Eagles, Giants make stand against racism
West Coast and GWS have put the footy result aside to put up a united front against racism, standing arm-in-arm in the middle of Perth Stadium after the Eagles' victory over the Giants.
After West Coast unfurled its 2018 flag with a back-flipping Eagle sending social media wild, the Eagles summarily disposed of the Giants by 52 points, before the two teams provided one of the most touching moments of the new season.
Eagle Liam Ryan was subjected to racist attacks on social media this week, prompting a strong response from the AFL community.
Norm Smith medallist Luke Shuey did what we know he can do when he took control of the match with an awesome second term, while there were some new faces who showed they will have a part to play in 2019.
Youngster Oscar Allen made the most of his opportunities to kick three goals, while ruckman Tom Hickey showed why the club brought him in from St Kilda with 18 disposals, eight marks and a goal in a strong all-round showing.
The Giants had nothing to show for their 19-12 edge in forward entries from the first term but took the lead 10 minutes into the second stanza after goals to Jeremy Cameron and Sam Reid.
The visitors edged in front by a couple of points but the lead should have been more substantial, as they wasted a series of opportunities.
The Eagles couldn't match the slick ball movement of their opponents, with Lachie Whitfield huge with 22 first-half touches.
But they had marking power the Giants did not, both intercept kings at the back and threats in attack, and soon found goals from stoppages would be a profitable source as well.
Having appeared vulnerable midway through the second stanza when the uncomfortable thought of a 0-2 start arose, West Coast tipped the contest on its head. The premiers piled on five unanswered goals from the 18-minute mark of the second term.
Shuey got two of them in an electric 11-touch quarter, while Allen also got two majors, both from set shots, for the quarter.
After a forgettable two-disposal club debut at the greasy Gabba, Hickey was a shining light early and he joined the party with a mark and goal entering time-on of the second term.
Some of Hickey's connection with Shuey in the centre square was reminiscent of Shuey's famed partnership with sidelined star Nic Naitanui; albeit a mirror image with Hickey using his outstretched left hand to palm the ball down.
It was a cruel twist for the Giants, missing star trio Josh Kelly, Callan Ward and Toby Greene, who went to the major break trailing by 28 points despite winning the clearances 24-17 and the inside 50 count 36-23.
GWS landed the first two scoreboard blows of the third term to raise the prospect of a fightback but were left to rue some ill-discipline.
Josh Kennedy, who played limited game time and should improve with the run, and Allen both kicked simple goals from 50m penalties as the Eagles eased clear again.
West Coast added four goals to three during the third stanza to quell any real threat. The last of them was kicked by Dom Sheed from tight in the pocket from a controversial deliberate call against Giants defender Phil Davis.
Sheed used his instep to snap the ball back, showing he was just as adept around the corner as he was with a drop punt in the biggest moment of his life last September.
When Elliot Yeo landed a beauty with a left-foot snap in the opening minute of the final term, the Eagles were safe and the dour and tense opening the match was a distant memory.
Saturday night at the MCG will bring a bigger challenge and West Coast are likely to start as outsiders against great rival Collingwood. There's an All-Australian by the name of Andrew Gaff who should prove a handy inclusion though.