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Opposition analysis: Round 5

Jackson Paine  April 21, 2017 12:47 PM

Last Time: West Coast R22 2016 The Eagles and Hawks clash in round 22

The changes

IN (25-man squad): Jack Darling, Dom Sheed, Mark Hutchings, Malcolm Karpany

OUT: Sam Mitchell (ankle)

What to expect

The Eagles have enjoyed a strong start to their season, with their powerful midfield brigade leading them to three wins throughout their first month.

The combination of former Cat Nathan Vardy and league journeyman Jonathan Giles has forged an unforeseen level of success for the West Coast midfield.

Despite Nic Naitanui’s absence, the Eagles’ make-shift ruck stocks have remained prominent, averaging the fifth most hit-outs in the competition.

This has enhanced a midfield that is already lined with the star-power of Andrew Gaff, Luke Shuey, Matt Priddis and Sam Mitchell (injured), with all four of these players averaging over 26 possessions this season.

The Eagles are third in the league for kicks, uncontested marks and uncontested possession, with these statistics being hallmarks of a team that likes to own the ball by foot with controlled possession.

The Eagles will aim to use the wide expanses of the MCG to spread the Hawks’ defence, while getting the ball into the hands of their elite ball-users, such as Gaff and Elliot Yeo, to pick through the defence and deliver the ball inside 50.

Expect the Hawks to aim to limit the amount of uncontested marks that the Eagles take, and instead force them to kick long down the line.

Read: Hawthorn announce 25-man squad

Players to watch

Josh Kennedy has given Hawthorn some trouble in the past, kicking 23 goals in his last seven games against the Hawks.

The two-time Coleman Medallist has kicked off the first month of the season strongly, averaging 3.8 goals, 12.5 disposals and 6.3 marks per game.

Kennedy doesn’t need many opportunities to hurt his opposition, demanding constant attention from whichever Hawk has the role of looking after hm.

Luke Shuey is the Eagles’ barometer, when the star midfielder is up and going, invariably the Eagles are hard to beat.

Shuey has been playing at a consistently high standard, collecting 31, 30, 30 and 30 disposals in the opening four games.

Possessing explosive pace and dangerous foot skills, Shuey is a threat throughout multiple areas and will be undoubtedly instrumental in the Eagles’ plans.