Where and when: The Gabba, Saturday March 23, 7.20pm (AEST).
Last time they met: The Gabba, round 23, 2018: West Coast 14.14 (98) defeated Brisbane 11.6 (72).
With a week-one home final up for grabs, the Eagles methodically took care of the Lions to finish in second position after the home-and-away matches. Luke Shuey and Jack Redden were the midfield architects while Jack Darling and Jamie Cripps were dangerous forward.
What it means for Brisbane: After huge strides in 2018 and an off-season full of optimism with some quality signings, the Lions would love to show their fans they’re on the path to improvement again this year.
What it means for West Coast: Every premier wants to start its flag defence with a win, and this will be no easy task. The Eagles were great on the road in 2018 and want to start that way again.
How Brisbane wins: On a fast Gabba surface, its best chance of an upset is speed. The Lions have to win their share of ball in tight and then move it quickly by hand, foot or by using their legs.
How West Coast wins: The blueprint from the final round last year was to suffocate the Lions. If the Eagles set up well defensively they can generate enough turnovers to punish their younger opponents.
The stat: West Coast has won the past eight games in this match-up, not losing since 2012. The average winning margin has been 50 points. Only captain Dayne Zorko, Daniel Rich and Ryan Lester remain on Brisbane’s list from that victory. Jack Redden played that day too – now he’s an Eagle.
The match-up: Josh Walker v Jack Darling
Darling (116th overall in the AFL’s Official Player Ratings) broke free from a quiet patch with four goals in the final round against Walker last season. The Lion, ranked 363rd after an inconsistent couple of seasons, must turn the tables if his team is to spring a surprise.
It’s a big week for: Shannon Hurn
It might not mean much to the premiership skipper just yet, but Hurn will lead out the Eagles for the 100th time on Saturday. He’ll become just the fourth player to achieve the feat behind John Worsfold, Darren Glass and Ben Cousins.
Thommo’s Tip: West Coast by 10 points.
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