West Coast's 2012 premiership bid is at risk of shipwreck after their midfield was reduced to rubble by a powerful Sydney in the HMAS Sydney commemorative clash at Patersons Stadium yesterday.
West Coast emerged with injury and tribunal concerns around three more players and have Adelaide at AAMI Stadium ahead of them - a game that now looms as crucial to their prospects of securing a treasured top-two finish and the potential of two home finals.
Young forward Jack Darling, entrusted with considerable responsibility in his second season due to the enforced absence of so many high-calibre teammates, was substituted mid-match with what was later described as a tight hamstring.
The woes weren't confined to his misfortune. Patrick McGinnity was reported for a third-quarter bump on best-on-ground Ryan O'Keefe and Eric Mackenzie may face AFL match review panel scrutiny for his heavy third- quarter spoil on Alex Johnson.
The Swans broke West Coast's 18-match winning streak at Patersons Stadium in emphatic style, surging to an 18.13 (121) to 10.9 (69) victory to consolidate their grip on top spot on the ladder, while announcing themselves as genuine flag threats in September.
In the process they monstered the Eagles midfield, dominating ground-level contested possession and blanketing the home side's offensive weapons, in particular ruck duo Dean Cox and Nic Naitanui, midfielder Matt Priddis and rebounder Shannon Hurn.
The Swans won the contested possessions 179-150 and outscored the Eagles 18 goals to seven after West Coast had made light of their depleted stocks by kicking the first three goals of the game.
"Their ability to get good use out of possessions that were won in the contest was better than ours today for sure," Eagles coach John Worsfold said.He acknowledged that, yesterday at least, his team had reached a tipping point with injuries.The Eagles were missing as many as six regular players from their forward line, with Josh Kennedy (ankle), Mark LeCras (knee), Mark Nicoski (hamstring), Josh Hill (hamstring) and Ashton Hams (cork) absent through injury and Quinten Lynch suspended."There were times today when we had three defenders playing in our forward line trying to hold up for us, replacing those guys that were out," Worsfold said."Losing Hams (in the warm-up) really meant that this week those guys just haven't really played together."I thought they did a pretty good job just working hard with what we have got in there but we were shuffling players around there a little bit."Worsfold was not ready to concede any long-term threat from the absences."We will get players back," he said. "We will get Lynch back straight away."Hopefully we will get Hill and Hams back this week, we will wait and see on that one. That will help."He said substituting Darling was more precaution than injury but doctors would know more today ahead of their showdown with the Crows, fresh from their massacre of Greater Western Sydney at Skoda Stadium."He was tight early in the game but he was able to keep going but we had the view that at that point during the game it was time not to take any risks with him," Worsfold said."That tightness, you are never sure till they pull up in the next day or two whether the tightness is an indication of a very minor strain or whether it is just tightness."We didn't sub him out because we had to, we subbed him out because we chose to."Sydney coach John Longmire said the win had to be seen in the context of West Coast's absentees but he was pleased with his team nonetheless."We have got to put it in some context. West Coast are missing a lot of players," Longmire said."But you have still got to come over and beat them. That gives us a lot of confidence."Longmire said he was not concerned about external opinions of Sydney's premiership prospects."We analyse the opposition's strengths and weaknesses and our strengths and weaknesses and we get on with it," he said.The Swans, who have already taken care of other premiership contenders Hawthorn and Essendon away from home this season, host St Kilda at the SCG on Sunday.