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Wednesday, September 5, 2018

The mark of marks that drives West Coast’s success

The early 90s hold significance to Eagles fans.
After all, 1991 marked the club’s first appearance in a grand final, with 1992 and 1994 bringing the ultimate success.
But you may have seen a different type of ‘early 90s’ figure that has signified success for Adam Simpson’s side so far this season.
West Coast is a perfect 14 wins from 14 games this year when notching more than 90 marks. Quick maths suggests that also means they’re 2-6 when they fail to cross that threshold.
The Eagles’ average of 101.3 marks per outing this year isn’t only a league best, it’s also an all-time club-high figure.
Some of that is of course down to the elite contested marking prowess of Jeremy McGovern and Tom Barrass in West Coast’s defensive half, as well as Jack Darling’s improved efforts in contests up forward.
That trio accounts for precisely half of the Eagles’ AFL-best 13.4 contested grabs per game.
But the high-marking figure is also testament to the way Simpson has his side playing when they’re at their best.
Led by pinpoint skipper Shannon Hurn, West Coast aim to possess the footy with a kick-mark style in their back half as they strategically and steadily plot their way up the ground.
As has been widely documented, former Hawthorn brains-trust members Simpson and Sam Mitchell have had an influence in establishing that approach, which has also led to the Eagles becoming the league’s highest-volume kicking side.
West Coast have looked to stretch opposing teams by using the increased width at their new home ground at Optus Stadium, particularly in the back half to switch the play.
And in a sign that could bode well for later this month, should they progress that far, it’s translated well to the MCG.
West Coast’s 117 marks against Collingwood at that ground in round 17 represented their second-highest figure away from home this season.
On that day, McGovern (12 marks, four contested) ruled the airways to feast on some wayward Magpies entries. But Hurn, Brad Sheppard and Lewis Jetta all racked up double-digit mark tallies of their own to help their side control the tempo and boss the game en route to a 35-point win.
It’s something the Eagles will be looking to replicate against the Pies in the qualifying final to progress to a home prelim. But it’s fair to say they’re likely to encounter more resistance from Nathan Buckley’s side this time around in an effort to shut down the time and space when the home team has the footy in their back half.
So if you’re a West Coast fan counting along with the number of marks your team is taking on Saturday night, the early 90s – and beyond – are the figures you’re aiming for.
West Coast’s marking prowess this season
Round 18 v WB: 131 marks – won by 54
Round 4 v GC: 127 marks – won by 80
Round 11 v StK: 125 marks – won by 13
Round 2 v WB: 124 marks – won by 51
Round 17 v Coll: 117 marks – won by 35
Round 9 v Rich: 111 marks – won by 47
Round 20 v Fre: 110 marks – won by 58
Round 10 v Haw: 106 marks – won by 15
Round 16 v GWS: 106 marks – won by 11
Round 6 v Fre: 105 marks – won by 8
Round 21 v Port: 97 marks – won by 4
Round 3 v Geel: 95 marks – won by 15
Round 23 v Bris: 95 marks – won by 26
Round 8 v GWS: 91 marks – won by 25
Round 22 v Mel: 90 marks – lost by 17
Round 15 v Adel: 89 marks – lost by 10
Round 5 v Carl: 88 marks – won by 10
Round 14 v Ess: 87 marks – lost by 28
Round 19 v North: 86 marks – lost by 40
Round 7 v Port: 85 marks – won by 42
Round 1 v Syd: 84 marks – lost by 29
Round 13 v Syd: 80 marks – lost by 15