West Coast coach John Worsfold’s controversial decision not to crowd space for Sydney forwards Barry Hall and Michael O’Loughlin in a one-point qualifying final loss may have given the Eagles their clues for winning the ultimate prize.
Eagles forward and lucky charm Ashley Hansen was devastated to have been left out of that game. But instead of sulking on thoughts that his season may have passed him by, he sat on the Subiaco Oval boundary line and picked to pieces the brilliant teamwork of the star Swans duo.
Hansen, whose 13 games this season have resulted in 13 West Coast wins, said he was able to see firsthand the sublime signalling between Hall and O’Loughlin as well as their spacious forward strategies — parts of which the Eagles have tried to emulate in their past two finals wins.
With 39 possessions and 20 marks in the past fortnight after returning from a burst cyst in the back of a knee, the 23-year-old has given the Eagles forward line purpose and a much-needed target.
Hansen believes he is ready to play the game of his life in Saturday’s grand final at the MCG.
“When they ran out without me it hurt because I knew I was fit and ready to go, but obviously didn’t get picked,” he said.
“But watching Hall and O’Loughlin ... I’ve tried to impose a bit of that in our game plan in the last couple of weeks by really being on our half-forwards to push up to give Lynchy (Quinten Lynch) and I and the third tall the first chance at an aerial ball. Then our small forwards aren’t creating crumbs, they’re getting the crumbs.