HIGH-flying forward Liam Ryan has helped West Coast shore up their spot in the AFL’s top eight with a 22-point win over Carlton at the SCG, where the injury-hit side snapped a 22-year hoodoo.
The Eagles, already minus captain Luke Shuey and a stack of key players on the sidelines, were forced to substitute Brad Sheppard after an accidental clash of heads with Adam Saad in Sunday’s first quarter.
Harry McKay’s game also ended in the opening term because of concussion, with the Coleman Medal leader’s head slapping the ground after flying for a mark.
Substitutes Jamaine Jones and Jack Newnes entered the fray soon after quarter time, while the Blues were a man down after Nic Newman landed on his head while attempting to spoil in the third quarter.
Ryan, who pulled in a mark-of-the-year contender in the third term and was incredibly influential, kicked a match-deciding four goals to help West Coast prevail 14.11 (95) to 10.13 (73).
The final quarter also proved taxing for both sides, when hobbled stars Ryan (hamstring) and Patrick Cripps (thigh) played on despite being restricted.
Premiership hero Dom Sheed collected a game-high 32 possessions (15 contested) despite a painful blow to the shoulder in the second term, while Elliot Yeo weathered a heavy knock in the third quarter to also finish one of the Eagles’ best.
Usual suspect Sam Walsh did the heavy lifting in Carlton’s engine room, while Eddie Betts, Matthew Owies and Tom De Koning each kicked two goals as their side scrambled to fill the immense void left by McKay.
The Eagles’ breakthrough triumph came after alarming losses to GWS and Essendon, while it was their first win at the SCG since round nine of the 1999 season.
Nic Naitanui, aged nine during West Coast’s previous rendition of their song at the famed venue, served as stand-in skipper on Sunday in the enforced absence of Shuey, Jeremy McGovern and Josh Kennedy.
Naitanui, captaining the Eagles for the first time, won a game-high nine clearances.
West Coast started superbly, booting Sunday’s opening three goals.
Carlton staged a sterling comeback in response, levelling the scores late in an eventful opening term then briefly hitting the front during the second quarter.
Betts slotted a cracking goal just 30 seconds into the final quarter, trimming the opposition’s lead to 10 points, but inaccurate goal-kicking undermined his team’s bid for victory.
The latest coronavirus-related fixture rejig means the Eagles no longer have a bye next weekend, so Sheppard will be forced to miss their round-13 clash with Richmond as per the AFL’s concussion protocols.
(C) AAP 2021
WEST COAST 4.1 8.5 12.8 14.11 (95)
CARLTON 3.6 6.9 9.10 10.13 (73)
Goals: West Coast: L Ryan 4 J Jones 2 A Gaff D Sheed J Cripps J Darling J Redden L Foley X O’Neill Z Langdon. Carlton: E Betts 2 M Owies 2 T De Koning 2 M Cottrell S Walsh W Setterfield Z Williams.
Umpires: Leigh Fisher, Robert O’Gorman, Hayden Gavine.