West Coast defender Brad Sheppard is confident the hunger of the group remains high despite their lacklustre start to the AFL season.

The Eagles are 4-3 after seven rounds, with some experts questioning whether players are suffering from a premiership hangover.

Sheppard doesn’t think that’s the case but admits the team still hasn’t found its best form.

Meanwhile, Jack Darling’s 10 minutes of magic was enough to save West Coast’s blushes in their 23-point win over Gold Coast at Optus Stadium.

Darling booted three goals during an inspired purple patch in the second quarter to help West Coast set up a 39-point halftime lead on Saturday night.

At that stage, West Coast appeared destined for a win in the vicinity of 80 points.

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But Gold Coast defied the script in the second half, closing the margin to just 11 points with five remaining in the match.

Darling had gone missing since his second-quarter heroics but popped up for a late goal to seal the 11.14 (80) to 8.9 (57) win in front of 47,497 relieved fans.

Calls were growing for Darling to be dropped following his scoreless displays in recent losses to Port Adelaide and Geelong.

But the 26-year-old’s four-goal display against Gold Coast will help silence those critics.

However, West Coast’s patchy display will raise further questions about where their premiership defence sits.

The Eagles were on the back foot for most of the second half, with their usually-silky players struggling as the ball became more slippery as the night wore on.

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“The first half was really solid,” Eagles coach Adam Simpson had said.

“The second half we were a bit scratchy. But to finish the game off and get a win, I saw some positive signs for some individuals, which was really good. But we’ve still got work to do.”

Gold Coast coach Stuart Dew was proud of his team’s second-half effort.

“It was a tale of two halves,” Dew had said.

“I was really disappointed with the way we started. I think we were a bit off.

“We challenged them pretty firmly at halftime and I think they responded with some physicality and some run.”

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Darling endured a bizarre moment early in the second quarter when he ran away from the ball thinking a teammate would get it first.

A Gold Coast player pounced, with the ensuing foray forward ending with a goal.

The incident seemed to spark Darling to life, with the premiership forward taking a strong mark shortly after and converting the 50m set shot from a tricky angle.

His second goal came when he outmuscled Jarrod Witts in the ruck before snapping truly.

And he had his third when he scooped up the ball from a pack and unleashed an accurate snap.

West Coast’s error-riddled display in the second half allowed Gold Coast back into the match, but late goals to Darling and Elliot Yeo sealed the win.

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The Eagles were dealt a late blow when ruckman Tom Hickey was ruled out with a hamstring injury.

AAP