There is no MCG hoodoo for Eagles: Gaff

West Coast midfielder Andrew Gaff denies his team are mentally scarred by their MCG flops, saying they simply haven’t played well enough whenever they’ve travelled to the venue.

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The Eagles have now lost 18 of their past 23 matches at the MCG, with Sunday’s 51-point loss to Hawthorn again raising questions about West Coast’s ability to play well at the venue.

Gaff insists the venue itself isn’t the issue, despite it being 19m wider and 15m shorter than West Coast’s home ground Domain Stadium.

“It’s nothing to do with the ground. It’s just two poor performances against Richmond and Hawthorn (this season). It’s as simple as that,” Gaff said on Monday.

“Our inability to contest around the ball has been the main issue.

“Both of those weeks it hasn’t been the width of the ground (that has bothered us). We need to address everything pretty quickly, and move on to next week.

“Our good footy’s as good as anyone’s in the comp.

“But our poor footy like on the weekend and against Richmond (in round three) makes us a pretty average team.”

West Coast will be desperate to rebound in Saturday night’s western derby against arch rivals Fremantle.

Both sides enter the clash with 3-2 records, but most of the heat will be on West Coast to produce the goods.

The Eagles are set to be boosted by the return of Brownlow medallist Sam Mitchell (ankle), while the Dockers were dealt a huge blow when star midfielder Stephen Hill was ruled out for up to four weeks with a hamstring injury.

“No doubt it’s handy,” Gaff said of Hill’s absence for the derby.

“He’s a quality player and dangerous when he gets the ball.

“So with him out it’s a positive (for us).

“But they’ve got quite a few guys – Mundy, Fyfe, Neale – who are playing good footy, and hitting the scoreboard too.

“So there’s plenty of work for us as a midfield group to negate those guys and also get on top.”

Hawks can make AFL finals: Luke Breust

Hawthorn are good enough to beat anyone in the AFL if they can replicate their performance against West Coast, forward Luke Breust says.

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After being drubbed by Gold Coast and Geelong, the Hawks notched their first win of the season with a commanding 51-point victory over the Eagles at the MCG on Sunday.

It wasn’t quite the Hawks at their best but for the likes of Breust, Jack Gunston and Cyril Rioli, it was a welcome return to form.

And Breust, who booted three goals, believes a top-eight finish isn’t beyond the reach of the 1-4 Hawks.

“I still think that if we can play the footy that we did on Sunday, we’re a genuine chance to beat any side in the competition,” Breust said on Monday.

“If we can do that – we’re obviously behind the ledger at the moment – but we can get the wins on the board to make finals.”

Having debuted in 2011 when the Hawks were firmly within their premiership window, Breust admitted he had never experienced anything like their dreadful start to the season.

The 26-year-old was one of several senior Hawks to face scrutiny, with some commentators accusing them of hubris.

There were also questions about whether four-time premiership coach Alastair Clarkson was the man to lead Hawthorn’s rebuild.

But Breust insists the Hawks hadn’t let the criticism get to them.

“I wouldn’t say it fired us up,” Breust said.

“You try and eliminate that from your thoughts and just focus on your role and what you do for the team. I thought to a man, we did that yesterday.”

The Hawks face a six-day break before hosting St Kilda in Launceston on Saturday afternoon.

Star recruit Jaeger O’Meara remains in doubt for a third straight week after copping a knock to his troublesome knee.

“It’s bone bruising, and as we know with bone bruising, it can turn around very quickly or it might take a bit of time,” Breust said.

“We’ll just see how he goes.”

WA still the worst economy: CommSec

Western Australia has been named the nation’s worst performing economy for the third consecutive quarter in CommSec’s latest State of the States report.

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Economic growth in WA is currently the weakest in the nation.

The state’s economy lagged other economies and annual growth rates remained below the national averages on all indicators used by CommSec.

Unemployment of 6.4 per cent compared to an average of 5.0 per cent in the past 20 years.

Other areas in which WA is underperforming the national average and its own average over the past decade include retail spending, business investment, construction work, population growth, housing finance, dwelling starts, wages and inflation and home prices.

The economic performance of Western Australia continued to reflect the ending of the mining construction boom, but unemployment had eased over the past three months, CommSec chief economist Craig James said.

