Eagles' 2022 report card: Glimmers of hope in an otherwise disappointing season

IT WAS a difficult season both on and off the field for West Coast, who recorded its first AFLW wooden spoon.

Skipper Emma Swanson was a clear standout for the side, the return of Dana Hooker from a serious foot injury was a tick (although she suffered a bad shoulder injury in round nine), but the Eagles battled life on the road, a COVID-19 outbreak and consistency issues. 

Over the next few weeks, womens.afl will look at each of the seasons of the 14 AFLW teams in reverse ladder order. 

Coach: Michael Prior 

Leadership group: Emma Swanson (captain), Dana Hooker (vice-captain), Parris Laurie, Aisling McCarthy 

West Coast's Emma Swanson celebrates a goal during round seven, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

2022 home and away finishing position: 14th, one win and nine losses, 42.9 per cent. 

Best team performance: West Coast 2.10 (22) defeated St Kilda 2.8 (20). It was far from a pretty game in very windy conditions at Trevor Barker Oval, but West Coast got its sole win for the season over St Kilda. Aimee Schmidt and Kellie Gibson hit the scoreboard, while Dana Hooker and Emma Swanson controlled play from the middle.

Best individual performance: Hard to choose between Emma Swanson's best two matches for the season. The Eagles skipper very nearly dragged her side over the line against Geelong, recording 27 disposals and eight clearances. Swanson was equally instrumental against Richmond with 22 touches, five clearances and two goals. 

NAB AFLW Rising Star nominations: Nil 

Debutants: Emily Bennett, Sarah Lakay, Courtney Rowley, Beth Schilling, Charlie Thomas (AFLW debuts), Evie Gooch, Aimee Schmidt (club debuts) 

West Coast's Charlie Thomas in action during round 10, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

Retirees: Andrea Gilmore, Courtney Guard, Tayla Bresland

Delistings: Yet to be announced. Maddy Collier will move to Sydney as an expansion signing. 

Most improved: Rebound defender Belinda Smith was back to her very best in 2022, providing plenty of drive out of the backline and setting West Coast into attack. Playing all 10 matches, she averaged 11.2 disposals and 3.7 marks, with her intercepting ability a key highlight of her game. 

Star recruit: Evie Gooch had been squeezed out of Fremantle's line-up, and approached West Coast for greater opportunities. Finishing third in the Eagles' best and fairest, the key back was a much-needed rock in defence, providing leadership and support to young defenders Sophie McDonald and Amber Ward.

Unsung hero: Having battled injuries in her AFLW career, Aimee Schmidt was able to show what she's capable of with an uninterrupted period, playing all 10 matches. The forward recruit provided plenty of spark in attack from limited opportunities, kicking a team-high seven goals for the season. 

Aimee Schmidt celebrates a goal against the Saints in round five, 2022. Picture: Getty Images

What worked:

  • All 30 players got some AFLW game time as the Eagles rotated their way through their squad. The team showed it was capable of playing some strong footy at times, pushing some fellow newer sides right to the finish line.

What needs improvement:

  • Slow starts were a serious issue for the Eagles in 2022, kicking 3.6 across its 10 first quarters. More worryingly, in six games of footy, West Coast was scoreless until the second term.
  • The need for consistent effort across all four quarters was a constant refrain from coach Michael Prior, as West Coast proved it could play good footy in patches, but struggled to keep up when opponents clicked into a higher gear.|
  • West Coast battled to simply get its hands on the footy this season, averaging a competition-low 185.5 disposals per match. The Eagles relied a lot on kicks (sitting at 10th in the AFLW) and were 8th for marks, but last for handballs.

Early call for next season: West Coast shouldn't be hit too much at all by expansion, and last year's under-18 MVP Ella Roberts looms as a probable No.1 West Australian draft pick. Still a long way off the pack though, and should be aiming to be better than the expansion sides.

Season rating: 2/10

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