West Coast are just two wins away from becoming the AFL’s newest powerhouse and coach Adam Simpson deserves all the credit, according to Brownlow medallist Matt Priddis.
Simpson inherited the Eagles list after a disappointing 2013 campaign in which the club fell to 13th spot in John Worsfold’s last year as coach.
West Coast showed promise in finishing ninth in Simpson’s first year in charge, but they were tipped to struggle badly this season once key defenders Eric Mackenzie and Mitch Brown succumbed to serious injuries.
Instead, West Coast are now in the box seat to win the premiership after dismantling Hawthorn in the qualifying final a fortnight ago.
The Eagles will start as hot favourites to beat North Melbourne in Saturday night’s preliminary final in Perth and Priddis paid tribute to the contribution of Simpson, who played 306 games for North Melbourne before spending four years as an assistant coach at Hawthorn.
“I think he deserves all of the credit,” Priddis said on Tuesday.
“His first 12 months were all about education. During the last six weeks of last season we really started to see some inroads and it just started to click.
“We had a rocky start this year, but the belief was there and now we’re just playing on instinct, and that’s come from the amount of work that he has put in with his coaching staff.
“He is just a fantastic educator.
“As you can see with the results we’re getting, you’re playing for your coach.”
Priddis was forced to miss the qualifying final win over Hawthorn because of a quad injury, but he declared himself 100 per cent fit to take on the Roos.
The 30-year-old said he would have even been able to play last week if West Coast had a game.
Luke Shuey (foot), Chris Masten (hamstring) and Will Schofield (hamstring) are also on track to play.
North Melbourne made history last weekend by becoming the first team to reach a preliminary final from eighth spot.
The Kangaroos have beaten West Coast in the past two clashes between the sides, but Priddis isn’t worried.
“We won the three before that – one of them pretty comfortably in a final as well,” Priddis said.
“They were too good for us this year in Tasmania.
“They’re a very good contested ball side and that’s probably where the game’s going to be won and lost this week.”
Priddis’s hot form has put him in the frame to win back-to-back Brownlow medals.
Nat Fyfe remains the favourite, but the Fremantle midfielder’s quiet second half of the year has opened the door for the likes of Priddis and Todd Goldstein to win the prestigious award.
If West Coast reach the grand final, Priddis will join his teammates at a function room in Perth for the Brownlow medal count.