Pre-heat the oven and grab some tomato sauce, because footy is back and it is time for a pie!
Although not much can be said about the borderline apocalyptic hopes of Fremantle heading into 2017, there are both equal parts excitement and uncertainty surrounding the West Coast Eagles’ premiership hopes this season.
Following a disastrous end to 2016 at the hands of a rampaging Western Bulldogs outfit that would go on to be crowned premiers, the Eagles enter season 2017 with some new faces, both young and old.
Whilst the absence of Nic Naitanui for the majority of the season and the recent shoulder injury to ruckman Scott Lycett sees many Eagles fans yearning for Dean Cox to come out of retirement, there is plenty of upside for Adam Simpson’s team following a strong preseason.
Between veterans Sam Mitchell, 34, and Drew Petrie, 34, West Coast has added 623 games, 64 years and countless grey hairs worth of experience to their list.
Throw in the could-be-anything potential of Nathan Vardy and the Eagles may be even stronger than they were in 2016.
PROS & CONS
PRO: Depth (well… maybe not in the ruck)
West Coast may have added depth in the ruck over the off-season by picking up Drew Petrie and Nathan Vardy, but Scott Lycett going down in the WAFL sees the Eagles potentially heading into round one with a ruck combination that might struggle for a hit-out to advantage in a game of Auskick.
However, with the Brownlow Medal combination of Matt Priddis and Sam Mitchell in the middle, two-time Coleman Medallist Josh Kennedy up forward, a selection headache down back between emerging superstar Tom Barrass and out-of-favour veteran Eric McKenzie, Adam Simpson is blessed with arguably the strongest spine in the competition.
Throw in a decent draw and West Coast will have their sights set on a home final come September.
CON: Yeah… it’s the ruck again.
With no Nic Naitanui or Scott Lycett for the foreseeable future, the Eagles’ midfield will be working overtime to grab first use around the stoppages.
PRO: Sam Mitchell
For Hawks fans, not even three flags in a row were enough to prevent the streets of Hawthorn from turning into a river of bitter brown and gold tears, following the news that their favourite son had been traded to West Coast for pick 88 in the draft.
Seriously, pick 88!
It was a different story all together for Matt Priddis and Luke Shuey, who certainly let out a collective sigh of relief after carrying the Eagles’ midfield in 2016.
Throughout his two JLT Community Series matches, the ripple effect of Mitchell’s class could be seen all over the ground, and Eagles fans will be licking their lips at the possibility of Mitchell to Kennedy all season long.
Spearheaded by walking beard and reigning Coleman Medallist Josh Kennedy, if the Eagles’ forward line can get decent supply from the midfield, they should prove to be more than a handful for any defence in the competition.
Can Josh Kennedy become the first player to kick 100 goals in a season since Buddy Franklin in 2008?
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Due to Brent Harvey’s controversial forced retirement at the end of last season, no one really noticed when Drew ‘Frank The Tank’ Petrie left Ardon Street after 316 games in the blue and white, looking to reinvigorate his career under former teammate Adam Simpson.
While Petrie’s 428 career goals speak for themselves, his role under Adam Simpson will change dramatically compared to what it was under Brad Scott.
Not much is known about the effect Petrie will have on the Eagles this year, but one thing is for sure: he is certain to improve on the 13 hit-outs he amassed last season.
After abandoning ship from the Brisbane Lions following the 2014 season, Elliot Yeo had a break-out year in 2015, which had Eagles fans foaming at the mouth at the possibility of having their own Nat Fyfe in a few years.
With another season behind him, don’t be surprised to see Yeo win a few games off his own boot in 2017.
As far as make-or-break seasons go, Jack Redden is certainly getting close to one.
Following the departure of Scott Selwood at the end of 2015, the addition of Jack Redden seemed like just what the doctor ordered for the Eagles’ midfield.
A contested possession and tackling beast, Redden will look to solidify himself in the Eagles’ best 22 or risk spending the majority of the season having a Kit-Kat in the unflattering blue and black of East Perth.
If pre-season form is anything to go by, Lewis Jetta looks set to light up Domain Stadium in his second season in the blue and gold.
While Jetta was famous for his elite foot skills and running power during his tenure with the Swans, his 2016 season had Eagles fans praying for Callum Sinclair to return.
If there is one player on the Eagles’ list desperate for an opportunity, it is young forward Tom Lamb.
Taken with the 32nd pick in the 2014 AFL Draft, Lamb has managed just one senior game for West Coast — starting as a substitute in the opening round of the 2015 season.
Starved for opportunity in a packed West Coast forward line, Lamb will need to burn the house down for East Perth to warrant game at AFL level.
PUSHING FOR SPOTS
No spot is safe with Liam Duggan, Sam Butler, Jonathan Giles, Tom Cole, Malcolm Karpany and Luke Partington knocking on Adam Simpson’s selection door.
THE BEST 22 (available players)
B: Will Schofield, Tom Barrass, Shannon Hurn
HB: Sharrod Wellingham, Jeremy McGovern, Brad Sheppard
C: Chris Masten, Sam Mitchell, Andrew Gaff
HF: Elliott Yeo, Jack Darling, Mark LeCras
F: Jamie Cripps, Josh Kennedy, Josh Hill
FOLL: Nathan Vardy, Matt Priddis, Luke Shuey
I/C: Jackson Nelson, Dom Sheed, Drew Petrie, Lewis Jetta
EMG: Mark Hutchings, Eric McKenzie, Jack Redden