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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 Bulldogs - to supply much-needed small forward goals.

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 2015

Round 1
Thu, 02 AprTimes shown AEDT
CAR 78 vs RIC 105 Report Stats
Sat, 04 AprTimes shown AEDT
MEL 115 vs GCF 89 Stats
SYD 72 vs ESS 60 Stats
BRI 74 vs COL 86 Stats
WBU 97 vs WCE 87 Stats
Sun, 05 AprTimes shown AEST
STK 78 vs GWS 87 Stats
ADE 140 vs NTH 63 Stats
FRE 75 vs PTA 68 Stats
Mon, 06 AprTimes shown AEST
HAW 123 vs GEE 61 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 2
Fri, 10 AprTimes shown AEST
WCE 131 vs CAR 62 Stats
Sat, 11 AprTimes shown AEST
RIC 66 vs WBU 85 Report Stats
GWS 101 vs MEL 56 Stats
COL 63 vs ADE 90 Report Stats
GCF 76 vs STK 104 Stats
PTA 44 vs SYD 92 Stats
Sun, 12 AprTimes shown AEST
GEE 60 vs FRE 104 Stats
ESS 78 vs HAW 76 Stats
NTH 133 vs BRI 51 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 3
Fri, 17 AprTimes shown AEST
COL 140 vs STK 66 Stats
Sat, 18 AprTimes shown AEST
CAR 84 vs ESS 105 Stats
ADE 80 vs MEL 55 Stats
SYD 111 vs GWS 90 Report Stats
NTH 105 vs PTA 113 Stats
BRI 58 vs RIC 137 Stats
Sun, 19 AprTimes shown AEST
HAW 127 vs WBU 57 Stats
GEE 105 vs GCF 96 Stats
WCE 81 vs FRE 111 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 4
Fri, 24 AprTimes shown AEST
RIC 51 vs MEL 83 Stats
Sat, 25 AprTimes shown AEST
STK 81 vs CAR 121 Report Report Stats
ESS 49 vs COL 69 Report Stats
GWS 119 vs GCF 53 Stats
PTA 99 vs HAW 91 Stats
FRE 74 vs SYD 60 Stats
Sun, 26 AprTimes shown AEST
BRI 65 vs WCE 118 Stats
GEE 67 vs NTH 83 Stats
WBU 125 vs ADE 68 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 5
Fri, 01 MayTimes shown AEST
CAR 45 vs COL 120 Stats
Sat, 02 MayTimes shown AEST
RIC 76 vs GEE 85 Stats
SYD 73 vs WBU 77 Stats
GCF 118 vs BRI 54 Stats
NTH 70 vs HAW 130 Stats
WCE 120 vs GWS 33 Stats
Sun, 03 MayTimes shown AEST
MEL 50 vs FRE 118 Stats
STK 80 vs ESS 82 Stats
ADE 91 vs PTA 115 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 6
Fri, 08 MayTimes shown AEST
COL 59 vs GEE 100 Stats
Sat, 09 MayTimes shown AEST
NTH 109 vs RIC 74 Stats
WBU 87 vs STK 94 Stats
GWS 108 vs HAW 98 Stats
GCF 78 vs ADE 119 Stats
MEL 50 vs SYD 88 Stats
FRE 80 vs ESS 52 Stats
Sun, 10 MayTimes shown AEST
CAR 75 vs BRI 84 Report Stats
PTA 68 vs WCE 78 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 7
Fri, 15 MayTimes shown AEST
ESS 82 vs NTH 93 Stats
Sat, 16 MayTimes shown AEST
ADE 119 vs STK 73 Stats
HAW 155 vs MEL 50 Stats
CAR 57 vs GWS 135 Stats
SYD 120 vs GEE 77 Stats
WCE 135 vs GCF 43 Stats
Sun, 17 MayTimes shown AEST
WBU 88 vs FRE 101 Stats
RIC 105 vs COL 100 Report Stats
BRI 102 vs PTA 65 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 8
