Eagles ready for derby warfare in AFL

West Coast coach Adam Simpson says his players will be full of confidence heading into Sunday’s western derby despite failing to get the job done against Hawthorn last week.

The Eagles led Hawthorn for more than three quarters before conceding the final three goals of the match to lose by 14 points.

The defeat means West Coast face an almighty fight to retain second spot, and they could even be kicked out of the top four by the end of the home-and-away season if they drop two or more games.

But Simpson remains optimistic, especially after seeing his players push flag favourites Hawthorn all the way in a pressure-filled match.

“It was new for us to be in such a pressure game,” Simpson said.

“We’re disappointed we didn’t play the full four quarters, but we’ll take a lot from it and a lot of it will be positive.

“I think some of our players realise that they can stand up against good sides.

“There’s still belief there. We’re fighting for top two at the moment.

“You wouldn’t have thought that would be the case at the start of the year, so we’re up and about.”

Fremantle have been installed as warm favourites to win their seventh straight derby, and those odds are set to shorten once the return of star midfielder Nat Fyfe (groin) is confirmed.

But they are set to lose defender Luke McPharlin for the match after the veteran was subbed out with a corked calf in his team’s 37-point win over St Kilda on Sunday.

McPharlin will undergo scans on Monday to determine the extent of the damage.

If McPharlin is ruled out, coach Ross Lyon will consider handing a recall to fellow backman Michael Johnson, who has missed eight matches with a hamstring injury.

West Coast are almost certain to be without star defender Jeremy McGovern and All-Australian forward Mark LeCras against the Dockers, while ruckman Nic Naitanui is no certainty to return.

McGovern re-injured his left hamstring against the Hawks, while LeCras was reported for a clumsy head-high bump on James Frawley.

Naitanui flew to Fiji on Saturday following the sudden death of his mother.

West Coast coach Adam Simpson isn’t sure whether Naitanui will be available to play in the derby, saying the 25-year-old will be given all the time he needs to grieve with family.

Fellow ruckman Callum Sinclair, who missed the loss to Hawthorn because of a jarred knee, will be assessed this week.

Fremantle are almost certain to be crowned this year’s minor premiers after moving 10 points clear of West Coast on top of the table.

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