How have the Eagles become so good so quickly? A few weeks back I looked at the reasons for Collingwood’s drop off in form, using average Champion Data (SuperCoach) player ratings for their main 22 players in 2011 and 2012. I found then that the reason for the Pies’ relatively cold streak appeared to be mainly due to injuries, and conjectured that they would get better as players returned.
For the Eagles though the reasons for their improvement are more multi-faceted than this. In 2010, when they finished last, a lot of things went wrong for them. Since then a lot of things have gone right. Let’s start by looking at the average player ratings for their main 22 players in each of 2010 and 2011.
A couple of points to note: first, the Eagles had a lot of injuries in 2010. Picking their main 22 was a tough task, but in both 2010 and 2011 I’ve picked the 22 players who played the most games, even though Andrew Strijk gets into the Eagles’ main 22 in 2010 with just 10 games. Second, I think that Champion Data adjusted their formulas between 2010 and 2011 so that ruckmen were rated more highly, so keep this mind when looking at the scores of Dean Cox and Nic Naitinui.
That said, these seem to be the main reasons why the Eagles improved so much from 2010 to 2011:
· Of the players who were 'core' in both 2010 and 2011, there was a significant improvement in production in 2011 by Cox, Scott Selwood, Josh Kennedy, Naitanui, and Quinten Lynch. Lynch was hampered by injury in 2010, and even though Cox played every game in 2010 it was clear at the time he was hampered too. The other three players are all very young, so it is not too big a surprise to see that they improved.
· Apart from Cox and Lynch, Daniel Kerr, Sam Butler, Mark Nicoski and Darren Glass also suffered from injuries in 2010, and their return in 2011 seemed to help the side. By ‘help the side’ I mean one could say that they were better than the players they replaced (although in the case of a key defender like Glass it’s hard to tell this from the ratings).
· The new players in West Coast’s main 22 were all useful additions: namely Luke Shuey, Andrew Gaff and Jack Darling (particularly Shuey).The Eagles have maintained their form, and possibly improved, in 2012. Let’s see how the 2012 team compares with that 2010 campaign:
Again, the return of some senior players (Cox, Kerr, Glass) to full health has helped, and the new additions (Shuey, Gaff, Darling) have been even better in 2012. Part of the story though may be a natural maturation of players: some players that are now reaching their mid-20s (Beau Waters, Will Schofield, Matt Rosa, Eric MacKenzie, Shannon Hurn) all seem to have improved somewhat, and some players that are now in their early-20s — Selwood, Naitanui, and Chris Masten — appear to have improved dramatically. Or maybe coach John Worsfold has just picked up his game in getting this team to perform! Either way, given that most of this team is still quite young, we could see some more improvement yet.