win of the season - a 57 point demolition of the reigning premiers at their preferred Etihad stadiumOn the face of it they've been a pretty consistent side in 2017. Their losses have been by 2,3,13,14 and 29 points (when they kicked 13.19 to Geelongs 20.6). Apart from their 4 point win over Collingwood their wins have been by 22 points or more with their 57 point victory last week their biggest win.Within games though they've been remarkably inconsistent with regular violent shifts in momentum - all but 2 of their games have featured a 5+ goal shift, 3 of them have seen a 10 goal turnaround after Melbourne fell behind early only to run over the top of their opponent. Ominously, two of the biggest shifts were outside Victoria when they came back from a 28 point deficit against Adelaide to win by 41 and did a similar job on Gold Coast in Alice Springs.In fact, they are the only team with a 100% strike rate outside their home state albeit they've only travelled twice and one of those was a "home" game in the NT. (As an aside this game is only the second (and last) time they leave Victoria to play an opponent on their home ground - they travel to Darwin to play the Crows and have the Kangaroos in Tassie. Five road trips, 3 at a neutral venue, must be tough)So based on current form and strong away performances the trip west shouldn't hold any fears for the resurgent Dees, especially since they pushed us all the way last year and arguably deserved to win having won all the major stats apart from the one that counts most. But,1) Melbourne have lost their past 17 visits to our ramshackle home stretching back to 2004 and2) Collingwoods Queens Birthday choke (they led by as much as 31 points) masks what would other wise be a longer term WLWL pattern stretching back to Round 4 - reverse their own choke against Fremantle and it stretches back to Round 2. On that pattern they're due a loss.West Coast (7-5, 102.6%, 7th)For the most part we've been relatively consistent as well in our own way. On the road we suck (North and Port games aside) and at home we still kinda suck but not bad enough to lose with the exception of the Giants game. Where we previously became accustomed to bringing out the heavy roller for home games to earn our flat track moniker, this year our home wins have been by more pedestrian margins of 19, 26, 41 (lol Freo), 8 and 13. A streak that for any journo with more brain cells than your average turnip would put to rest any notion of us being flat trackers anymore (Hi Damo, you eggplant)Again, like Melbourne, we come into this game on the back of our best win of the season. The 13 point margin belies what was a very strong showing against an in-form opponent, which flattered a side that had earned the rare distinction of starting a game against the Eagles at Subiaco as favourites. In the end the margin was of far less importance than the way in which it was achieved. There was a genuine hard edge on display and an intent across the entire 22 that hadn't really been sighted from this group in 2017It was the sort of effort that masked/overcame the sides structural deficiencies that had been exposed in not only the three consecutive losses preceding the bye but earlier defeats at the MCG to Richmond and Hawthorn. Whether that level can be maintained will go a long way to determining if we win on Saturday, because without it I doubt we'll Houdini this one like we did last yearChangesMelbourne haven't bothered with any smoke and mirrors as such. Gawn was announced as a virtual certain starter this week even before they ran out last week and the Melbourne mids will relish his return after weeks of roving to a makeshift ruck division led by the undersized Pedersen. However, in the yin and yang of AFL, Melbourne get Gawn back but lose inside workhorse Nathan Jones to a quad injury that will weaken a still strong on-ball brigade. Doubts over Watts seem to have been put to rest but there's whispers that Hibberd may struggle to make the trip on a 6 day break. Both players have been important this year and either one would be missed should they not come up.Ultimately it may be as simple as Gawn in for Jones giving an undersized team a little more balance with their talls. It gets too complicated for my pay grade to predict who might come in for either Watts or Hibberd should that happenOur changes are a bit more nuanced. Nelson is a definite non-starter with a hamstring injury and Wellingham, who got through a full WAFL game on return from an ankle injury, looms as the most obvious replacement. Personally though, I didn't rate his game* and wouldn't be adverse to seeing Duggan left at half back where he excelled in the 2nd half against Geelong filling in for Nelson and then have Karpany or Partington come in to play Duggans role.*My view of Wellingham's game seems to be an outlier as most other opinions I've read have been positiveAfter that forced change a can of worms opens. The resumption of the quest for the Coleman Medal threepeat question may not be answered until final teams are announced 90min before bouncedown, depending on just how coy the club wants to be on Kennedy as is their wont. Whilst a return looks doubtful, the question becomes a matter of who he replaces. One of Schofield or Mackenzie is probable to make room for Gov to return down back or it could be Petrie that misses to allow Gov to remain as a ruck/forward after his success in that role last weekend.However, even if JK is ruled out the three KPD structure that made some sense (and worked) against a tallish Geelong forward line seems a risky proposition against a Melbourne forward six that lacks a true tall without Hogan. If Watts misses it becomes even shorter although Weidemann may replace him. Anyone care to remember the Richmond smalls running rings around our back 6 that had just 2 talls (Gov and Sexual) and then envisage how 3 talls would go against the likes of Petracca, Garlett, Bugg and Hannan. We rolled the dice with height against Geelong and got away with it but we look Mitch Brown to the forward pocket style unbalanced with 3 KPDs.Forget Lycett coming in - he's not match fit and it would be foolish to bring him in so underdone for such an important gameSo I've got Wellingham and another mid from the lucky dip barrel (Karps, Parto, Redden or Masten - take your pick but leave Butler out) to replace Nelson and Mackenzie (or Schofield)Now for the whipping boys - Priddis and Lecras. I'm leaving Cripps out of this because his reduced output since returning from injury is due to a lack of match fitness imo and he's highly rated by the club so I think