West Coast coach Adam Simpson reckons his team are yet to hit top gear despite watching his players get a monkey off their back in Sunday’s 32-point win over North Melbourne at Domain Stadium.
The Eagles entered the match having lost all five of their previous encounters against top-eight opponents this season, leading some pundits to reprise the tag ‘flat track bullies’.
But West Coast showed they will be far from mugs at the pointy end of the season with a powerful display against the Kangaroos.
Forward Josh Kennedy booted four goals in the 16.8 (104) to 11.6 (72) win, with the result lifting West Coast up to fifth spot.
More importantly, they are only one win adrift of second spot with winnable fixtures looming.
Simpson was quick to praise his team’s four-quarter effort against North, and he was equally pleased with their tough brand of football.
“But I think we’ve still got another gear to go to,” Simpson added.
“There’s points in the game where we let it slip. Even halfway through the last quarter it just felt uncomfortable. We need to work on some things.
“We’re not getting carried away. It was a good win. It reminded us of a good, solid brand of football we can play, and we move on to the next week.
“The next conversation will be about interstate (form) I’m sure. We’ll cop that, and move on.”
The Kangaroos (10-5) were on top of the ladder after starting their season with nine straight wins.
But five losses from their past six games have seen them plummet to eighth.
Kangaroos coach Brad Scott is optimistic his team will turn their form around, especially once the likes of Daniel Wells, Jarrad Waite, and Shaun Higgins return to action.
But he was critical of his team’s discipline after watching them give away four goals to 50m penalties against the Eagles.
“We play an aggressive combative sport and there is a fine line you walk,” Scott said.
“The difference between hard and combative versus undisciplined is quite thin at times, and we were on the wrong side today.”
The Eagles will start favourites in upcoming games against Carlton (MCG), Melbourne, Collingwood (MCG) and Fremantle, giving them an excellent chance to move to 14-5.
But the last three rounds will determine their top-four hopes when they confront GWS (Spotless Stadium), Hawthorn, and the Crows (Adelaide Oval).
North Melbourne’s All-Australian star Todd Goldstein dominated the ruck battle, winning 65 taps to Scott Lycett’s 28.
But Goldstein’s tap feast didn’t convert into a dominant clearance win, with North Melbourne only winning the area by a small margin (46-41).
Lycett could come under fire for his head-high bump on Jack Ziebell in a match that featured several spiteful contests.
North Melbourne veteran Nick Dal Santo (illness) was a late withdrawal, and the Roos were dealt further blows when Farren Ray (hamstring) and Mason Wood (knee) succumbed to injury.