Who will win tonight's crunch elimination final between West Coast and Collingwood?
Strategy coach Rob Harding has taken a look.
Last three Meetings
2020 Round 8: West Coast 18.3.11 d. Collingwood 6.9.45 (66 points). Optus Stadium (D)
2019 Round 17: Collingwood 11.12.78 d. West Coast 12.5.77 (1 point). Optus Stadium (N)
2019 Round 3: West Coast 15.8.98 d. Collingwood 11.10.76(22 points). MCG (N)
Last time they met
Despite the late drama of Scott Pendlebury pulling out with a quad injury right before the bounce, the Pies made a hot start, kicking four of the first five goals, including two to Darcy Cameron.
From there on it was an Eagles domination, kicking 17 of the next 18 goals to run out convincing 66-point winners.
The margin was unusual for these two teams, as the previous four meetings had been decided by no more than 22 points.
The Eagles were spectacular out of stoppage, winning clearances by eight and outscoring the Pies 42-15 from stoppages, including 18-6 from centre bounce.
Incredibly, the inside 50 count was virtually even (37-35 to West Coast), but the Eagles took 14 marks inside 50 and kicked remarkably accurately (18.3).
Josh Kennedy kicked seven straight goals, and Tim Kelly showed his developing connection with Nic Naitanui, finishing with 29 disposals and six clearances.
Naitanui, assisted by Oscar Allen, won the high-profile ruck battle with Brodie Grundy. The Eagles pair restricted Grundy to 10 disposals, with Naitanui’s hit out work, particularly in the third quarter, was some of his best in his All Australian season.
What West Coast do well
The Eagles are traditionally a controlled kick/mark ball movement team, ranking top three for both kicks and marks in 2020.
They will look to stretch the ground with width, switch the play and look to open holes in the opposition defence. Once entering their forward half, the Eagles aren’t afraid to kick to a contest, with their tall targets providing a strong aerial presence.
Stoppages are a strong suit of West Coast, led by Naitanui, with the Eagles ranking top three in both Hit Out and Clearance differential.
Behind the ball the Eagles have an experienced intercepting defence, with McGovern, Barrass and Hurn all willing to leave their opponent to impact the opposition attack.
What Collingwood do well
For Collingwood in 2020 it has been defence, defence, defence.
Ranking number for points against for the majority of the season, the Pies slipped marginally late to finish third in 2020, conceding 51.8 points a game, behind only Port Adelaide (51.1) and Richmond (51.4).
The Pies hold great shape behind the ball on their forward 50 entries, and once the ball leaves their forward 50, the Pies forwards do a good job of getting up the ground to slow the opposition ball movement.
Collingwood will tease opposition teams to take short, wide uncontested marks that don’t gain any field position. As a result the Pies have given up the third-most marks in 2020, but the least inside 50s.
The risk in this strategy against the Eagles is that the Pies may find themselves burning tickets in long periods of defence as West Coast control possession.
The Pies have a deep collection of midfield ball winners that have good method in long kick down the line situations.
At their best the Pies have a quick and versatile forward line that is difficult to defend, though this year poor ball use through the midfield has resulted in them struggling to convert.
Something to watch for
Since the two teams last met in Round 8, the Pies have only had one occasion where a player has kicked more than two goals in a game – Jordan De Goey on his return from injury in Round 17.
The Pies simply need one or more forwards to stand up and hit the scoreboard if they are to upset the Eagles on their home ground, where they have not been beaten in 2020.
The Pies have won the inside 50 count in 13 of their 17 games in 2020, but they rank 16th for taking marks inside forward 50.
If the Pies are generating enough entries but not taking marks, or worse allowing McGovern and Barrass to intercept mark, can the Pies shift the focus of their forward entries?
In that event, they must start kicking the ball to grass inside F50, to take away the Eagles intercepting strength and turn the contest into a ground ball game inside the Pies F50.
It’s been a case of home sweet home for the Eagles in 2020, but the Pies are more than capable of challenging them in this elimination final.
West Coast would acknowledge they had a day out in the Round 8 clash, with goal kicking and forward efficiency that would be very difficult to repeat.
The Pies must halve the stoppage battle, especially from centre bounce, and shut down the Eagles uncontested mark chains.
Overall, with returning players from injury, West Coast should be too strong, and progress to the second week of finals.
West Coast by 25 points