After a horrid 2021 season, things did not get better for the Eagles in 2022, finishing just above the bottom of the ladder on percentage having won just two games for the season.
With injuries hampering their season once again, the Eagles struggled to get going as their key players spent stints on the sidelines, with not a single player playing the full 22 games this season.
Having been marred with injuries, COVID running rampant through the Eagles camp and numerous heavy losses, it was a campaign to forget the Perth-based outfit.
Finishing position: 17th (two wins, 20 losses)
As the Eagles’ list was stretched this season, a positive to come out was the amount of gems the side would unearth.
Having been delisted by Richmond, Patrick Naish repaid the faith. After being brought in largely as a top up player, he was one of the side’s best in the opening part of the season when they were missing players.
He’d average 16.7 disposals per game, starting the season off hot before eventually making away for the regulars when they returned.
Greg Clark was also the same, with the rookie listed midfielder making the step up from the WAFL and coming in and admirably filling in at senior level.
First year Eagle Brady Hough showed encouraging signs, relishing the chance to play for his boyhood club. Playing down back, he proved he was capable of playing in an under pressure defence.
Connor West asserted himself into the Eagles best 22, with the mid-forward impressive with both his offensive and pressure work.
Their inability to keep players on the park has contributed to the Eagles’ struggles this season, with the side boasting one of the largest injury lists in the competition for the second season running.
Whether out due to a physical injury or missing games due to health and safety protocols, there wasn’t a single player on the list who has featured in every game for the club this season.
Jack Darling, Jack Redden and Jake Waterman made the equal most appearances for the club in 2022, with the trio featuring in 20 games this season.
42 players made an appearance for the club this season, with West Coast forced to use COVID contingency players against North Melbourne and Fremantle early in the season just for fixtures to go ahead.
The club at one point had as many as 15 players on their injury list, and they finished the season with 13 players still on the sidelines.
An inability to win the football and hit the scoreboard were also notable issues throughout the season for West Coast.
The Eagles finished the season ranked 17th for disposals per game, with just the Gold Coast Suns averaging less disposals per game in the entire competition.
Not only did they not feature in more than 20 games this season, their midfield group were all down on their usual input when available. Tim Kelly led the way averaging just 24.2 disposals per game, Andrew Gaff with 23.9, Jack Redden 21.7, Luke Shuey 21.4 and Dom Sheed 20 disposals per game.
Also ranked 17th for points per game, the Eagles struggled to hit the scoreboard this season, averaging just under 10 goals a game. Finishing the season with 212 goals and conceding 355, they finished with one of the worst scoring differentials in the competition.
While veterans Darling and Josh Kennedy had a modest return of 32 and 37 goals respectively, the goals dried up thereafter. Third placed goalkicker Jamie Cripps snagged just the 19 goals this season, and with Kennedy hanging up the boots, it leaves a big hole to fill up forward for the club.
Though he was a handy contributor in a down season for the Eagles last year, Alex Witherden took his game to another level in 2022. The medium-sized defender stood tall while others around him where underwhelming.
The 23-year-old enjoyed a career-best season, averaging 21.5 disposals, 7.7 marks and 402.9 metres gained. He finished the season ranked inside the top 10 players of the competition in for marks and rebound 50s per game.
The aforementioned duo of Hough and West were also been impressive, quickly asserting themselves in the Eagles best 22 this season.
While Hough was a rock in defence, also spending stints in the midfield and looked in encouraging in either position, West did his best work at the other end of the ground.
He was impressive up forward with his tackling pressure a highlight, doing his best to keep the ball locked in the Eagles’ forward half.
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The Eagles’ best performance this season came in Round 15 against Essendon at Optus Stadium, breaking their 10 game losing streak in front of the West Coast faithful.
Trailing at quarter time, the Eagles rallied thereafter to record a 10-point victory. They pulled off an unlikely win in the middle of a slump and without key players Dom Sheed, Jeremy McGovern, Nic Naitanui and Tim Kelly.
Veteran Josh Kennedy put in one of his best performances of his final AFL season, booting five goals, while Shannon Hurn was a rock in defence. The 34-year-old stood up and held the Bombers forwards at bay in the absence of McGovern.
After weeks of consecutive losses, it would prove to be an inspirational victory, though the good times wouldn’t last as the Eagles failed to win another match.
Though there numerous lowlights for the Eagles in 2022, the lowest point was their five week period from Round 7 to Round 11.
Depleted by injuries, the Eagles suffered humiliating loss after humiliating loss during this period which started with a 109-point loss to the Tigers at Optus Stadium.
It was one of the more embarrassing performances of the club’s history, and capped off with a 101-point loss to the Western Bulldogs, again at home.
In between was a 75-point loss to the Brisbane Lions in which pundits predicted the Eagles’ potential to finish the game with greatest losing margin in AFL history. A 74-point loss to Melbourne at home followed, along with a 48-point loss to the Giants.
Where to next?
While Adam Simpson was hopeful at the start of the season the club would be competitive, the reality is the Eagles need to rebuild.
Injuries aside, the Eagles were poor in 2022, which was demonstrated by their top players returning from injury to no noticeable improvement.
West Coast’s hand was forced to start the rebuild, and will need to continue this into next season by first looking to the draft.
With the goals drying up this season, the club will be eyeing out top forward prospects, as a long-term option is needed. Oscar Allen is set to recover from injury ahead of 2023, and Simpson should be looking to deploy him up forward too.
Hurn is coming to the end of his career, Gaff and Shuey are now in their 30s – the club need to begin planning for the future, and this draft period presents them a perfect opportunity to do so.
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