Eagles beat Demons in sombre AFL clash

Justin Chadwick
Liam Ryan (R) has kicked three goals in West Coast's 27-point season-opening AFL win over Melbourne

For some, West Coast's 27-point win over Melbourne will be their last taste of AFL action for a while. For others, it will be their last taste of AFL action - full stop.

Eagles coach Adam Simpson put things perfectly into perspective when discussing his team's 12.6 (78) to 7.9 (51) triumph on Sunday at Optus Stadium.

Just two hours before the match, the AFL announced the competition would go on hold until at least June due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Simpson was keen for his players to put on a strong display to bring some much-needed cheer to the nation and the club's loyal supporters.

The premiership coach was also acutely aware that some Australians wouldn't make it through the pandemic, and Sunday's match would be the last time they watched an AFL game.

"I'm proud of our players. I'm proud of Melbourne's players as well for putting on a show," Simpson said.

"(Before the match) I didn't know whether to say, 'Boys, this is the last game for two or three months so let's treat it like our grand final, or this is just round one - it's four points'.

"I didn't know whether to motivate them with - there's some people who might have watched their last game of footy ever today.

"Hopefully, we put a smile on some people's faces for a few days."

Melbourne coach Simon Goodwin felt the AFL made the right decision.

"I think as a footy industry, we always knew that this time was coming and it's an important time," Goodwin said.

"It's important for the community to get this virus in check and we play a big part in that.

"I think the AFL has done a great job in following what the government has given them and the health department and now we need to play our role and not play the game we love."

Goal celebrations were notably muted during the game, with players knowing a round-one win might not end up counting for anything.

Nonetheless, Eagles ruckman Nic Naitanui produced an enormous display, tallying 13 disposals, 23 hit-outs, six clearances and two score assists to beat Max Gawn in the crucial ruck battle.

Andrew Gaff, Luke Shuey, and Dom Sheed were prominent through the midfield, while goalsneak Liam Ryan booted 3.3.

Melbourne midfielder Jack Viney, who lost the captaincy in February, was his team's shining light.

The 25-year-old tallied 34 disposals, seven clearances and a goal, while former Docker Ed Langdon finished with 31 possessions.

Debutant Kysaiah Pickett showed flashes of brilliance to finish with two goals.

Although Melbourne won the inside-50m count 14-9 during the opening term, the scoreboard made for ugly reading as the Eagles booted five goals to nil.

West Coast were able to maintain Melbourne at arm's length for the rest of the game.

The Demons won the inside-50m count 45-35 for the match, but their wayward delivery was their downfall.