Jeremy McGovern’s Return Takes The Eagles To New Heights

Every now and then Jeremy McGovern throws up a masterpiece. 

The GWS win was his latest, where 43 players competed in two thirds of the ground and McGovern conquered the remaining third by himself. 

The West Coast defensive zone was McGovern's territory and the Giants were helpless entering it

In the final term alone, he took five intercept marks and had eight for the game, the most any player has taken this season.

McGovern's last quarter was the perfect demonstration of how dominant an intercept marking defender can be. 

He was everywhere, owning the air and powerfully patrolling space. It started with an acrobatic leap in the goal square that shattered Harrison Himmelberg and killed a dangerous GWS opportunity. He played goalkeeper on the last line of defence, snaffling an errant Jake Riccardi shot. 

With five minutes left, McGovern took an incredibly strong mark going back with the flight, maintaining his grab with a vice-like grip despite 'Bobby' Hill thrusting his entire body at McGovern and smashing him around his neck. 

The masterclass concluded with McGovern finishing off GWS's last meaningful foray forward, expertly and casually working Himmelberg under the ball at the edge of defensive 50 for an easy mark that made the 2015 first-round pick look utterly hopeless and broken.

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McGovern's power is the product of genius-like awareness and sneakily explosive athleticism. His positioning is artful and devastating - so often, too often, he is in the perfect spot, where the ball finds him in a small slither of space between two opponents. 

His understanding of space, movement and timing is exquisite, and combined with his courage, strength, hands and deceptive but awesome leap, he is the most dominant intercept defender in the game.

His influence was decisive against the Giants in an odd, arrhythmic game.

The Eagles got the jump and seemed to definitively end the game with two Brendon Ah Chee goals either side of three-quarter time that took the lead to six goals. Against a Giants side that had scored three goals for the match at that stage, the result seemed foregone. But then the game strangely turned. GWS didn't really start dominating as much as they just started kicking lots of goals. Nothing felt too awry for West Coast, but GWS goals kept on happening. Four in a row and the margin was just 12 points with time to spare. Suddenly, there was a game. 

The Giants, at this stage, just by being awake, had the advantage against a bleary-eyed Eagles team that had fallen asleep thinking the game was done, and was now forced to scramble and get dressed again. McGovern took care of that, though, and then the game was done - this time for good.

McGovern's availability all season has been erratic, but his importance to West Coast is as vital as ever. He is averaging 7.4 intercepts per game, third in the league behind Luke Ryan and David Astbury, and is fourth in the league for contested marks per game, with no other defender in the top 10.

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Along with Nic Naitanui, McGovern remains the most indispensable Eagle. 

Without him, the defence has looked considerably more vulnerable, with more skittish feet and less control of the air. Everything is simpler with McGovern present in the back 50 erasing mistakes and performing regular small miracles. While the opposition has been weak, in the Eagles' past five games with McGovern in the lineup, no opponent has managed to get to 50 points.

West Coast arrested their dire start to the season at the end of their Queensland stint, but only properly found themselves when they got back home. The Eagles have been immense in their 6-0 run in Perth, turning into the team they were always supposed to be. They annihilated Collingwood with the most efficient and clinical performance imaginable, toppled the brilliant Cats, blitzed a courageous Carlton, and toyed with GWS

Next is Richmond on Thursday night on the Gold Coast in the most awaited match of the season – one of those rare, wonderful games where so much will be revealed and everything may look different afterwards.

The Eagles are not invincible. Geelong and Carlton both exposed certain vulnerabilities, though West Coast's talent was eventually irrepressible in both games. 

McGovern featured in neither of those games. Now he is back, and with his return, so many vulnerabilities suddenly just disappear.

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Jay Croucher

Based in Denver, Colorado, Jay splits time between worshiping Nikola Jokic and waking up at 3am to hazily watch AFL games. He has been writing about AFL, NBA and other US sports since 2014, and has suckered himself into thinking Port Adelaide was the real deal each year since.

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