“The latest data indicates a multi-speed national economy,” he said.

“NSW is solidly on top with little to separate the ACT and Victoria. Then there is a gap to Tasmania, Queensland, Northern Territory and South Australia then another gap to Western Australia.

“Western Australia is benefiting from higher mining and metal prices and record export volumes. Tourism and agriculture both provide scope to drive growth”

WA’s acting treasurer Rita Saffioti said the Labor government was tackling the problem and job creation was its number one priority.

“We are looking at all parts of the economy, in particular road construction and of course the Metronet (public transport rail) plan and diversifying the economy through tourism,” she told reporters.

When WA was also named Australia’s worst-performing economy in CommSec’s last report in January, the then Liberal Premier Colin Barnett attacked the credibility of the report saying it was flawed.

The reports compares a state’s current performance against its average over the past decade, but in WA’s case that included the mining boom and Mr Barnett argued the state’s economy was still performing strongly even if it had slowed.

NSW still boasts top economy

NSW still has Australia’s best performing economy, according to CommSec’s latest State of the States quarterly report, but the ACT is the big improver while Western Australia remains last.

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1. NSW

NSW has a strong grip on the top spot, with its economy at or near the top of eight key economic indicators. NSW leads on business investment, retail trade and dwelling starts.

2. ACT

The ACT has knocked Victoria out of second place as it improved its position on five of the eight economic indicators. The ACT leads on housing finance, is second on two other indicators and third on another three.

3. VICTORIA

Victoria has dropped to third spot but CommSec says there is little to separate it from the ACT. Victoria leads the pack on population growth, with the number of people rising 2.13 per cent compared to a year ago.

4. TASMANIA

Tasmania stays in fourth spot, but little separates it from Queensland, Northern Territory and South Australia. The island state is now ranked second in unemployment, with its jobless rate of 5.8 per cent below the decade-average of 6.1 per cent.

5. QUEENSLAND

Queensland is benefiting from annual growth in exports of 43 per cent, but the state was second weakest in unemployment and construction work. However, post-flood rebuilding and repairs can be expected.

6. NORTHERN TERRITORY

The Northern Territory has the strongest jobs market and boasts the lowest trend unemployment rate, at 3.5 per cent. It also led took in economic growth and construction work, which was boosted by gas projects, but had the weakest population growth, retail spending, home lending, dwelling starts and business investment.

7. SOUTH AUSTRALIA

CommSec says the South Australian economy could lift over the coming year as employment grows at close to its fastest annual rate in nearly six years, lifting retail spending.

8. WESTERN AUSTRALIA

In Western Australia, unemployment has eased over the past three months but the state is still struggling after the end of the mining construction boom. Tourism and agriculture may drive growth.

Tyre problems cost Will Power Indy Car win

Josef Newgarden put himself in position to battle his Australian teammate Will Power to the end of the Indy Grand Prix of Alabama.

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He didn’t need to with Power finishing 14th at Barber Motorsports Park.

Team Penske’s Newgarden moved to the front for the first time on lap 76 when Power – who started on pole and led for 60 of the 90 laps – was forced to pit with a punctured left rear tyre.

“The car was awesome, so fast and I just feel bad,” Power said. “I don’t know what to say.”

Power didn’t want to pit initially but he finally yielded to the wishes of his crew and the harsh reality.

“I could feel (the car) starting to bottom and then having issues in some fast corners,” Power said.

“I tried to tell (the team) for as long as I could that it was alright but it was going down, you could feel it.”

Newgarden made the most of Power’s misfortune and didn’t allow Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon an opening over the final stretch to give Chevrolet their first win of the season – and secure his second victory in three years in Alabama.

Simon Pagenaud finished third, Helio Castroneves fourth and Alexander Rossi fifth.

Power, the 2014 IndyCar series champion, has started on pole twice in three races this year but has been unable to capitalise on race day and has yet to post a top-10 finish. He is 14th in the drivers’ standings on 50 points.

Sebastian Bourdais, of Dale Coyne Racing, leads the standings on 117 points, from Dixon on 111 points, Newgarden 110 points, Team Penske’s Pagenaud on 106 points and Schmidt Peterson Motorsports’ James Hinchliffe rounding out the top five on 102 points.