Josh Kennedy kicked five goals in his AFL return.
Josh Kennedy kicked five goals in his AFL return.

Eagles far from spent after Suns demolition

NOT even a month has passed since Robert Walls predicted West Coast would finish last in 2018.

If he picks up the newspaper this morning and tips the ladder upside down, he'll find his prediction is tracking well.

The Eagles will face far sterner tests than a travel-weary Gold Coast at the back end of a 10-day stint in Perth and won't be getting ahead of themselves.

However, Saturday night's brutal 80-point dismantling of the hapless Suns, 21.13 (139) to 9.5 (59), added to a growing body of evidence from the opening month of the season that West Coast are the real deal.

Had Sydney superstar Lance Franklin been sidelined in the opening round rather than West Coast spearhead Josh Kennedy, it's a fair bet the Eagles would be four and zip.

The Eagles talked the talk leading into the season, miffed at widespread predictions they would fall off a cliff and adamant they were planning for finals again rather than a rebuild.

Willie Rioli celebrates a goal.
Willie Rioli celebrates a goal.

Adam Simpson's rejuvenated outfit is now walking the walk. It's time to recognise West Coast as finals contender rather than pretender.

It's easy to think of this team as new because of a sprinkling of debutants, however in reality the bulk of the Eagles' 2015 Grand Final team are still there.

And for the first time in a long time, West Coast were able to field arguably their two most important players in the same side.

The last time an Eagles team featured both Kennedy and Nic Naitanui, Sam Mitchell was playing for the opposition and Donald Trump was an outsider in the US presidential race.

Both were excellent contributors at Perth Stadium, but part of their beauty is they also have the power to make those around them better.

Jack Darling tackles Kade Kolodjashnij.
Jack Darling tackles Kade Kolodjashnij.

An imposing Naitanui setting the tone in his 150th game as he powered an early onslaught.

Kennedy, who finished with five goals in a dream first game of the season, was part of the forward line rather than the forward line.

That in itself might be a move in the right direction for a team that has probably over-relied on the bearded veteran as a forward target in the past.

Jamie Cripps (four goals), Jack Darling (three), and Mark LeCras, Willie Rioli and Chris Masten (two each) all got in on the act.

After the visitors managed to answer the first significant challenge thrown at them in the opening term, it was one-way traffic in the second quarter as West Coast piled on 8.4 to 1.1 to settle the issue.

Daniel Venables kicked his first AFL goal.
Daniel Venables kicked his first AFL goal.

There were gleeful beneficiaries everywhere as Daniel Venables, whose night was cut short by injury, and Rioli both got their first career goals.

Rioli was thankful his tumbling effort from outside the 50m arc bounced through, having not seen a free LeCras when a pass to his teammate appeared the better option.

The wheels were loosening and began to fall off for the Suns when Cripps goaled following a 50m penalty, stretching the Eagles' lead to six goals mid-way through the second stanza.

The wheels on the Gold Coast bus were off and rolling towards the Swan River when LeCras marked on a tight angle near the behind line in the third term. As he went back for his set shot, nobody in a red guernsey bothered coming in to close down the angle he would be able to open up and the 200-gamer took the opportunity to comfortably add his second.

When the Mexican wave comes out in the last quarter of any match you know the scoreboard isn't pretty.

The Suns will have a long flight home to think about it and plenty more air miles to come before they can finally get their home ground back in the second half of the season.


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