West Coast v North Melbourne Elimination Final

Picture: Lincoln Baker/Perth Now
Luke Shuey will be one of the Eagles' key players against the 'Roos. Image courtesy of Perth Now/Lincoln Baker
West Coast is another year older and a finals series wiser after its 2011 campaign ended in a preliminary final loss to eventual premier Geelong. With a 10-1 home record, the Eagles probably should have cracked the top four, but a 5-5 interstate record put paid to those hopes, meaning they will have to settle for knockout football from the word ‘go’.

Their opponent on Sunday, North Melbourne , has played two top eight teams in the past three weeks. The question is: Which North outfit will show up on Sunday? Will it be the Kangaroos side which strangled the life out of Collingwood three weeks ago, or the one which was thumped in Melbourne by the visiting Dockers a fortnight back? The ‘Roos have had a very soft run home, but you can’t completely ignore a run of 10 wins from their last 12 matches.

Brad Scott’s team has won just two of its past 11 at Patersons Stadium, but they’ll take plenty of confidence from the fact they should have beaten the Eagles when they clashed at Blundstone Arena in Hobart in Round 15. North has put more points on the board than any team in the competition this year, apart from Hawthorn and Adelaide. Drew Petrie  leads a balanced forward line, so even if Darren Glass or Eric Mackenzie shut him down, the likes of Lindsay Thomas , Robbie Tarrant  and super-sub Kieran Harper can pick up the slack.

Where it Will be Won – North has one of the few backlines capable of matching-up on the Eagles talls Josh Kennedy , Quentin Lynch and second-year star Jack Darling , although this trio did kick eight of West Coast’s 12 goals in Round 15. The one area the ‘Roos will struggle in is containing Dean Cox and Nick Natanui both around the ground and when they’re resting up forward. Todd Goldstein has been down on form of late, and even with Petrie pinch-hitting in the ruck, the Shinboners will find it tough shutting down the Eagles’ ruck tandem.

By the Numbers – North’s opening halves have been substantially better than its efforts after the long break this season, with the ‘Roos percentage dropping from 124% to 102% in the second half. In comparison, the Eagles for and against in the first three quarters of matches in 2012 has been remarkably consistent, but it’s in the final term they shine. They average 4 ½ points more in the fourth than any other quarter. Don’t be surprised to see the Kangas in the mix at half-time , before the travel factor sets in and the home side flies home in the final term .

Prediction - Three weeks ago, the ‘Roos looked capable of anything after overhauling Collingwood, but two lacklustre efforts in a row against Freo and GWS mean the Eagles go in warm favourites. West Coast 25+  

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