Fri, 22 MayTimes shown AEST
GEE 140 vs CAR 63 Report Stats
Sat, 23 MayTimes shown AEST
STK 78 vs WCE 131 Report Stats
GWS 108 vs ADE 84 Report Stats
GCF 63 vs COL 132 Report Stats
HAW 69 vs SYD 73 Report Stats
FRE 115 vs NTH 42 Report Stats
Sun, 24 MayTimes shown AEST
ESS 136 vs BRI 78 Report Stats
MEL 103 vs WBU 64 Report Stats
PTA 43 vs RIC 76 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 9
Fri, 29 MayTimes shown AEST
SYD vs CAR 19:50SCG
Sat, 30 MayTimes shown AEST
HAW vs GCF 13:45AS
MEL vs PTA 14:10TIO Traeger Park
WBU vs GWS 16:35ES
RIC vs ESS 19:20MCG
ADE vs FRE 19:40Adelaide Oval
Sun, 31 MayTimes shown AEST
BRI vs STK 13:10G
COL vs NTH 15:20MCG
WCE vs GEE 16:40Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 10
Fri, 05 JunTimes shown AEST
FRE vs RIC 20:10Domain Stadium
Sat, 06 JunTimes shown AEST
CAR vs ADE 13:40MCG
GCF vs SYD 16:35MS
ESS vs GEE 19:20ES
PTA vs WBU 19:40Adelaide Oval
Sun, 07 JunTimes shown AEST
GWS vs BRI 13:10Spotless Stadium
NTH vs WCE 15:20BA
STK vs HAW 16:40ES
Mon, 08 JunTimes shown AEST
MEL vs COL 15:20MCG
View All Fixtures
Round 11
Fri, 12 JunTimes shown AEST
PTA vs GEE 19:50Adelaide Oval
Sat, 13 JunTimes shown AEST
GCF vs FRE 13:40MS
WCE vs ESS 16:35Domain Stadium
NTH vs SYD 19:20ES
Sun, 14 JunTimes shown AEST
COL vs GWS 13:10MCG
STK vs MEL 16:40ES
View All Fixtures
Round 12
Thu, 18 JunTimes shown AEST
ADE vs HAW 19:50Adelaide Oval
Fri, 19 JunTimes shown AEST
RIC vs WCE 19:50MCG
Sat, 20 JunTimes shown AEST
CAR vs PTA 13:40MCG
GWS vs NTH 16:35Spotless Stadium
WBU vs BRI 19:20ES
Sun, 21 JunTimes shown AEST
GEE vs MEL 15:20SS
View All Fixtures
Round 13
Thu, 25 JunTimes shown AEST
FRE vs COL 20:10Domain Stadium
Fri, 26 JunTimes shown AEST
SYD vs RIC 19:50SCG
Sat, 27 JunTimes shown AEST
HAW vs ESS 13:40MCG
BRI vs ADE 16:35G
STK vs WBU 19:20ES
Sun, 28 JunTimes shown AEST
CAR vs GCF 15:20ES
View All Fixtures
Round 14
Thu, 02 JulTimes shown AEST
SYD vs PTA 19:20SCG
Fri, 03 JulTimes shown AEST
COL vs HAW 19:50MCG
Sat, 04 JulTimes shown AEST
RIC vs GWS 13:40MCG
GCF vs NTH 16:35MS
WBU vs CAR 19:20ES
MEL vs WCE 19:40TIO
Sun, 05 JulTimes shown AEST
ESS vs STK 13:10ES
ADE vs GEE 15:20Adelaide Oval
FRE vs BRI 16:40Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 15
Thu, 09 JulTimes shown AEST
PTA vs COL 19:50Adelaide Oval
Fri, 10 JulTimes shown AEST
RIC vs CAR 19:50MCG
Sat, 11 JulTimes shown AEST
ESS vs MEL 13:40MCG
WBU vs GCF 16:35CAZ
NTH vs GEE 19:20ES
WCE vs ADE 19:40Domain Stadium
Sun, 12 JulTimes shown AEST
GWS vs STK 13:10Spotless Stadium
HAW vs FRE 15:20AS
BRI vs SYD 16:40G
View All Fixtures
Round 16
Fri, 17 JulTimes shown AEST
NTH vs ESS 19:50ES
Sat, 18 JulTimes shown AEST
GEE vs WBU 13:45SS
GCF vs GWS 14:10MS
COL vs WCE 16:35ES
