It was Dreamtime a week early for Alec Waterman as he lived a fairytale but it was Nightmare at Optus Stadium for a shell shocked West Coast, as the son of a club great returned to haunt them.
In reality, it wouldn’t have taken much to finish off the Eagles by the time Waterman kicked an emotional sealer. Crippled by the loss of key players Tim Kelly and Oscar Allen by half-time, and with Elliot Yeo there in name only, West Coast were running on fumes.
The Eagles kicked just two goals after half-time and were hammered 22-6 in inside-50 entries in the last quarter as Essendon came back from 29 points down to record a famous 16-point victory, 12.15 (87) to 11.5 (71).
Five years after being delisted by West Coast amid terrible fatigue-related illnesses, Waterman produced the final dagger. But it was ‘The Package’ Jake Stringer who had already taken the wind out of the Eagles with three second-half goals in his sparkling return from injury.
West Coast could only ride an awesome display from ruckman Nic Naitanui for so long, with midfielder Dom Sheed also immense with 43 touches, six clearances and a rare right-foot goal.
Having now dropped five games at the mid-point of the season, West Coast’s top-four and premiership hopes are on life support and they will anxiously wait on scans on Kelly’s right knee, which he wrenched in an awkward slip.
The Eagles had their unblemished 9.0 to thank for their 17-point half-time advantage, with the Bombers having already had three more scoring shots on the back of their 25-18 clearance edge.
The home side booted five consecutive goals through the middle of the second quarter, but goals to Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti and Kyle Langford would soon be worth their weight on gold as they pulled the Bombers back within striking range.
With Kelly and Allen out of action, and Yeo playing just 64 per cent of game time for 14 disposals, it looked like a huge ask to hold on and so it proved.
Adam Simpson was forced to throw the magnets around, with 195cm wingman Jarrod Brander summoned to defence and Brendon Ah Chee used to help patch-up the centre-square division.
The Bombers assumed control in the third term, kicking four goals to one. When Stringer nailed a beauty from the boundary line just before three-quarter time, the visitors were within a kick and when he followed it up with a snapped goal to start the final stanza, Essendon were in front for the first time.
On an incredible night for the Waterman family, Eagle Jake kicked the first of his two goals just 15 seconds after coming on as a substitute and Bomber Alec kicked the final goal of the match to finish things.
Alec missed a couple of chances in front of goal early, but wasn’t his goal worth the wait.
It was a triumphant homecoming for the 24-year-old, who left Perth last summer to take up a training invite with no guarantees.
Alec made a remarkable recovery from fatigue-related illnesses that prompted his de-listing by the Eagles without playing a game.
Subbed into the match for Kelly in the second term, Jake sprinted directly forward from the interchange gates to get on the end of an attacking move and kick an instant goal.
Jake was prominent throughout, making some mistakes in defence but finishing with two goals including West Coast’s only goal of the final term.
OSCAR’S CRASH LANDING
West Coast utility Oscar Allen thought he would give teammate Liam Ryan a run for his money with a huge speccy attempt over Essendon’s Matt Guelfi in the second quarter.
The mark didn’t stick and neither did the landing, with Allen landing on his head in a frightening moment.
He quickly got up to the initial relief of everybody, summed up by former North Melbourne star David Kind who said: “Thank God for that.”
Allen returned to the game following a stint on the bench, but left the ground at half-time in the hands of a trainer and did not return in the second half.
Having signed a contract extension during the week, he underlined his versatility by playing the first half as a key defender on exciting Bombers youngster Harry Jones as the Eagles decided to go smaller in attack.