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Magic number no small task for Eagles forwards

Mark LeCras and Mark Nicoski (left) are gone so West Coast needs Josh Hill - a whipping boy at times at the Western ...

Mark LeCras and Mark Nicoski (left) are gone so West Coast needs Josh Hill - a whipping boy at times at the Western Bulldogs - to supply much-needed small forward goals.

If you had to guess West Coast's magic number for this year, what would you come up with?

"Nine" might be a popular choice - it's the number on the back of excitement machine Nic Naitanui's jumper, as well as the amount of games needed by John Worsfold to pass Mick Malthouse as the Eagles' longest-serving coach.

But a better guess might actually be "67".

In the past five AFL seasons, with increasing importance placed on forward line pressure and ground level goals, 67 is the fewest number of majors combined for by the two highest-scoring small forwards on any grand final team.

Against that backdrop, West Coast will try to better its preliminary final appearance of 2011 entirely without the services of Mark LeCras (knee reconstruction - 47 goals last year) and, for at least half the season, minus any contribution from Mark Nicoski (hamstring tear - 41 goals last year).

The two Marks' 88 combined goals last year ranked second for all AFL small forward pairings, behind only the 106 accumulated by Carlton's Andrew Walker and Eddie Betts.

So how does West Coast cover for the absence of LeCras and Nicoski?

The simplest answer is to throw your hands up and say "with a great deal of difficulty". A more useful exercise is to examine the wares of the potential replacements for the pair.

Off-season addition Josh Hill is the most obvious candidate. He had eight shots on goal in Saturday night's NAB Cup final loss (albeit converting only two) and kicked 33 goals (almost half the magic number) in his best AFL season for the Western Bulldogs in 2009.

The public knock on Hill in past two seasons, when he played only 24 of a possible 47 games for the Bulldogs, was that he wasn't physical enough, was prone to lapses in concentration and didn't pay enough attention to the defensive side of the game.

Former Bulldogs assistant coach and two-time Carlton premiership player Peter Dean says the 23-year-old probably earned each of those tags at times. But he still believes Hill can shine with a change of environment.

"I've got a lot of time for Josh. The past couple of years his confidence was down, he was in and out of the (Bulldogs) side and had a couple of pretty frank conversations with coaches that probably knocked him around a bit," Dean said.

"But I think you'll see him thrive over there. Being in a different system under a different coach will really help him and half-way through the year he should really emerge.

"He's got a big tank, reads the player very well, can take a mark and his ability to be in the right place to get the handball receive is pretty special I think.

"Because of his running ability, I always thought he'd be best on the wing or as a high half-forward. But if he gets a shot as the number one [small forward], yeah, I think he can make something of it."

Beyond Hill, the options are less clear. One of them is former rookie Ashton Hams, a low-to-the-ground type who has played 15 games in the past two seasons for 11 goals - the best of them a brilliant banana from the pocket last year against Brisbane at the Gabba.

With Brad Dick out with a knee injury until mid-season, the other potential "Mark II" replacement - Gerrick Weedon- is even more of an unknown quantity. The 20-year-old from Claremont has played just one AFL game (in round seven of last year) and only a few years ago was playing centre-half-back in junior football.

In physicality, Weedon offers one dimension that even the Marks don't provide. At 182cm and 86kg, he's strongly built and can take an overhead mark, as attested to by his last quarter grab and goal in the NAB Cup grand final.

Weedon played in Claremont's WAFL premiership side last year and Tigers football manager Dean Horsington believes the Broome product has clearly made strides in his readiness for AFL football.

"It's amazing what a couple of pre-seasons can do. He's big, strong, tackles hard and is good overhead. He's very physical," Horsington said.

Of course, there is also the option that the Eagles will look to get their "small forward" goals from elsewhere - and there is a close-to-home historical precedent for that too.

In 2006, West Coast won the premiership despite getting only a combined 22 goals for the season from their two most "prolific" small forwards in Steven Armstrong and Ashley Sampi.

Midfielders Chris Judd, Ben Cousins and Andrew Embley kicked 80 goals between them that season and switch-hitting centre-half-back Adam Hunter provided 29 majors.

Judd and Cousins are long gone but Embley is still around - he kicked 17 goals in his 2011 rejuvenation - and emerging midfield star Luke Shuey contributed 24 goals last year.

The Eagles also have the promising Jack Darling, who can play both tall and small, and the luxury of resting ruckmen Natanui and Cox in the forward line.

But whether they can find enough goals to cover for the absence of LeCras and Nicoski remains the proverbial $64,000 question.

Or, in this case, more like the 67-goal question.

