Ryan lifts Eagles to AFL win over Blues

·3-min read

West Coast expect Josh Kennedy and Oscar Allen to return next week, bolstering a forward line that relied on Liam Ryan's leadership and leap to bank a 22-point AFL win over Carlton at the SCG.

The Eagles, already minus Kennedy, Allen, captain Luke Shuey and a stack of key players on the sidelines, were forced to substitute Brad Sheppard after an accidental clash of heads with Adam Saad in Sunday's first quarter.

But Adam Simpson's side dug deep to shore up their place in the top eight, while also ending a 22-year hoodoo at the venue.

Ryan, who pulled in a mark-of-the-year contender in the third term, led the way.

The small forward hobbled off the field because of a hamstring issue, which coach Simpson believes is nothing serious, after struggling to move freely during Sunday's warm-up.

But Ryan still proved incredibly influential, kicking a match-deciding four goals to help West Coast prevail 14.11 (95) to 10.13 (73).

"We were missing some forwards today .... he was really important for us. I'm really proud of him," Simpson said, noting key forwards Kennedy and Allen should return for a crunch clash with Richmond.

"He looked sore at the airport, on the plane, the warm-up, the captain's run - and after he took his mark.

"He's fine.

"We're missing a few pretty good players. The young kids stood up, our leaders were exceptional."

Premiership hero Dom Sheed collected a game-high 32 possessions (15 contested) despite a painful blow to the shoulder in the second term, while Elliot Yeo weathered a heavy knock in the third quarter to also finish one of the Eagles' best.

The latest coronavirus-related fixture rejig means the Eagles no longer have a bye next weekend, so Sheppard will be forced to miss their round-13 clash with Richmond as per the AFL's concussion protocols.

"It would have been good to have a bye," Simpson said.

"We've had it really good this year. A lot of teams have dealt with worse ... we're ready to do whatever it takes to keep the comp going."

The Eagles' breakthrough triumph came after alarming losses to GWS and Essendon, while it was their first win at the SCG since 1999.

Nic Naitanui, aged nine during West Coast's previous rendition of their song at the SCG, served as stand-in skipper in the enforced absence of Shuey, Kennedy and Jeremy McGovern.

Naitanui, captaining the Eagles for the first time, won a game-high nine clearances.

"I'm not surprised Nic stood up," Simpson said.

"He was probably our best player and gave us supply when we needed it."

The game was also taxing for Carlton.

Concussion ended Coleman Medal leader Harry McKay's game in the opening term, when his head slapped the ground after flying for a mark.

Nic Newman landed on his head while attempting to spoil in the third quarter - soon after being shifted onto Ryan - and played no further part, while captain Patrick Cripps played on despite being obviously hobbled in the final term.

"The bye might be timely for us," Blues coach David Teague said.

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