Unlikely hero gets Eagles over line in AFL

Just seven months ago, West Coast swingman Jeremy McGovern was in the bad books after rocking up to pre-season training with too much blubber.


Now, the enigmatic 22-year-old is on track to become a future star of the AFL.

McGovern filled the role of unlikely hero on Saturday night as he willed West Coast to a thrilling three-point win over Gold Coast.

In a game of twists and turns, the Eagles looked home and hosed after Josh Kennedy’s seventh goal gave them a 39-point lead six minutes into the third quarter.

The margin was still 36 points early in the final term.

Even with star midfielder Gary Ablett starting to hit his straps, Gold Coast looked to have dug themselves a hole too big to get out of, especially on enemy territory.

But this is where things became a little bit crazy.

In the space of 15 minutes, Gold Coast slammed through six unanswered goals to take the lead.

Now it was West Coast who appeared dead and buried.

With Elliot Yeo nursing a broken hand, Sam Butler cradling an injured finger and Nic Naitanui running out of gas, the Eagles needed a hero to step forward.

Normally, this role would be filled by Dean Cox.

But with the champion ruckman given the week off to rest his tired body, and Scott Selwood (foot), Darren Glass (retired) and Luke Shuey (ankle) also watching on helplessly from the sidelines, a fresh face was needed.

Enter McGovern.

The 195cm swingman had been energetic throughout the match, plucking a series of important marks and booting two goals.

And when the game was on the line in the final five minutes, it seemed like he was everywhere.

First, he found himself in the right place at the right time when he collected a clever poke from Naitanui to put the Eagles back in front.

Then, when the Suns launched wave after wave of attacks in the final four minutes, McGovern popped up for two crucial marks to help stem the tide.

McGovern, playing just his third AFL match after being snared by West Coast in the 2011 rookie draft, finished the match with 14 possessions, 10 marks and 3.3 to help lift the Eagles to the 15.13 (103) to 15.10 (100) win.

He was by no means West Coast’s best player. That honour was shared by Kennedy and Naitanui.

But McGovern’s display was a rare highlight in a season that had delivered very little for the Eagles.

“To go behind the play when he needed to and to kick the winning goal – I’ll have to keep him in check this week,” West Coast coach Adam Simpson said with a smile.

“Some players wait 10 years before they really want the ball in those situations.

“Other players want the ball in their hands and they want to impact the game from the very start of their career.

“He’s the latter.”

The result was a major blow to Gold Coast’s finals hopes, with coach Guy McKenna ruing his team’s limp performance for the first three quarters.

“We had 14 scoring shots to three-quarter time and 11 in the last. That certainly explains the game pretty simply,” McKenna said.