Losing Yeo on season's eve "a massive blow": Schofield
Premiership Eagle Will Schofield believes West Coast will improve after a horror 2022 season but says losing Elliot Yeo on the eve of the season is a “massive blow”.
The Eagles announced yesterday that Yeo would miss round one with a calf strain, continuing an injury-plagued period for the two-time All Australian who has played just 27 games in the past three years.
Schofield told Sports Breakfast the 29 year old was critical to the club’s plans to rise up the ladder.
“It’s a huge blow for the West Coast Eagles, he’s a massive part of what they do and what they were hoping to do this year. He’s going to be playing through the backline but of course through the midfield where he’s won two best and fairests, one of those in a premiership year, so that’s a massive blow,” Schofield said.
“I’ve been saying West Coast are going to make finals, but for them to do that, they need to have their best players playing well every week, and Elliot Yeo’s in their top three best players, and he’s not going to be with them for the first couple of weeks. “You take out Nic Naitanui, another dual best and fairest winner, and suddenly my prediction is looking bad, but that doesn’t matter, West Coast Eagles chances to start the season well is the thing that’s suffering at the moment.”
The Eagles won just two games last year after their season was derailed early by an injury crisis and a Covid outbreak but Schofield has been bullish on his former side this offseason, predicting them to figure around the top eight.
“They improve, right? They don’t win two games [like] last year, it’s a completely different team,” he said.
“The most improvement is in the actual guys on the list, so they’ve got their four debutants of course this week in (Jayden) Hunt, (Campbell) Chesser, Reuben Ginbey, and Noah Long … but the ones that are the main ones are the big six that haven’t played any games last year, Oscar Allen played no games, Dom Sheed played one game … they’ve got players coming back.
“They’re also changing the way they play, we’ve seen for a long period of time that West Coast have played that chip-mark slow build up game, but they’re definitely playing a lot quicker.”
Across town, a popular preseason pick has been Fremantle sliding down the ladder but Schofield said he had the Dockers shooting up to second.
“They’ve lost some role players, and I was quite critical of that in the trade period, of the players they did lose, but if you look at who they’re replaced with, Jaeger O’Meara, he’s a straight swap for Mundy so you don’t lose anything there, you add Luke Jackson, I think he’s better than Rory Lobb, Rory Lobb had a great year last year but Luke Jackson’s a better player and he’s younger,” he said.
“Backline’s fine, big tick, midfield’s fine, big tick and they’ll get better, they’ve got the best player in the [competition] in Andy Brayshaw in there.
“The really big one that’s the question for Freo is can their forward line function and can they score, because their game plan is built on defence, they win games by strangling teams and then counterattack football from their intercepting backline, which is one of the best in the competition.”
The AFL season kicks off tonight with Richmond coming up against Carlton at the MCG, with the Eagles opening their campaign against North Melbourne at Marvel Stadium on Saturday and the Dockers meeting former coach Ross Lyon’s St Kilda at the same venue on Sunday.