21/04/2024

The West Coast Eagles' struggled in 2022, with the side slipping to last. (Photo: AFL Women's)

2022 was a year to forget for the West Coast Eagles with the side continuing to see heartbreak once again, finishing last.

The Eagles entered 2022 continuing to embattle travel restrictions and also were appointed a new coach Michael Prior.

However, West Coast’s premiership campaign proved to be unlikely as a horror run of losses led to a big Round 10 loss against North Melbourne, which was the final nail in the coffin.

The Eagles were plagued by worries throughout the season as they dropped down to 14th on the ladder – two down than where they were placed last season at 12th.

With only one win to their name in 2022 back in Round 4, the AFLW side struggled to get atop the majority of the competition as they had a campaign to forget.

The West Coast Eagles AFLW side pre-game in round seven. (Image: West Coast Eagles Women’s/Twitter)

Finishing position: 14th (One win, nine losses)

What worked?

The dynamic duo of Dana Hooker and Emma Swanson were hugely impactful, particularly shining in their two-point win against St Kilda in Round 4.

Hooker produced 20 disposals, 15 kicks and five tackles, as well as being influential in the midfield. Meanwhile, Swanson had 19 disposals and six tackles.

Evie Gooch showed potential throughout the season in the backline with a performance in a 22 disposal performance in Round 9. Sophie McDonald and Aimee Schmidt impressed with consistently defensively and up forward respectively.

What didn’t?

A major issue for the Eagles was their inconsistency throughout games, leading to blowouts against the top teams of the competition.

The Eagles saw big margin losses in several of the games that they played. The largest of these was 76 points against the Brisbane Lions back in Round 8. This was followed by a loss of 60 points when they fell short of the win up against the Western Bulldogs in Round 9.

To add to their woes, the side also were unfortunately hit with a run of injuries this season.

Hooker suffered a shoulder injury after going down in the second quarter in her side’s clash against the Western Bulldogs. The club released a statement confirming that Hooker suffered a subluxed acromioclavicular joint injury following an x-ray.

They were also without star midfield talent Aisling McCarthy, who suffered a fractured wrist after coming back from a stint on the sidelines recovering from a knee injury.

Another cause for concern for the Eagles was the lack of inside 50s. Many of their games were encompassed by periods where they were left goalless, particularly in all first quarters, with the exception of their games against Adelaide and North Melbourne.

Who impressed?

Emma Swanson was one of the Eagles shining stars who consistently delivered impressed performances.

The captain sizzled this season, only missing one game with a season average of 22 disposals, well up on her career average of 16.4. Swanson also gained 346.1 metres, similarly up on her career high average of 271.8.

Belinda Smith was critical for the side as she too had a stellar performance during the 2022 season.

The 26-year-old defender delighted fans this season with her averages of 11.2 disposals, seven kicks and three marks. Weathering storms most weeks, she was consistently one of her side’s best rebounders.

Highs and lows

Highs

Up and coming talent was a key feature for the side with a number of talented new players, seven to be exact, debuting and making their mark for the Eagles.

Charlie Thomas, Aimee Schmidt and Evie Gooch opened up the season for the side as they were the first batch of league and club debutants.

Courtney Rowley and Sarah Lakay followed suit to make their debuts next in Round 3. It was Emily Bennett‘s turn in Round 7. Finally to round up the debutants was Beth Schilling, who got the call up to play in Round 9.

Lows

Perhaps the lowest point for this side was their humiliating 76 point loss against the Brisbane Lions.

It would have been a devastating loss for the Eagles, not even entering forward 50 until the second half of the game.

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Who’s on the move?

A major blow for an already depleted Eagles side was news of Courtney Guard‘s departure from football after the 30-year-old recently announced her retirement.

Guard played 21 games for the Eagles, an inaugural player after a short stint at Fremantle in which she was picked up as pick #38 in the AFLW Draft.

UPDATE: Midfielder Maddy Collier has departed to become a part of the inaugural Sydney Swans AFLW side.

Despite injuring her ankle in Round 7, she was once again an important part of the Eagles’ midfield group with her tackling pressure and clearance work. While she does leave a void, the youngsters now have more opportunity to rotate through the centre bounce.

What’s next?

With the end of their campaign having come to an end, its time for the Eagles to head back to the drawing board. The fresh batch of debutants during this season demonstrated the side’s need to develop the young talent, which they do have plenty of.

Consistency is something that needs be focused in the next season. Whilst a premiership would be out of the sights for this side for a little while longer, the Eagles have shown potential given their close losses at various points.

Their Round 5 match up against the Gold Coast Suns saw them lose by five points. They similarly lost by under a goal to Geelong, Brisbane and St Kilda.

The Eagles are still missing a key focal point up forward, with Grace Kelly failing to register a goal until the final game of the season. Schmidt proved a threat at ground level, but the Eagles are still little threat aerially inside 50.

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