they'll back him in for another week. If fit, Priddis retains his spot despite the prayers from some on this board but at Monday training he was away from the main group and looked a bit proppy so general soreness may strike. It'll be Redden that replaces him so be careful what you wish for.Lecca, lecca, lecca. I've had more sex than he's kicked goals in the last month or so and I've been pretty light on so he must surely be running out of golden tickets. Fortunately for him Hill was a bit underwhelming for East Perth whilst DV and Willie are injured so he might get another reprieve, deserved or not. If the MC lose patience then Hill would be the obvious replacement followed by Karpany with Lamb an outside the box possibility (so that won't happen - he picked a bad time to have an off day last weekend). I noted he was absent from training on Monday so if he's playing hurt, give him a rest because it isn't doing him or the team any favours and is doing no more than trashing the legacy of one of our very good playersTLDR - In Wellingham, Out Nelson. Melts are inevitable on a global warming scale when Lecras and Priddis keep their spots and the LOG* strategy remains.*Land of Giants Players to Watch/Match-upsJetta - has blossomed since returning from his EP hiatus to become one of our most influential players with some absolutely sublime kicking against Geelong in particular. I doubt he will go under the radar again after last week so I expect Melbourne to work him over like they did Johannisen.Garlett - not just one of the most dangerous small forwards in the comp but is in the top 10 goal kickers with 29. Fast and creative around goal he looms as a difficult matchup as we don't really have a genuinely quick small defender. Wellingham the leading candidate to get the jobOliver v Hutchings - has made a habit on getting first hands on the ball and I can see Hutchings to be given the responsibility to repeat his efforts on JelwoodShuey v Viney - this will be pivotal. Players who can do damage inside and outside that both teams rely on to get them clear from stoppagesLewis v Mitchell - it's perhaps unlikely that they will line up on each other directly but they are the wise old heads that help setup the midfield structures of their respective sides. Whichever player controls traffic and distributes the ball better will have a big bearing on the resultGawn v Vardy and the rest of his party - Big Max is a quality ruck so he will win most of the hitouts but having been out for a while may be out of sync a little with his mids so hopefully he won't be getting too many hitouts to advantage. Match fitness is also likely to be down so Gov and Petrie (assuming they ruck) should help Vardy give him a physical workover to limit his influence as the game developsYeo v Petracca - Yeo is the most physically capable to match the Demons young bull and the player that can go with him through midfield and cover him when he goes forward. He can also expose Petracca the other way and get him to worry about more than just getting the footyOur forwards v their internal demons - We've averaged less than 80 points per game with an overall return of 43.65 in the last 5 weeks (and that includes the 14.6 against the Giants). Part of the explanation for our low scoring has been a lack of supply but it's fair to say our forward group is out of form. Darling found some his mojo last week but still had just 2 goals to show for it but our small forwards have struggled to have an impact and Petrie is an honest trier but he's no JK. Against the 4th best scoring side in the league (averaging just over 100 points per game), 10-12 goals isn't going to cut it. They need to take their chances and find a way to crack the ton if we are to winWhat's more they have to limit the rebound off half back by Hunt, Hibberd and Jetta. If those guys are allowed to vacuum up the loose ball and get the ball in the open on the rebound, Melbourne will chop us up with their outside pace and our defenders will have no hope.Composure v Aggravation - Expect the brash Melbourne youngsters to be front and centre trying to niggle and cajole us at every opportunity. It worked against the Bulldogs and I dare say they'll feed on the hostility of an Eagles home crowd to push us as hard as they can. We have to stand up to it but remain composed so that we focus on putting our head over the footy and not get sucked in to retaliating off the ball and giving away stupid free kicksConclusionHistorically, Melbourne at Subiaco has been something of a formality but that won't be the case this Saturday. Melbourne were very impressive in their win over the Bulldogs and played a similar style to what Footscray did when they tore us a new one in the Elimination Final. Like most young sides on the rise, their confidence is contagious we should expect them to really serve it up to us verbally and physically - it unnerved the Bulldogs and we have to be ready for a fight because they won't be backing downNothing less than the intent and appetite for the contest we showed last weekend will suffice and we won't have the benefit of the ambush of sorts that caught out Geelong. We have to make the most of our momentum when we have it and sustain the effort for all four quartersA trend that's developed in our recent home games as been a strong first half that we've then had to defend as our opponent has pushed back. We were able to maintain our gap without extending it against Fremantle but only just held off strong finishes from Footscray and Geelong whilst we succumbed to the Giants surge. Melbourne have shown an ability to smash the scoreboard when they get on a roll - in all but two of their games they've kicked six or more goals in a quarter and in one of the games they didn't they had quarters of 5.7 and 5.6. We have to be ready for when the surge comes and hold them at bay by controlling possession of the ball then take advantage when they're poor because when they're bad they're very very bad. The bulldogs game is the only game where they didn't have a bad period where they conceded multiple goalsDecisions on Thursday at match committee level will also have a bearing on the result - 7 talls is one too many and I don't think we win unless one of them makes way. Persisting with Priddis and Lecras, especially if they're not 100%, is also dangerously rolling the diceThis wins This doesn't Heart is saying we get off to a good start before holding on for a narrow win but the Eeyores in my head are replaying the Elimination FinalHeart wins - Eagles by 7 points in a spiteful matchOh and if this scares us, we deserve to lose