Home Australia Confidence trick: Why, for this week at least, the West Coast Eagles have some swagger back

Confidence trick: Why, for this week at least, the West Coast Eagles have some swagger back

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West Coast Eagles' Liam Duggan and Adam Simpson stand with two emergency services workers holding a trophy.

It was the imitable Ross Lyon who once proclaimed: “There are no trustworthy stores.”

“You can’t go to Hay Street and buy trust, can you?” he said she once, after the Dockers received a pain from Geelong.

But after one of the most baffling Western Derby results in a decade, it seems perhaps Eagles coach Adam Simpson wandered around the shopping center and found one after all, nestled between Culture Kings and Pottery Barn.

Such levity is unfair on the West Coast and the hard work they did behind the scenes before their 37-point victory over their fiercest rivals.

Liam Duggan and Adam Simpson tasted their first Western Derby success since 2021 on Saturday night.(AAP Image: David Wood)

Confidence, of course, is just a recipe, and for Simpson’s team, part of that recipe involved dismantling a banged-up Richmond team a week before the derby.

It was just what the doctor ordered, and with Jake Waterman and Jack Darling getting their hands on football, it gave the Eagles’ forward line something it hadn’t had in a long time.

You couldn’t call it arrogance, but a bit of muscle memory kicked in: “Hey, we’re still good at this!”

The Reid effect

With Elliot Yeo finding a way to reverse the aging process and Tim Kelly having a lot of influence in the middle, West Coast – impossibly – looks like a different animal than the one that has been stuffed for much of the last three years.

West Coast Eagles player Elliot Yeo smiles as he holds a medal.

Elliot Yeo appears to be reborn in 2024 after three injury-ravaged seasons.(AAP Image: David Woodley)

How much of this spark can be attributed to the arrival of Harley Reid?

His first six games have shown why the club were so keen to pass him on, rather than “split the team” as many thought they should.

Reid, who has just turned 19, approaches AFL football the same way he imagines he approached the under-nines: every time he gets the ball he looks to take on someone.

For his teammates, seeing that kind of fearlessness has to be contagious.

Suddenly, the storm clouds over Lathlain have parted a bit.

West Coast Eagles player Harley Reid smiles as he carries two footballs after a match.

Harley Reid enjoys Western Derby success for the first time. (AAP Image: David Woodley)

It reminded me of listening to former Arsenal striker Ian Wright talk about the difference the arrival of Dutch great Dennis Bergkamp made when he landed in London in 1995.

Suddenly, the place was excited again.

The difference is that Bergkamp arrived from Inter Milan at the age of 26 and Arsenal already knew he could play.

Reid came from Tongala and not even the most optimistic observer would have predicted this kind of impact at such an early stage in his career.

Brand awareness

Meanwhile, for Fremantle, their confidence appears to have evaporated after comfortably winning their first three games.

Their forward line, which was never hell on its best days, has completely lost its spark and has failed to reach 70 points in its last four games.

Those types of results take a lot of defense, and on Saturday night against the Eagles, the dam finally broke.

Fremantle coach Justin Longmuir watches

After three losses in a row, Fremantle coach Justin Longmuir has headaches. (AAP: Michael Errey)

This weekend’s home clash against the Western Bulldogs, who represented Fremantle twice last season, is shaping up to be a litmus test.

AFL clubs love to talk about their “brand”, and on Saturday we will get a glimpse of whether the Dockers are Coca-Cola or something light with fizz and sugar.

For the Eagles, a trip to the Gold Coast looms, amid speculation they could rest Reid during the long trip to Queensland.

But Adam Simpson, at least for this week, can enjoy the feeling of not being the most discouraged coach in the AFL.


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