West Coast’s AFL top-two fate is well and truly in their own hands – and coach Adam Simpson is pleasantly surprised.
The Eagles overcame a late comeback from Adelaide on Sunday to post a 10-point win at Optus Stadium.
West Coast led by 27 points late in the third quarter but endured some nervy moments in the final term before holding on for the 13.12 (90) to 12.8 (80) win.
Brisbane’s 91-point win over Gold Coast earlier in the round meant West Coast dropped from second to third on the ladder because of percentage.
But importantly, the Eagles remain equal on wins with both second-placed Brisbane and ladder leaders Geelong.
Given those two teams face off on Saturday at the Gabba, West Coast will guarantee themselves a top-two finish if they can win their final two games of the season – against Richmond (MCG) and Hawthorn (home).
Simpson wasn’t aware of that scenario, and he welcomed the news.
But he said securing a top-four spot remained his priority.
“Across the board, whether it is top two, top four or top eight, the season is alive, so it’s really good for footy this week,” Simpson said.
The Crows (10-10) are 1.5 percentage points adrift of eighth-placed Port Adelaide, and face crunch games against Collingwood (home) and the Bulldogs (away) in their final two games.
The Crows suffered a huge blow at the opening bounce of the third quarter when Rory Sloane was accidentally cleaned up by teammate Matt Crouch.
Sloane was left with blurred vision after copping Crouch’s shoulder to the head, and played no further part in the match.
The 29-year-old twice fractured his cheekbone in 2015, and coach Don Pyke said he would take a careful approach with the star midfielder.
“He got knocked in the eye, and he’s got blurred vision at the moment,” Pyke said.
“He’s had a couple of issues previously with eyes. So they took a really cautious approach.
“We have to get that tested and find out. But fingers crossed, it’s nothing more than a scratch or something and he can continue to play, but it’s too early to tell.”
West Coast won the inside-50m count 63-41 for the match.
Eagles forwards Jack Darling, Oscar Allen and Jake Waterman booted three goals apiece, while midfielder Luke Shuey tallied 10 clearances from his 29 disposals.
Crows forward Darcy Fogarty kicked five majors in just his 12th AFL match, while Matt Crouch (43 disposals) and Brad Crouch (35) were prominent.
West Coast made the most of Sloane’s absence in the third quarter to boot five goals to two, extending their lead to 22 points by the final change.
The 54,994 crowd were rabid when Eagles skipper Shannon Hurn was penalised for rushing through a behind in the third quarter.
Although Hurn was under pressure, he was more than nine metres out from goal – so the free kick was correctly paid.
Adelaide closed to within two goals on three occasions in the final term but the Eagles were able to hold them at bay each time.