Prior proud of Eagles’ Port pressure

ABSORBING everything expansion side Port Adelaide threw at them, West Coast Eagles AFL Women’s coach Michael Prior said he was proud of how his side responded with its own pressure to come away with a 12-point win at Mineral Resources Park yesterday. The Eagles were on the ropes during the third term, trailing by as much as two goals themselves, and even 11 points at the final break, but the red hot Aisling McCarthy sparked a four goals to two final term for the Eagles to run over the top of the Power, 6.4 (40) to 4.4 (28).

Last year’s wooden spooners were well beaten in the hitouts (22-39) and centre clearances (2-8), but were able to win stoppages around the ground (21-16), absorbing a mammoth 92 tackles from the Power (laying 56 themselves) to still come away with the crucial four points. Prior said he was impressed with how the team handled themselves in the face of that pressure, and cracked in at the contest to break even in that regard.

“I thought they did really well. I kept an eye on our pressure factor throughout the game and we were constantly above two which was really, really good,” Prior said. “I thought Port brought it, but I thought we matched it as well. “I thought we were outstanding in that area because it was really contested. Especially when the rain came, when you have to put your head over the ball, win the contested stuff, lay some tackles, I thought we were there as well.”

While the McCarthy goal was what stole the headlines, Prior said the Irish talent’s hard work is what really stood out to him. He described the goal as “a bit of cream on top” but she had a vital role tagging Port skipper Erin Phillips on the day.

“She’s been fantastic for us through the preseason and she had a role today and we thought she executed her role really well and the goal’s just a bit of cream on top for her. if you look at the four quarter effort she put in today it was pretty good,” Prior said.

“To her (Phillips) credit we knew that she was a quality player and she leads their side and their first game in their competition so we couldn’t let her get away with too much today. “To Ash’s credit she put the homework in, she watched tape, and she was able to execute on the day to get the job done and that really helped us towards the victory in the end.”

Though there were some frustrating games for the Eagles last season where they might have been blown away following two-goal deficits at the final break, Prior said the squad was focused on staying in the games for longer, credit to their hard work and fitness training over the off-season.

“I think if you look back at our last 10 weeks, which is the length of our preseason, the work that we’ve just done, the little things we’ve introduced, which a couple are of legs, the girls have really bought into that,” he said. “It just showed today that we were able to run the game out really well, so the confidence we get out of that is huge and if we’re in those scenarios in the next two or three weeks, that we know that we’ve got the run in our legs to run over any opposition that comes our way.”

Eight players played their first game for the club, including a handful of debutants. Though Prior described the cohesion going into the match as a “bit of an unknown”, he was “really pleased with what they all brought”. One of those debutants was the Eagles’ top pick, Ella Roberts.

“I think it was what was expected from her. We can’t expect too much from her, she’s 18. It was her first game of AFLW,” Prior said. “We threw her into the midfield to kick us off in that last quarter and we thought she played her part in there, playing her role when Swanny (Emma Swanson) got the two clearances she was clearly doing what she was asked to do. I” think that’s the beauty with Ella, we can play her forward, we can play her through the midfield with the confidence she is going to do the right thing for us, so a step in the right direction for her today.”

West Coast head north to Metricon Stadium next Sunday, September 4 to take on the Gold Coast Suns to see if the Eagles can make it two wins on the trot to start Season 7.

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