There is enough evidence to suggest West Coast have improved sufficiently to beat Sydney in tomorrow’s grand final.
A crime scene investigation of last year’s four-point loss to Sydney and evidence gathered through this season points to a West Coast triumph that shapes as another epic premiership battle, given the Swans’ appetite for close-in combat.
The Eagles can embrace history as an ally. Since 1970, Brisbane have been the only team to beat the same opponent in consecutive grand finals when they downed Collingwood in 2002-2003.
On the other four occasions, the beaten team in the first year has triumphed the following season.
Facts and figures can be overridden on the day by inspiration and luck, but the Eagles are comforted by the information that their improvement from 2005 is measurable.
Teams who lose a grand final look to improve by as much as it takes to win the next year, be it one per cent or five per cent.
What percentage increase can be placed on the Eagles over the last year?
Taking out the luck of the bounce, curious calls from the umpires and the odd freakish act, West Coast have more evidence on hand than Sydney to detail why they are a better side in 2006 to win their third premiership.
And most of it is to do with the forward line.
Daniel Chick was a dismal failure in attack last year, as was Michael Gardiner and, to a lesser degree, Brent Staker. And Ashley Sampi failed to make an impact. Apart from Chick, the other three won’t be there tomorrow. None of those players kicked a goal on that fateful, sunny day last year.
The Eagles will boast a totally revamped attack, with Quinten Lynch, Rowan Jones and Beau Waters, at times, all fresh faces from last year. Steven Armstrong will also spend time deep in attack.
Lynch has improved his game 15 per cent in 2006, while Armstrong is a tenacious player who wants to succeed and when a position vacant sign went up for a small forward, the former Melbourne winger grabbed it.
Rowan Jones is an enigma. Often on the outer last year, suddenly the selectors had faith in the man who cracked only four games in 2006. In games against Sydney this season he has collected 28 and 18 possessions.
He slots into coach John Worsfold’s forward-line and midfield machinations, averaging 12 handballs a game, the highest in the team. So, despite that celebrated miss on goal last week, he has earned his keep. You can’t help but like Waters. Rough and ready, he missed all of last season with injury and offers the team some good, old-fashioned hardness, with a capacity to kick goals.