The six-day break is often met with trepidation by AFL clubs. The West Coast Eagles will be embracing such a scenario this week.
After an 84-point drubbing from Port Adelaide, the week at West Coast HQ would be one of edginess, accountability and hard truths. There simply must be a response from the Eagles on Friday night against Richmond at Optus Stadium.
Not necessarily in getting a win but planting hope that there is life in their list beyond the magnificent contributions from Josh Kennedy, Luke Shuey, Shannon Hurn and Jamie Cripps,
Coach Adam Simpson has been first class in 2022. Calm and understanding of the circumstances without drawing on excuses.
Internally, the loss to Port would have players walking on eggshells. That calm and composed Simpson addressing media scrums would not translate to when he’s reviewing the vision from underwhelming performances.
While the club has been stoic in publicly separating themselves from the realities of COVID-19 and the impact of of injuries, it has been real.
The Eagles have endured an annus horribilis in 2022. However, the issues are deeper than the short-term. Health and safety protocols and the bumps and bruises of AFL footy will pass shortly.
The 86-point drubbing on Saturday looked listless against a side that was winless in 2022. A lack of quality is acceptable. However, a lack effort is non-negotiable. Many have questioned whether the effort was apparent in the blue and gold in Adelaide in Round 6.
In two sleeps West Coast will have the eyes of the football world on them. Friday night lights, the edginess and anxieties of the week can be cleansed with a competitive outing.
The eyes should be gazing for life in their game in terms of effort and enthusiasm for the contest and for each other. This effort and enthusiasm have been scarce in the first six rounds, outside of perhaps the top-up riddled game against North Melbourne.
For all of Adam Simpson’s public defence of his troops. Outside of the COVID-impacted North Melbourne game, they are full time professional athletes lacing up the boots and pulling on the jumpers.
The mediocrity attached to large chunks of their season cannot be accepted. The players afforded the opportunity to add another AFL game to their name on Friday night must show their respect to their mentor through effort.
If the mediocrity is prolonged into Friday night, pressure builds on playing careers and in the coaching box.
Where can this effort be measured? It’s simple. In a game where the Eagles were annihilated around clearances (they lost centre clearances 16 – 5) and contested ball (-34) against Port Adelaide, the Eagles were only able to lay 58 tackles.
What was alarming was the fact a club under pressure in Port Adelaide laid 17 more tackles despite having a mortgage on the ball.
The coaching group must implore an attitude to tackle. Put an aspirational number on the whiteboard before Friday’s match and challenge the team to attain it. They will quickly learn who is has the attitude and effort to turn the tide.
The critics are circling and the internal belief may be wavering. I’m still unsure of what this current team can do.
The sample size suggests this side is on the ropes. We can acknowledge some circumstances as to why .
However, those circumstances don’t detract from professional athletes giving maximum effort, those circumstances have an expiry date, that expiry date is now.
Livelihoods and legacies depend on an uncompromising group off 22 to show that this current version of the Eagles is not yet ready to keel over.
The Sydney performance was alarming, the Port Adelaide loss raised questions of desire, a similar performance against Richmond will have the blowtorch applied to all aspects of where this club is at and where it is going.