Jake Waterman flies for a mark during last weeks loss to Essendon. Image: @WestCoastEagles. Twitter

The West Coast Eagles have had their troubles in 2021. With a tough schedule to come, the Eagles face a make or break period in the season.

The West Coast Eagles were labeled as a premiership contender by many at the beginning of the 2021 season. Yet they have been difficult to get a read on this season. Their fluctuating form and crippling injury list have seen them battling in the lower half of the top 8 and falling away from the premiership conversation.

At home, they have seemed like world-beaters at times, while away from home they look like a second-rate team.

A term that has seemed to stick around for several years is flat-track bullies. However, this season, injuries to key players have seen a once feared side, become one that others see as an easy kill. Their injury list is not good reading. Liam Duggan, Jeremy McGovern, Luke Shuey all Premiership players 3 years ago, and Jarrod Cameron are all long-term absentees for coach Adam Simpson.

Add in stars like Josh Kennedy, Oscar Allen, and Tim Kelly who are missing this weekend’s game, and that’s a fair chunk of quality missing.

Eagles have a mounting injury list

What an injury list like this does, is force the depth in the squad to be tested. So far this season the players coming in for the Eagles have failed to pull their weight. Having two players like Shuey and McGovern who are irreplaceable for experience and quality. Their absence was always going to be felt.

Elliot Yeo was unavailable for the first half of the year but returned last week on heaviliy reduced minutes as he continues to be nursed back to full health.

The forward line of Josh Kennedy, Oscar Allen, and Jack Darling has been fruitful at times as well as being underwhelming. In their loss to Essendon last weekend, the trio combined for just four goals. Three of which came from Kennedy as Allen was subbed out and Darling struggled.

The Eagles also lost Tim Kelly to injury in what was a poor night as the team’s inconsistency again reared its ugly head.

Tim Kelly is averaging 25 disposals a game in 2021 which looks good on paper. However twice he has been held under 16 touches and only six times has he gone over 25. Over the last two years, Kelly has become extremely taggable as oppositions put some time into quelling his influence on games. His injury on Saturday night is a brutal blow to a side that is struggling with injuries already.

Bombers loss highlights West Coast’s inconsistency

The loss to Essendon was the straw that broke the camel’s back in some respect. It was a game that they should have won, it was at home, against a young but talented Bombers side. Ben Rutten’s team had 12 more inside ’50s, won the clearances, and had ten fewer turnovers.

Nic Naitanui had 40 hit outs compared to Andrew Phillips’ 11 yet the Eagles lost the clearances. Naitanui only played 70% of game time on Saturday night. Why is that? Is there an underlying issue with one of the premier ruckmen in the competition?

Away from home, the Eagles have been worryingly off the pace, highlighted by a 97-point thumping at the hands of Geelong. In the second half, the Eagles were overrun in their 20-point loss to the Saints. Brett Ratten’s side booted ten goals to three after halftime. As well as five to none in the last quarter as the Eagles had no answer to what the Saints threw at them.

Currently on a two-game losing streak, where do the West Coast Eagles sit? they have fallen off their perch from the high of the Premiership and the consecutive finals series that followed. The main consensus seems to be that they simply cannot cover the injuries they have as well as their away form.

It doesn’t get any easier:

Squad depth appears to be a weakness that Adam Simpson hasn’t addressed along with the team’s inability to play good football away from Optus Stadium. Up next is Carlton at the SCG on Sunday. A ground that is the scene of much pain for West Coast, having only won once there since 1999. Factor in the loss of both Tim Kelly and Oscar Allen and suddenly, this becomes a danger game.

The West Coast Eagles could find themselves outside the top eight if results go against them. With Richmond and the Western Bulldogs to come after their bye, West Coast’s finals hope could be over in just a matter of weeks.

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