Eagles head coach Adam Simpson has voiced praise for his players after their dominant win over Carlton.
Speaking in his post-match press conference, Adam Simpson stated he was “really proud” of his players, who broke a 22-year losing streak at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Sunday night.
It was one of the West Coast’s best performances this season, especially considering the number of players absent with injuries.
“We played with plenty of spirit,” Simpson said after the match. “I got the sense all week that we were building towards a game where we could really dig in and make our supporters proud.”
“Today, I thought we played four pretty good quarters of consistent football. It’s a good sign.”
Maintaining that consistency over four quarters has been a key theme of Adam Simpson’s press conferences this year.
After fading out of games against St Kilda, the Bulldogs, and Essendon, the Eagles have struggled to apply pressure and win contested possessions across all four quarters this season.
But Sunday’s win against Carlton was the performance the West Coast have been striving for and could be the turning point in their season.
Dominating over each quarter, the West Coast pressed high on Carlton’s backline, keeping them boxed into their own 50 for most of the match.
The Eagles worked harder to win more turnovers, make more tackles inside 50, and pump more bombs inside 50 to keep Carlton on the back foot for most of the match.
“We’ve been a little bit inconsistent this year, and tonight we were down on numbers – like every club – but we were missing a few pretty good players. The young kids stood up, but our leaders were exceptional.”
Leading the team out as captain for the first time in his career, marquee ruckman Nic Naitanui set the tone for the Eagles on Sunday in perhaps his best performance of the year.
While providing the Eagles with exceptional service at the stoppage, Naitanui’s groundball work was also superb, turning the ball over four times during the match while winning 11 contested possessions up and down the field.
“Obviously, teams scout and hunt with Nic (Naitanui), but overall he was probably our best player and gave us supply when we needed it,” Simpson said.
“I thought the young kids stood up, but our leaders were exceptional. It was mostly our captain (Nic Naitanui), in his first game as captain, but it was right through the lines with (Andrew) Gaff, (Dom) Sheed, (Elliot) Yeo, and (Tom) Barrass.
“And as much as we’re missing some players, we’ve still got some really good leaders in the side.”
With multiple key players still sidelined with injury, several young Eagles stars stood up to have an impact on the match.
On debut, midfielder Luke Edwards adapted to the pace of AFL football very well and looked composed on the ball as he bombed multiple dangerous kicks inside 50. Young forward Jamaine Jones showed some quick instinct to get on the receiving end of one of those kicks and strike home for his first of two goals.
21-year-old Luke Foley also contributed to the scoreboard to kick his first goal in AFL football and had a big hand in helping shore up the Eagles backline after Brad Sheppard left the field with an injury in the first quarter.
“I think all of them played their part, Luke Edwards’, first game for the footy club, and he’s got a really good footy brain and makes really good decisions with it, and the pace of the game didn’t seem to worry him too much. He’s only going to get better.”
“Foley had a really good impact. Bailey Williams is trying really hard to lock down that second ruck forward spot.
“Harry Edwards is now in his third or fourth game. Xavier O’Neill is still forging his way through his career.
“They should get a lot of confidence out of tonight just in the spirit and the way they played in.”
Off the field, injury concerns continue to plague the West Coast, who will now be without All-Australian Brad Sheppard in next Sunday’s pivotal game against Richmond.
“We lost Shep with concussion today, and a couple of boys manfully worked through the game but were pretty sore when they came off,” Simpson said of injuries,
“The problem we have at the minute is we get two back next week, and then we lose two, and it would have been good to have the bye.
“But we honestly think we’ve had it really good as a club this year. A lot of teams have dealt with far worse than us, you know, we sleep in our own beds, so we’re going to do whatever it takes to keep that going.”
Oscar Allen and Josh Kennedy are both set to return next weekend, while the Eagles are expecting Luke Shuey, Tim Kelly, Jeremy McGovern, and Liam Duggan to return the following week, after the Eagles mid-season bye.