Grand finalists since 2005 - small forwards pairings and goals:
2011 - Collingwood (Dane Swan, Andy Krakouer - 67*), Geelong (Steve Johnson, Travis Varcoe - 81)
2010 - Collingwood (Alan Didak/Leon Davis - 68), St Kilda (Stephen Milne/Adam Schneider 96)
2009 - Geelong (Paul Chapman/Steve Johnson - 77), St Kilda (Milne/Schneider 80)
2008 - Geelong (Johnson/Matthew Stokes - 91), Hawthorn (Mark Williams/Michael Osborne 73)
2007 - Geelong (Johnson/Stokes - 81), Port Adelaide (Brett Ebert/Daniel Motlop - 100)
2006 - Sydney (Ryan O'Keefe/Michael O'Loughlin 79), West Coast (Steven Armstrong, Ashley Sampi 22)

Lowest-producing small forward pairings in 2011 (with team finishing positions):
Gold Coast - (Danny Stanley, Brandon Matera 35 goals), 17th.
Adelaide - (Patrick Dangerfield, Matthew Wright 41), 14th.
Port Adelaide - (Robbie Gray, Daniel Motlop 48), 16th.
Fremantle - (Chris Mayne, Hayden Ballantyne 48), 11th.
Brisbane Lions - (Ash McGrath, Todd Banfield 50), 15th
Sydney Swans - (Ben McGlynn, Ryan O'Keefe 50), 6th.
North Melbourne - (Brent Harvey, Lindsay Thomas 52), 9th.

* Midfielder Swan was "rested" in the forward line last year and kicked 32 goals. Still, he gathered only 17 per cent of his possessions inside the forward 50 metres. Taking that into account, Collingwood's next most prolific small forward was Jarry Blair (26 goals), which would then make West Coast's magic number 61.

