2021 Team Preview – West Coast Eagles

Written by Gunboat Diplomacy on February 8 2021


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To the chorus of me yelling at the TV and asking why I do this to myself, 2020 did not go to plan for the West Coast Eagles. Early in the season the COVID-19 hubs exposed the Eagles’ weakness interstate and it was clear their barometer players and leaders weren’t playing with the same zest as previous seasons, with the playing group expressing a desire to return to their families in Perth  – of the Eagles starting 22 between 14 – 16 are fathers, the highest proportion of any playing group in the competition.

Despite their mid-season resurgence starting with an 11 goal demolition of Collingwood in Perth and the continued viability of a deliberative, high marking style with a tall side, a season ending injury to Elliot Yeo, ongoing hamstring issues for skipper Luke Shuey and an underwhelming debut season from Tim Kelly left the Eagles without a consistent and competitive midfield engine room.

However, there’s ample staging ground for an Eagles rebound in 2021: a return to 20 minute quarters and the new kick-in rule are directly conducive to the Eagles’ aforementioned style, new recruits in Witherden and Zac Langdon have reportedly had energtic pre-seasons and club veterans are on the mend – bodes well!


Feeling Lucky: Bringing him over for pennies on the dollar, Alex Witherden ($456 100) should slot into a backline already conducive to his play style and relish the oppurtunity to deploy his elite rankings in disposals, kicks and marks. Despite having struggled with form and injury after impressive debut and second year seasons, Witherden’s shown an impressive ceiling and could look to rediscover it as Hurn continues to delegate his defensive duties.

With Yeo and Shuey down, Liam Duggan ($448 600) stepped up to the plate and played the back end of the season out in the midfield, putting up scores of 117, 84 and 97 when playing on ball and finishing his 2020 on career high average of 83.5.  With Yeo’s return date unconfirmed, Duggan’s again expected to feature in the Eagles’ midfield rotation.

Money Maker: Harry Edwards ($123 900), a third year tall defender, has reportedly been training as a ruck, adding to his utility. I wouldn’t expect him to line up in Round 1, but should make for a viable downgrade target if any injuries hit the Eagles’ defensive or ruck stocks.


Lock and Load: Ultra-consistent, doesn’t miss a game and started to show a much higher ceiling in 2020 than in previous years, Andrew Gaff ($570 800) presents himself as a shrewd M4 for those not sold on any of the Bulldogs MIDs. Owned by only 3% at this stage, Gaff could comfortably plod along at 110 if the Eagles can find some midfield rhythm.

Feeling Lucky: Tim Kelly ($517 400) joined the Eagles having averaged 93.2 in his debut season and 103.5 in his second year but didn’t continue on that trajectory upon moving, managing an underwhelming 96.3 last year. If one chalks that up to adjusting to a new club and a down season for the Eagles, Kelly still showed his ceiling last year (posting scores of 140, 150 and 180) and developed a damaging centre bounce synergy with Naitanui late in the season – could he click into gear in 2021?

Additionally, injury riddled skipper Luke Shuey ($508 600) comes in underpriced relative to his scoring capacity when unencumbered by his hamstring. One to watch.

Money Maker: While never a prolific scorer, Mark Hutchings’ ($157 600) utility and experience as one of the competition’s most neutralizing taggers means he’ll waltz right into the Eagles’ best 22 if fit to help even the odds at CBs and stoppages. Handily also has FWD DPP this year.


Lock and Load: The only time I’ve considered wavering from the G&G ruck combo this pre-season is in favour of Nic Naitanui ($593 700) after the tremendous form he stepped into halfway through the 2020. Rounding out the last 9 games with scores of 146, 129, 153, 146, 98, 72, 143 and 122, the All-Australian ruckman rated as the #1 SC player in points per minute and was a godsend to those covering Gawn. While I’m still rolling with G&G, it’ll be hard not to give Nic Nat some consideration if he’s set for increased minutes in 2021.

Money Maker: Didn’t score particularly well in his three games last year, but the Eagles affinity for dual rucks and Hickey’s recent departure means that Bailey J. Williams ($193 400) could earn himself some appearances this year.


Money Maker: Having brought Tim Kelly over at the expense of first year draft depth, the Eagles will look to develop surprise recruit Zac Langdon ($224 900) in a small forward role immeaditely and may also look to second rookies Jarrod Cameron ($153 700) and Jamaine Jones ($182 400) to augment their depleted FWD pocket stocks.


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8 thoughts on “2021 Team Preview – West Coast Eagles”

  1. great write up gd N N and Kelly must be considered High ceiling by both and their last part of 2020 plus their bye makes appeal DD


    1. Thanks, DD.

      Agree. Kelly, in particular, will be a straight swap for me if either Cripps or Rowell don’t look 100% come Round 1.


  2. Love the write up. I feel of Witherden plays he will be a bargain, however he was brought in to replace Jetta who wasn’t playing the second half of the year. Who comes out for him?
    Duggan is definitly on my watch list. Primed for a breakout year. Can’t make a decision until R1 when I see how long his mullet has gotten. Only started playing well when that beast started growing on his head.
    Hutchings has had surgery and is out for a while. Pass on him.


    1. Cheers, Matteo.

      Yeah, Nelson initially replaced Jetta but seemed to be developed more similarly to Hurn than Jetta imo. It was then Rotham, for his ten games, seemed to have Jetta’s role.

      Just a matter of whether they sack Nelson as Hurn’s protege and begin to develop Witherden as his successor. Question is will we deprive ourselves of the quality of Hurn’s efficiency (highest in the league) and decision making in order to develop Witherden? I’m not sure, and $465k is a lot to find out.


  3. Great write up GD. For me, a return to longer quarters means I am less willing to take a punt on injury prone players. That leaves Tim Kelly and Witherden on my watch list.
    Kelly had a huge ceiling but it is his lower scores last year that are a worry for me, Witherden , if he has job security is a bargain.
    West Coast will be a contender for finals but I really have to see how they set up in preseason. Best value elsewhere.


    1. Yep. Agree, Jeannot. If anyone, they’re the two I’m watching.

      Witherden will have JS np, issue is whether he has a consistent scoring stream from kick outs and distribution or whether he’ll be sharing it around with Hurn and Nelson.

      We’ll see.


  4. Very nice.
    Some good reports on Jones and a few others from recent intra-club
    “Building on his already impressive pre-season, a slim-looking Jones was in everything, applying pressure and bobbing up with multiple goals in a promising display.
    While players swapped between the blue and gold teams, Jones was well-served early by a potent engine room, led by Nic Naitanui, Tim Kelly, Andrew Gaff, Dom Sheed and Liam Duggan.
    Duggan’s ability to find space and time when there was precious little of either spoke to his quick-thinking and elite ball use. (and the Mullett has gone to a whole new level)
    Several WAFL Eagles joined in the action to top-up numbers as the likes of Elliot Yeo (groin), Jake Waterman (back), Jackson Nelson (hamstring) and Kennedy got through a power of running”



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