What a win.
On a night where West Coast had every right to say ‘this is too hard’ they did what truly great teams do. They found a way to win.
WATCH MCGOVERN’S INJURY IN THE WINDOW ABOVE
Not just win, they dominated St Kilda game after quarter time and sealed their finals berth with a 9.11 (65) to 6.14 (50) victory at the Gabba.
Tim Kelly was extraordinary. He was clean in the wet when others fumbled. He hit targets by foot when others missed. And he said to his teammates, “come with me.”
The former Geelong star had 29 disposals, nine clearances in a best on ground display.
He set the tone early and just didn’t back off.
Then, when the Eagles needed a goal, he delivered again, putting them in front with seven minutes remaining.
There is always a tipping point in sport and West Coast appeared to have already gone past it.
The Eagles were ravaged by injury before rhe game even started. No Luke Shuey. No Elliot Yeo. No Jack Redden. No Dom Sheed. No Mark Hutchings. That’s basically the midfield.
Oh yeah, Jamie Cripps and Brendon Ah Chee were missing from the forward line too.
Adam Simpson must have felt like a kid with a Rubix cube. He knew he needed to work on section by section, but solving one problem caused another.
He started by placing regular defenders Liam Duggan and Tom Cole in the midfield, playing debutant Hamish Brayshaw as a forward and slotting Jarrod Brander alongside him.
Then in defence, Will Schofield was back in the team and Josh Rotham had a bigger role.
That was the plan. It required Tim Kelly, Andrew Gaff and Duggan to play massive midfield minutes, but it was the best way to win the game.
Forget rotations. Forget weight of numbers. Just go with the three best midfielders and let Nic Naitanui do his thing.
Then McGovern got smashed in the face and missed 20 minutes being assessed for concussion. He returned, only to injure his hamstring.
Suddenly Simpson had to swing things around again. Now it was time to move Brander to the wing and Cole to defence.
You can only imagine Simpson’s reaction when he saw Oscar Allen suffer a massive head clash too. Fortunately for him, Allen was able to come back on.
But down on rotations and talent, and playing their fifth game in 19 days West Coast’s stars played like stars.
Andrew Gaff had 33 touches. Naitanui finished with nine clearances and 18 possessions. Jack Darling took four contested marks. Tom Barrass refused to concede in defence.
The signs were ominous early. St Kilda kicked 2.3 in the first 10 minutes and led the inside 50s six to one.
By quarter time, the inside 50s were 15-6, St Kilda had collected 40 more disposals and led by 10 points..
It all pointed to a Saints win. But the players disagreed.
West Coast didn’t concede another goal until the final term and showed their class.
It was a night of character. A night of stars and a night of statements.
Liam Ryan didn’t take mark of the year, but he submitted multiple nominations for the almost grab of the round. He flew for everything and St Kilda weren’t sure how to handle him. Ryan almost kicked an astonishing goal during the third quarter when he took advantage of an open forward line and the wet weather. He belted the ball forward and raced Dougal Howard to the goal square. Howard got there first and rushed the point.
Adam Simpson looked like he was going to vomit during the second quarter as yet another decision got sent to the video reviewer. Jack Lonie’s goal in the first quarter was deemed okay given the cameras couldn’t work out whether anybody touched it. Then the ARC was called to decide if Oscar Allen had taken a mark in play. He did. But when Andrew Gaff’s shot was checked to see whether it scraped the post, Simpson’s frustration was clear. He just wanted someone to make a firm decision.