WA Today

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AFL 2016

Round 1
Thu, 24 MarTimes shown AEDT
RIC vs CAR 19:20MCG
Sat, 26 MarTimes shown AEDT
MEL vs GWS 13:40MCG
GCF vs ESS 16:35MS
NTH vs ADE 19:25ES
SYD vs COL 19:25ANZ
Sun, 27 MarTimes shown AEDT
WBU vs FRE 13:10ES
PTA vs STK 15:20Adelaide Oval
WCE vs BRI 19:40Domain Stadium
Mon, 28 MarTimes shown AEDT
GEE vs HAW 15:20MCG
View All Fixtures
Round 2
Fri, 01 AprTimes shown AEDT
COL vs RIC 19:50MCG
Sat, 02 AprTimes shown AEDT
ADE vs PTA 13:45Adelaide Oval
ESS vs MEL 14:10MCG
BRI vs NTH 16:35G
STK vs WBU 19:25ES
FRE vs GCF 19:40Domain Stadium
Sun, 03 AprTimes shown AEST
GWS vs GEE 13:10SO
HAW vs WCE 15:20MCG
CAR vs SYD 16:40ES
View All Fixtures
Round 3
Fri, 08 AprTimes shown AEST
PTA vs ESS 19:50Adelaide Oval
Sat, 09 AprTimes shown AEST
STK vs COL 13:45MCG
RIC vs ADE 14:10ES
SYD vs GWS 16:35SCG
GCF vs CAR 19:25MS
WCE vs FRE 19:40Domain Stadium
Sun, 10 AprTimes shown AEST
NTH vs MEL 13:10BA
WBU vs HAW 15:20ES
GEE vs BRI 16:40SS
View All Fixtures
Round 4
Fri, 15 AprTimes shown AEST
WCE vs RIC 20:10Domain Stadium
Sat, 16 AprTimes shown AEST
ESS vs GEE 13:45MCG
HAW vs STK 14:10AS
BRI vs GCF 16:35G
CAR vs WBU 19:25ES
ADE vs SYD 19:40Adelaide Oval
Sun, 17 AprTimes shown AEST
GWS vs PTA 13:10SO
COL vs MEL 15:20MCG
NTH vs FRE 16:40ES
View All Fixtures
Round 5
Fri, 22 AprTimes shown AEST
HAW vs ADE 19:50MCG
Sat, 23 AprTimes shown AEST
SYD vs WCE 13:40SCG
GCF vs NTH 16:35MS
WBU vs BRI 19:25ES
PTA vs GEE 19:40Adelaide Oval
Sun, 24 AprTimes shown AEST
STK vs GWS 13:10ES
FRE vs CAR 16:10Domain Stadium
MEL vs RIC 19:10MCG
Mon, 25 AprTimes shown AEST
COL vs ESS 15:20MCG
View All Fixtures
Round 6
Fri, 29 AprTimes shown AEST
NTH vs WBU 19:50ES
Sat, 30 AprTimes shown AEST
MEL vs STK 13:45ES
ADE vs FRE 14:10Adelaide Oval
GWS vs HAW 16:35Spotless Stadium
RIC vs PTA 19:25MCG
GEE vs GCF 19:25SS
Sun, 01 MayTimes shown AEST
BRI vs SYD 13:10G
CAR vs ESS 15:20MCG
WCE vs COL 16:40Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 7
Fri, 06 MayTimes shown AEST
RIC vs HAW 19:50MCG
Sat, 07 MayTimes shown AEST
COL vs CAR 13:45MCG
GEE vs WCE 14:10SS
SYD vs ESS 16:35ANZ
GCF vs MEL 17:10MS
WBU vs ADE 19:40ES
FRE vs GWS 20:10Domain Stadium
Sun, 08 MayTimes shown AEST
STK vs NTH 15:20ES
PTA vs BRI 16:40Adelaide Oval
View All Fixtures
Round 8
Fri, 13 MayTimes shown AEST
ADE vs GEE 19:50Adelaide Oval
Sat, 14 MayTimes shown AEST
ESS vs NTH 13:45ES
HAW vs FRE 14:10AS
GWS vs GCF 16:35Spotless Stadium
BRI vs COL 19:25G
RIC vs SYD 19:25MCG
Sun, 15 MayTimes shown AEST
CAR vs PTA 13:10ES
MEL vs WBU 15:20MCG
WCE vs STK 16:40Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 9
Fri, 20 MayTimes shown AEST
HAW vs SYD 19:50MCG
Sat, 21 MayTimes shown AEST
COL vs GEE 13:45MCG
GCF vs ADE 14:10MS
PTA vs WCE 16:35Adelaide Oval
NTH vs CAR 19:25ES
FRE vs RIC 19:40Domain Stadium
Sun, 22 MayTimes shown AEST
MEL vs BRI 13:10MCG
GWS vs WBU 15:20Spotless Stadium
STK vs ESS 16:40ES
View All Fixtures
Round 10
Fri, 27 MayTimes shown AEST
SYD vs NTH 19:50SCG
Sat, 28 MayTimes shown AEST
BRI vs HAW 13:45G
MEL vs PTA 14:10TIO Traeger Park
STK vs FRE 16:35ES
ESS vs RIC 19:25MCG
ADE vs GWS 19:40Adelaide Oval
Sun, 29 MayTimes shown AEST
CAR vs GEE 13:10ES
COL vs WBU 15:20MCG
WCE vs GCF 16:40Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 11
Fri, 03 JunTimes shown AEST
NTH vs RIC 19:50BA
Sat, 04 JunTimes shown AEST
HAW vs MEL 13:45MCG
CAR vs BRI 14:10ES
GEE vs GWS 16:35SS
GCF vs SYD 19:25MS
FRE vs ESS 19:40Domain Stadium
Sun, 05 JunTimes shown AEST
COL vs PTA 13:10MCG
WBU vs WCE 15:20ES
ADE vs STK 16:40Adelaide Oval
View All Fixtures
Round 12
Fri, 10 JunTimes shown AEST
ESS vs HAW 19:50ES
Sat, 11 JunTimes shown AEST
PTA vs WBU 13:40Adelaide Oval
BRI vs FRE 16:35G
GEE vs NTH 19:25ES
WCE vs ADE 19:40Domain Stadium
Sun, 12 JunTimes shown AEST
