West Coast coach Adam Simpson says his midfield brigade will need to stand tall in the stoppages if they are to beat Hawthorn in Friday night’s AFL clash at Domain Stadium.
The Eagles have copped 46-point hammerings in their past two matches against Hawthorn – including last year’s grand final.
On both occasions, Hawthorn’s midfield got on top to give their side a sizeable advantage in the inside-50m count.
The Hawks won that key stat 59-40 on grand final day, before recording a whopping 68-34 advantage when they beat the Eagles in round two.
Simpson said his team can’t afford to simply rely on ruckman Nic Naitanui to give them the edge in the midfield battle.
Instead, hard work and scrapping for every possession is what Simpson wants to see.
“The past two or three times we’ve played Hawthorn they’ve beaten us in that area,” Simpson said of the stoppages battle.
“We know Nic’s important for us, and Scott Lycett’s growing as a player.
“But I think we probably lowered our colours the past two or three times we’ve played them around the midfield and in the ruck battle.
“So that’s a big challenge for us this week. But I think we’re good enough.”
West Coast boast a formidable forward line featuring Coleman medallist Josh Kennedy, mobile forward Jack Darling, and Mark LeCras.
But Simpson said his side would struggle unless they gave their forwards enough supply.
Ladder leaders Hawthorn could slip to as low as fourth if they lose to West Coast.
The Eagles sit in sixth spot, but will need to beat Hawthorn and Adelaide in the final two rounds to have any chance of snaring a top-four berth.
Simpson says Hawthorn are still the benchmark of the competition, and predicts Friday night’s match will be played at a finals-like intensity.
Naitanui was the hero last week when his goal in the dying seconds lifted West Coast to a one-point win over GWS.
But Simpson is adamant the team haven’t been basking in the glow of that victory all week.
“We calmed down pretty quickly,” Simpson said.
“By the time we got to the airport it was business as usual.
“It was a fantastic game – one for the ages for us, and our club. But we’ve moved on pretty quick.”
The Eagles were forced to make two changes this week.
Tom Barrass (shin soreness) and Simon Tunbridge (suspended) were forced out, with Lewis Jetta and Jackson Nelson handed recalls.
Hawthorn named an unchanged line-up from the team that beat North Melbourne by 39 points last week.