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Josh Kennedy’s season under cloud as West Coast claim hard-fought win over North Melbourne

West Coast have suffered another injury nightmare in the last round of the season with star forward Josh Kennedy injuring his left ankle during last night’s 15-point win over North Melbourne.

Kennedy landed on the inside of his foot during a marking contest in the second quarter then limped and hopped from the field.

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Debate had raged all week about whether the Eagles should rest the Coleman medallist given their extensive injury list already includes Luke Shuey (hamstring), Jeremy McGovern (hamstring), Elliot Yeo (osteitis pubis), Jack Redden (thumb), Lewis Jetta (calf) and Mark Hutchings (hamstring).

WATCH KENNEDY’S INJURY IN THE WINDOW ABOVE

West Coast won 7.7 (49) to 4.10 (34) to jump into the top four but they now need either Richmond to lose to Adelaide or Sydney to beat Geelong to stay there and earn the double chance.

Those scenarios appear unlikely given the ladder positions and West Coast started last night like a team that knew the result wouldn’t change anything.

The Eagles lacked energy and North Melbourne took full advantage. West Coast failed to score in the first quarter and that hadn’t happened to an Eagles team since 1998.

The stats backed up what the eyes were seeing. North Melbourne had 32 more uncontested possessions for the quarter and 12 more contested possessions. They worked harder and wanted it more.

North Melbourne couldn’t play finals but they could win the wooden spoon and had been humiliated in recent weeks. Pride is a big motivation.

Josh J. Kennedy of the Eagles appears injured during the round 18 AFL match between the North Melbourne Kangaroos and the West Coast Eagles.
Camera IconJosh J. Kennedy of the Eagles appears injured during the round 18 AFL match between the North Melbourne Kangaroos and the West Coast Eagles. Credit: Quinn Rooney/via AFL Photos

Twelve Eagles had two disposals or less in the opening term and the signs were ominous.

But the energy changed in the second quarter as one of the possession-less players turned things around.

Liam Ryan sparked the team with seven disposals and his determination to run, pressure and create changed the way the Eagles played.

Ryan’s class and skill set up a goal for Brayden Ainsworth and then he kicked one of his own after getting around Josh Walker. His efforts ensured West Coast led by one point at half-time.

In slippery conditions, both teams battled during the third term but North Melbourne squandered opportunity after opportunity late in the quarter when they could have grabbed the momentum. The teams went to the final break with scores level.

It took a 50m penalty to Will Schofield, a quick and long kick inside 50 and a free kick to Oscar Allen to put the Eagles in front. Then Allen seized an opportunity moments later to nail his third major.

The irony was clear. He might be playing at full-forward if Kennedy isn’t fit for the finals.

Josh J. Kennedy of the Eagles receives treatment for an ankle injury during the 2020 AFL Round 18 match between the North Melbourne Kangaroos.
Camera IconJosh J. Kennedy of the Eagles receives treatment for an ankle injury during the 2020 AFL Round 18 match between the North Melbourne Kangaroos. Credit: Michael Willson/AFL Photos

It was fitting that Ryan sealed the victory with his second major.

The finals now await West Coast. Their ladder position is yet to be decided but what type of team they can put on the park will be the biggest question.

What the?

Coaches turn to random players for ruck contests in modern footy moving Cam Zurhaar into ruck for the centre bounce was a genuine shock. The 189cm Zurhaar won his first contest against Bailey Williams to show he wasn’t just in the middle to provide a contest. Zurhaar continued to play as Todd Goldstein’s ruck partner but didn’t have any more hit-out success.

Gaff rests

If you had to look twice when Andrew Gaff left the field during the second quarter, you wouldn’t have been the only one in shock. Gaff has been brilliant this year at defying fatigue and playing every minutes of games. He’s done that in two of the last three matches. But even endurance beasts need to have some time to sit down and have a breather. Gaff spent six minutes on the sidelines during the night in a rare luxury.

Quiet Kelly

Tim Kelly produced an outstanding game agianst St Kilda last week with 30 disposals, 1.2 and nine clearances. But he couldn’t re-produce that against the Roos. Kelly had 18 disposals and three clearances after having only six touches in the first half.

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