Eagles soaring ahead of AFL finals

West Coast coach Adam Simpson says the Eagles are full of self-belief heading into the AFL finals after an emphatic 29-point win over premiership hopefuls Adelaide.

The 14.16 (100) to 10.11 (71) win at Adelaide Oval paves the way for West Coast to claim either a top-four finish or a home elimination final depending on the weekend’s remaining games.

Friday night’s triumph, which followed wins over Hawthorn and Greater Western Sydney, also sends a message that the Eagles have well and truly hit their straps after an unconvincing start to the year.

Simpson said West Coast used the mid-year bye to review their tactics after Nic Naitanui suffered an achilles injury which sidelined him for six games.

“There’s no doubt we started slowly this year and we had to change some things on how we played and look at some of the things a bit deeper at the bye,” Simpson said.

“They got a bit of belief and that just rolls. That’s what happens in this comp if you can get some belief and the coaches step away a little bit and let them execute, and that’s what’s happening at the moment.”

With Naitanui sidelined for up to 12 months after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament last week, the win over the Crows shows the Eagles can still perform without their star ruckman.

Jonathan Giles was recalled to assist Scott Lycett in Naitanui’s absence and, in just his third AFL game for the year, finished with 29 hitouts, 15 disposals and a goal.

Simpson heaped praise on the journeyman, who has been mostly consigned to the WAFL since being recruited from Essendon at the end of last year.

“He knows where he’s at with the ruckmen we’ve got, so to come over under that knowledge is a testament to him,” Simpson said.

“We called upon him tonight and we’re really pleased with how we played.”

West Coast head into the finals with a number of stars hitting peak form, including All-Australian candidate Luke Shuey, Coleman Medal leader Josh Kennedy and wingman Andrew Gaff, who had a career-best 41 touches against the Crows.

Simpson said the Eagles would relish the chance to rest during the one-week bye scheduled before the finals.

“We’ve got some players who’ve been pretty special for us all year and they’ve been playing pretty sore,” Simpson said.

“We’ll take it as a real opportunity.”

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