THE WESTERN Bulldogs sensed the opportunity for a big win and showed West Coast no mercy on Saturday night, but there was sympathy for the Eagles’ current plight once the siren had sounded.
The Bulldogs put on a second-half clinic at Optus Stadium to win by 101 points, racking up an equal-record 16 goalkickers and recording their biggest ever win against West Coast.
The percentage boost saw the Bulldogs push into the top eight for the first time this season, and coach Luke Beveridge acknowledged the heavy defeats the Eagles had been suffering was a factor “in the background”.
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Beveridge was in conversation with West Coast counterpart Adam Simpson after the siren, with the pair good friends from their time together as Hawthorn assistants, and the premiership coach said he felt for what the Eagles were going through in 2022.
“Simmo and I really bonded and he’s a confidante, I consider him a friend. He’s a man of great character and he’s achieved a lot at this football club,” Beveridge said on Saturday night.
“We worked together and shared some success at the Hawks, and I just feel for him and the club at the moment. It’s a matter of keeping his chin up and he’d do that naturally.
“The one thing about Simmo is he talks about unity but he acts it out. He unifies people and he’s a great leader. I’m sure the Eagles will be fine and Adam will be instrumental in leading them out of the current challenges they have.”
The Eagles now have an average losing margin of 80 points in their past seven games, having lost by more than 100 points at Optus Stadium twice already this season.
The importance of securing a percentage-boosting win was not discussed by the Bulldogs, but the prospect of cashing in on the 18th-placed West Coast loomed large.
“When the Eagles recently have been losing by on average 70 points, you know that other teams have probably had an opportunity and taken it,” Beveridge said.
“We didn’t talk about it, but it was in the background, there’s no doubt.
“There’s a competitor in us all that doesn’t show the opposition any mercy when you’ve got an opportunity to have a big win.
“But ultimately after the event you can’t help but feel for what the Eagles are going through, because they’ve obviously had a lot of injuries, but then the COVID situation and what’s transpired has really knocked the club around.”
Beveridge said the Bulldogs were building belief in their style after three straight wins heading into a difficult period of the season.
The 2021 Grand Finalists face Geelong on Friday night before clashes against Greater Western Sydney, Hawthorn, Brisbane, Sydney, St Kilda and Melbourne. They also face Fremantle in the run home.
Beveridge praised the performance of ruckman Tim English, who controlled the ruck but then played as an extra midfielder to finish with 25 disposals and eight clearances.
The coach was not concerned by a “jammed” wrist for star forward Aaron Naughton, who was able to play through the issue and boot four goals.
After the Eagles’ seventh straight loss, Simpson was left to look for the small wins that could be found in a somewhat competitive first half.
The coach conceded his team had been simply overwhelmed after the main break, however, and cost itself late with turnovers and ill-discipline.
“We’ll be balanced with it because we’ve got to get better, and with what we’ve got at the moment we’re struggling a little bit,” he said.
“We can’t make excuses every week like that (but) that’s reality, that’s what’s going on.
“We’re getting some players back, but they’re not going to be fully flying, so we need to get them through WAFL, get them as fit as we can, and throw them in the deep end.”
Simpson confirmed key defender Jeremy McGovern had suffered nerve damaged that presented through his legs, which would need to be assessed. He was hopeful a knock to the ribs of captain Luke Shuey was not serious.