History isn’t on their side but West Coast feel they’ve got the right mix of grit, maturity and talent for a dream run at this year’s AFL premiership.
Under the current finals format, no team has won the flag from outside the top four.
But 2016 represents the perfect opportunity to buck that trend given the closeness of the competition.
Just one win separated the ladder-leading Swans from sixth-placed West Coast, with only percentage denying the Eagles a top-four spot.
West Coast enter the finals in the hottest of form, having disposed of GWS, Hawthorn and Adelaide in their past three matches.
The loss of star ruckman Nic Naitanui was meant to be the death knell to their premiership hopes.
But the ruthless way they disposed of the Crows in Adelaide has put the rest of the competition on notice.
West Coast kick off their finals campaign with an elimination final against the Bulldogs at Domain Stadium on Thursday night.
If they win that, they’ll take on either Geelong or Hawthorn in an away semi-final.
Eagles coach Adam Simpson is well aware his team are just one loss from exiting the race.
But he said talk of teams not being able to win the premiership from outside the top-four was off the mark.
“We didn’t finish top-four, so of course I’m suggesting we can win it,” Simpson said when asked about the history of flag winners.
“The ladder suggests it’s close. There’s not a lot of difference between first and eighth. But it’s a whole different ball game now in finals.”
Simpson is confident ruckman Scott Lycett will be fit to take on the Bulldogs.
Lycett injured the PCL in his left knee midway through the season and has noticeably struggled through recent games.
But Simpson said barring a late setback, he will play.
The Bulldogs enter the finals having lost three of their past six, including a shock 20-point defeat to Fremantle in their most recent outing.
But with forward Jake Stringer returning from a VFL stint and Tom Liberatore (ankle), Easton Wood (ankle), Jack Macrae (hamstring) and Jordan Roughead (calf) all in line for recalls, Simpson is expecting a fierce contest.
“If you look at the personnel coming back this week, I’d suggest it would be one of the better on paper sides they’ve had for the last 10 week or five weeks at least,” Simpson said.
West Coast finished the home-and-away season second last year and made it all the way to the grand final before losing to Hawthorn.
The Eagles won’t have the second chance this time around but Simpson said their ability to win dirty earlier this season would hold them in good stead.
“It’s given us more grit and resilience,” he said.
“So to get the wins in the last month for us, interstate, against top-four sides, it just gives us belief we’re on the right path.”