SYD vs HAW 19:20ANZ
FRE vs CAR 19:40Domain Stadium
Sun, 19 JulTimes shown AEST
MEL vs BRI 13:10MCG
PTA vs ADE 15:20Adelaide Oval
STK vs RIC 16:40ES
View All Fixtures
Round 17
Fri, 24 JulTimes shown AEST
CAR vs HAW 19:50ES
Sat, 25 JulTimes shown AEST
GWS vs GEE 13:45SO
ADE vs GCF 14:10Adelaide Oval
RIC vs FRE 16:35MCG
ESS vs PTA 19:20ES
BRI vs NTH 19:20G
Sun, 26 JulTimes shown AEST
WBU vs COL 13:10ES
MEL vs STK 15:20MCG
WCE vs SYD 16:40Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 18
Fri, 31 JulTimes shown AEST
HAW vs RIC 19:50MCG
Sat, 01 AugTimes shown AEST
GEE vs BRI 13:45SS
COL vs MEL 14:10MCG
SYD vs ADE 16:35SCG
CAR vs NTH 19:20ES
GCF vs WCE 19:20MS
Sun, 02 AugTimes shown AEST
PTA vs STK 13:10Adelaide Oval
ESS vs WBU 15:20ES
FRE vs GWS 16:40Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 19
Fri, 07 AugTimes shown AEST
ADE vs RIC 19:50Adelaide Oval
Sat, 08 AugTimes shown AEST
COL vs CAR 13:45MCG
WBU vs PTA 14:10ES
BRI vs GCF 16:35G
GEE vs SYD 19:20SS
WCE vs HAW 19:40Domain Stadium
Sun, 09 AugTimes shown AEST
MEL vs NTH 13:10MCG
GWS vs ESS 15:20Spotless Stadium
STK vs FRE 16:40ES
View All Fixtures
Round 20
Fri, 14 AugTimes shown AEST
SYD vs COL 19:50SCG
Sat, 15 AugTimes shown AEST
ESS vs ADE 13:45ES
NTH vs STK 14:10BA
PTA vs GWS 16:35Adelaide Oval
GEE vs HAW 19:20MCG
BRI vs CAR 19:20G
Sun, 16 AugTimes shown AEST
RIC vs GCF 13:10MCG
WBU vs MEL 15:20ES
FRE vs WCE 16:40Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 21
Fri, 21 AugTimes shown AEST
HAW vs PTA 19:50ES
Sat, 22 AugTimes shown AEST
COL vs RIC 13:45MCG
GWS vs SYD 14:10Spotless Stadium
GCF vs ESS 16:35MS
STK vs GEE 19:20ES
ADE vs BRI 19:40Adelaide Oval
Sun, 23 AugTimes shown AEST
NTH vs FRE 13:10ES
CAR vs MEL 15:20MCG
WCE vs WBU 16:40Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 22
Fri, 28 AugTimes shown AEST
GEE vs COL 19:50MCG
Sat, 29 AugTimes shown AEST
GWS vs CAR 13:45Spotless Stadium
HAW vs BRI 14:10AS
NTH vs WBU 16:35ES
ESS vs RIC 19:20MCG
GCF vs PTA 19:20MS
Sun, 30 AugTimes shown AEST
ADE vs WCE 13:10Adelaide Oval
STK vs SYD 15:20ES
FRE vs MEL 16:40Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 23
Fri, 04 SepTimes shown AEST
COL vs ESS 00:00MCG
RIC vs NTH 00:00ES
HAW vs CAR 00:00MCG
GEE vs ADE 00:00SS
SYD vs GCF 00:00SCG
MEL vs GWS 00:00ES
BRI vs WBU 00:00G
PTA vs FRE 00:30Adelaide Oval
WCE vs STK 02:00Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
AFL 2015
Overall standings
Team P W L D % Pts
Fremantle 8 8 0 0 155.29 32
West Coast Eagles 8 6 2 0 158.17 24
Sydney Swans 8 6 2 0 127.36 24
GWS Giants 8 6 2 0 118.87 24
Collingwood 8 5 3 0 129.90 20
Adelaide Crows 8 5 3 0 116.32 20
Hawthorn 8 4 4 0 145.81 16
Richmond 8 4 4 0 107.64 16
View all
 
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