STK vs CAR 13:10ES
RIC vs GCF 15:20MCG
GWS vs SYD 16:40Spotless Stadium
Mon, 13 JunTimes shown AEST
MEL vs COL 15:20MCG
View All Fixtures
Round 13
Fri, 17 JunTimes shown AEST
NTH vs HAW 19:50ES
Sat, 18 JunTimes shown AEST
BRI vs WCE 13:40G
FRE vs PTA 16:35Domain Stadium
WBU vs GEE 19:25ES
Sun, 19 JunTimes shown AEST
SYD vs MEL 13:10SCG
ESS vs GWS 16:40ES
View All Fixtures
Round 14
Thu, 23 JunTimes shown AEST
ADE vs NTH 19:50Adelaide Oval
Fri, 24 JunTimes shown AEST
COL vs FRE 19:50MCG
Sat, 25 JunTimes shown AEST
RIC vs BRI 13:40MCG
GWS vs CAR 16:35Spotless Stadium
STK vs GEE 19:25ES
Sun, 26 JunTimes shown AEST
HAW vs GCF 15:20AS
View All Fixtures
Round 15
Thu, 30 JunTimes shown AEST
WCE vs ESS 20:10Domain Stadium
Fri, 01 JulTimes shown AEST
PTA vs RIC 19:50Adelaide Oval
Sat, 02 JulTimes shown AEST
GCF vs STK 13:40MS
SYD vs WBU 16:35SCG
CAR vs COL 19:25MCG
Sun, 03 JulTimes shown AEST
MEL vs ADE 15:20MCG
View All Fixtures
Round 16
Thu, 07 JulTimes shown AEST
PTA vs HAW 19:50Adelaide Oval
Fri, 08 JulTimes shown AEST
GEE vs SYD 19:50SS
Sat, 09 JulTimes shown AEST
GWS vs COL 13:40Spotless Stadium
GCF vs BRI 16:35MS
WBU vs RIC 19:25ES
MEL vs FRE 19:40TIO
Sun, 10 JulTimes shown AEST
CAR vs ADE 13:10MCG
WCE vs NTH 15:20Domain Stadium
ESS vs STK 16:40ES
View All Fixtures
Round 17
Thu, 14 JulTimes shown AEST
SYD vs HAW 19:20SCG
Fri, 15 JulTimes shown AEST
FRE vs GEE 20:10Domain Stadium
Sat, 16 JulTimes shown AEST
RIC vs ESS 13:40MCG
NTH vs PTA 16:35ES
WBU vs GCF 19:25CAZ
ADE vs COL 19:40Adelaide Oval
Sun, 17 JulTimes shown AEST
CAR vs WCE 13:10MCG
STK vs MEL 15:20ES
BRI vs GWS 16:40G
View All Fixtures
Round 18
Fri, 22 JulTimes shown AEST
COL vs NTH 19:50ES
Sat, 23 JulTimes shown AEST
SYD vs CAR 13:45ANZ
GCF vs FRE 14:10MS
WCE vs MEL 16:35Domain Stadium
WBU vs STK 19:25ES
GEE vs ADE 19:25SS
Sun, 24 JulTimes shown AEST
ESS vs BRI 13:10ES
HAW vs RIC 15:20MCG
PTA vs GWS 16:40Adelaide Oval
View All Fixtures
Round 19
Fri, 29 JulTimes shown AEST
GEE vs WBU 19:50SS
Sat, 30 JulTimes shown AEST
GWS vs RIC 13:45SO
HAW vs CAR 14:10AS
COL vs WCE 16:35MCG
BRI vs PTA 19:25G
NTH vs STK 19:25ES
Sun, 31 JulTimes shown AEST
MEL vs GCF 13:10MCG
FRE vs SYD 15:20Domain Stadium
ADE vs ESS 16:40Adelaide Oval
View All Fixtures
Round 20
Fri, 05 AugTimes shown AEST
RIC vs COL 19:50MCG
Sat, 06 AugTimes shown AEST
SYD vs PTA 13:45SCG
MEL vs HAW 14:10MCG
GCF vs GWS 16:35MS
WBU vs NTH 19:25ES
ADE vs BRI 19:40Adelaide Oval
Sun, 07 AugTimes shown AEST
CAR vs STK 13:10MCG
GEE vs ESS 15:20ES
FRE vs WCE 16:40Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 21
Fri, 12 AugTimes shown AEST
WBU vs COL 19:50ES
Sat, 13 AugTimes shown AEST
BRI vs CAR 13:45G
HAW vs NTH 14:10MCG
GWS vs WCE 16:35Spotless Stadium
STK vs SYD 19:25ES
PTA vs MEL 19:40Adelaide Oval
Sun, 14 AugTimes shown AEST
ESS vs GCF 13:10ES
RIC vs GEE 15:20MCG
FRE vs ADE 16:40Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 22
Fri, 19 AugTimes shown AEST
WCE vs HAW 20:10Domain Stadium
Sat, 20 AugTimes shown AEST
NTH vs SYD 13:45BA
RIC vs STK 14:10MCG
GWS vs FRE 16:35Spotless Stadium
COL vs GCF 19:25ES
PTA vs ADE 19:40Adelaide Oval
Sun, 21 AugTimes shown AEST
CAR vs MEL 13:10MCG
BRI vs GEE 15:20G
ESS vs WBU 16:40ES
View All Fixtures
Round 23
Sat, 27 AugTimes shown AEST
HAW vs COL 12:00MCG
STK vs BRI 12:00ES
ESS vs CAR 12:00MCG
GCF vs PTA 12:00MS
SYD vs RIC 12:00SCG
NTH vs GWS 12:00ES
GEE vs MEL 12:00SS
ADE vs WCE 12:30Adelaide Oval
FRE vs WBU 14:00Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
AFL 2015
Overall standings
Team P W L D % Pts
Adelaide Crows 0 0 0 0 - 0
Brisbane Lions 0 0 0 0 - 0
Carlton 0 0 0 0 - 0
Collingwood 0 0 0 0 - 0
Essendon 0 0 0 0 - 0
Fremantle 0 0 0 0 - 0
Geelong Cats 0 0 0 0 - 0
Gold Coast Suns 0 0 0 0 - 0
View all
 

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