It's been a far from ideal start to the AFL season for the West Coast Eagles, but one moment on Friday night showed just how far they have to catch up to the rest of the field.
Injuries and absences due to Covid-19 protocols have ruined the first few games of the Eagles' season, with the Perth club relying on an assortment of top-up players to even be able to field a team across the first four rounds.
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A triumphant win against the odds over Collingwood last weekend showed there was some hope for their season, but a brutal demolition job at the hands of the Sydney Swans on Friday night has some observers fearing the worst.
The Swans raced out to a 56-0 lead midway through the second quarter at Optus Stadium before cruising to the 18.13 (121) to 9.4 (58) win.
This was despite the Eagles welcoming four key senior players into the side - albeit with some caveats, with Jamie Cripps (pectoral), Elliot Yeo (calf), Tim Kelly (hamstring), and Luke Shuey (protocols) all but the latter having recently been sidelined with injury.
The half-time scoreline of 70-12 made grim reading for West Coast fans, and former AFL great Jonathan Brown singled out one play from Liam Duggan which he felt exemplified the team's woes.
Duggan's ill-advised attempt to smother Sydney's clearing kick from a centre bounce made little impact on the play and indirectly lead to a Swans goal - leaving Fox Footy's Brown puzzled.
“Have a look at this one. This is a centre square win for Sydney. Duggan just blindly comes in to try smother the ball,” Brown said.
Co-host Garry Lyon agreed, saying Duggan was 'never going to impact' the passage of play, with Brown also suggesting it was the kind of error 'you do not see at the top level'.
“They are all at sea the Eagles at the moment,” Brown continued.
“You wonder their defence seems to be all out of whack, you just wonder how much of an impact (Jeremy) McGovern actually does behind the scenes in directing and putting the West Coast defenders, especially the young ones, in the right position,” he said.
Eagles left disappointed after being smashed by Sydney Swans
West Coast coach Adam Simpson said there were simply "no excuses" for the way Sydney was allowed to blow his team off the park.
"We are working on our identity ... the way we want to play, and tonight you saw nothing of it," Simpson said.
"But success is not a straight arrow. There's going to be some ups and downs. We need to learn from it.
"But by no means are we accepting what happened tonight as a growth opportunity. It was disappointing.
"Our industry doesn't wait for anyone. So if we don't start winning, we won't be a chance of playing finals. I get that."
Simpson said he had little choice but to recall midfield trio Shuey, Kelly, and Yeo all at once given the club's injury-ravaged list.
"They're three of our best players. We need to get them going," he said.
"Of course they will be (better for the run).
"You can't point the finger at those three.
"I think we've got to take the whole 22 plus the coaches on this one.
"We'll own it together, we've got their backs, we know they're good players, we know we're better than what we produced tonight."
Defender Jeremy McGovern is a chance to return from the health and safety protocols next week, while Andrew Gaff (ankle) will also push his case for a recall.
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